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Passport scans and €7 fee: What will change for EU travel in 2022

There are two changes coming up for travel in and out of the European Union that non-EU citizens such as Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians need to be aware of.

EU border control is changing
Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

Due to come into force next year, two new border systems to be put in place will mean a slight change to travel in and out of the EU and Schengen zone for many. 

Because Brussels loves jargon both of these are known by acronyms – EES and ETIAS – and although they are two separate systems they are both expected to come into effect in 2022.

Here’s what they will change; 

1: EES – Entry/Exit System

This doesn’t change anything in terms of the visas or documents required for travel, or the rights of travellers, but it does change how the EU’s external borders are policed.

It’s essentially a security upgrade, replacing the current system that relies on border guards with stamps with an electronic swipe in/swipe out system that will register more details such as immigration status.

Where – this is for the EU’s external borders, so doesn’t apply if you are travelling between France and Germany for example, but would apply if you enter any EU or Schengen zone country from a non-EU country eg crossing from the UK to France or flying into Germany from the US.

What – Instead of border guards checking passports and stamping where applicable, there will be an electronic screening of some passports at the border.

Many airports of course already have biometric passport scanners but they’re only checking that your passport is valid and the photo matches your face.

The EES system also calculates how long you can stay within the EU, based on your rights of residency or your 90-day allowance, and also checks whether your passport has ever been flagged for immigration offences such as overstaying a visa.

Who – this is for non-EU nationals who are entering the EU as a visitor (rather than residents). The system scans your passport and will tell you how long you can stay for (based on the 90-allowance or the visa linked to the passport).

What about residents? Non EU nationals who live in an EU country and have a national residency card such as a carte de séjour in France or a TIE in Spain are not affected by this, since they have the right to unlimited stays within their country of residence.

We asked the European Commission how the system works for residents and were told: “The Entry/Exit System will not apply to non-EU citizens holding a residence document or a residence permit. Their personal data will not be registered in the Entry/Exit System.

“It is enough if holders of such documents present them to the border guards to prove their status.”

The Commission later clarified that non-EU citizens who are resident in an EU country should not use eGates or automatic scanners, but should instead head to the queue with an in-person guard (if available) where they can show both their passport and residency document.

However there’s no suggestion those with permanent residency will lose their right of residency if they do go through the automatic gates when entering the EU because their residency status is guaranteed – as long as they can prove it with their permit. Although they could face the inconvenience of a few extra questions next time they travel.

When – the European Commission first started consulting on this in 2016 with a planned start date of 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted that, so the provisional start date is now the “first half of 2022”.

What does this actually change?

Apart from a more hi-tech process at the border, there are likely to be two main effects of this.

For non-EU nationals who have residency in an EU country it could mean the end of the rather inconsistent process of passport stamping, which has been a particular issue for Brits since Brexit, with wildly inconsistent official practices by border guards that have frustrated many British residents of the EU and left them with incorrect stamps in their passports.

For visitors to the EU this tightens up application of the 90-day rule. It doesn’t change the rule itself, but means that anyone attempting to over-stay or ‘play’ the system will instantly be spotted.

The European Commission’s other stated aim is security, making it easier to spot security risks at the border. 

2: ETIAS – European Travel Information and Authorisation System

This is relevant only to non-EU citizens who do not live permanently in an EU country or have a visa for an EU country.

It therefore covers tourists, second-home owners, those on family visits or doing short-term work.

Citizens of many non-EU countries including the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can spend up to 90 days in every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa – the so-called ’90 day rule’.

From 2022 this will change – people are still entitled to spend up to 90 days in every 180, but the process will no-longer be completely admin free.

Instead, travellers will have to fill out an online application before they travel.

Once issued, the authorisation lasts for three years, so frequent travellers do not need to complete a new application every time but it must be renewed every three years.

Each application costs €7, but is free for under 18s and over 70s.

The European Commission says that applications should be processed within minutes, but advises travellers to apply 72 hours in advance in case of delays.

It is expected to be introduced by “the end of 2022” but there is no firm date yet.

For anyone who has travelled to the USA recently, the system is essentially similar to the ESTA visa required for short stays.

Member comments

  1. I have a friend with two non-EU passports who wonders if it would be possible to use these to avoid being restricted to only being able to stay in the EU up to 180 days a year. Would the new technology have the ability to scan for those people with more than one passport?

    1. I assume your ‘friend’ would trigger the system when trying to exit with a passport that was never recognized as having entered the country. You would set off alarms bells for sure.

      1. Thanks for this. I am not sure how efficient this might be, as I also have two passports (French and British) and in the past, have used whichever came to hand first (this only caused a problem once years ago when I went from India to Nepal and swapped them, forgetting stupidly that there was no exit stamp in my British passport). I think my friend, who travels a lot around the world tends to use both. So this means that at some time, both passports will have registered in the system as going in or out. The question arises whether tracking is so sophisticated to spot any anomalies (like two exits but no intervening return). I guess only time will tell.

  2. Almost certainly. The standardization of passports that started around the 1990 was about more than just making them work in border passport scanners worldwide, it was about national governments sharing passport information for security purposes. There’s a very good chance that the nation within which your friend 😉 wants to live all year will be well aware of their dual nationalities.

  3. Can someone explain it to me how to understand this: “ Citizens of many non-EU countries including the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can spend up to 90 days in every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa – the so-called ’90 day rule’”. My understanding I can stay for 3 months during in 6 months period. Otherwise, 3 months in Italy and go non EU country closest is UK, stay there 3 moths and come back again to France stay there for 3 Minths? ( without visa). Or wait till passes 6 months and then only can return to EU? What about that people used to say “ I stayed 6 months in France and then 6 months in US?” Just don’t understand these rules. It’s keep changing. Thank you in advance.

    1. This rule has been in place for a very long time. The best way to look at it is, take a 180 day sliding window and you cannot be in the EU for more than 90 of those days. In your example with Italy, if you stayed the 90 days and left, then went to the UK for 90 days, you could then come back for 1 day. For each day you delayed returning your stay could be 1 day longer, until you have been out of the EU for the full 180 days which means you could come back for 90 days. If someone stayed in France for 6 months, it was either a very long time ago or obtained a visa with a different status , ie student etc.

  4. I live full time in France and have a carte de sejour permanent issued under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. If I flew on holiday to another EU country such as Greece or Italy from a UK airport would I have to go through the new EES system or would I just show my French resident permit to the Greek/Italian border guard to prove to them that the 90 day limit does not apply to me (and therefore I don’t need to go through the EES process)?

    Paul

    1. This is worrying, because outside of our EU country of residence (you France, me Germany) the 90/180 day rules do appy to us. If we arrive from outside the Schengen zone into our EU country of residence we are OK but into any other Schengen country we will be treated like any other toursit (unless we can find a human to show our resident permit to and hopefully get them to agree to waive us in). I live on the DE/CH border and fly often from Zürich so technically when I arrive in Zürich my 90/180 clock starts even though I transit direct home to Germany!
      Check out this helpful article (although it requires not using the eGates and finding a helpful border guard):
      https://www.thelocal.de/20211103/does-transit-through-germanys-neighbours-affect-brexit-90-day-rule/

  5. If you have dual passport eg U.K. & N.Z. , if you make 1 journey from the U.K. on 1 passport ( return journey) to France then the 2nd journey on your NZ passport ( return journey ) to say Italy would the system match the names being the same on separate passports or is it just passport numbers. I guess time will tell.

    1. I am in the same position with UK and USA passports. Am required to enter and leave USA on American passport which, given airline visa enforcement, means embarking for USA from wherever on USA passport. Obvs is more convenient to enter and Leave UK on UK passport. So if I travel to second home in Italy intending to travel onward to USA which passport do I use to exit UK? Easy to see how this could become tricky.

      1. Simply show different passports to the airline and the border guards. I have had this problem when travelling from Switzerland back to New zealand for a holiday, naturally I travelled on my NZ passport (so no entry problems in NZ), when I arrived back in Zürich I gave the passport control officer my NZ passport and he was perplexed there was no Schengen visa in it, I told him I lived in Germany on a (then EU) Britsih passport, that I then showed him. After explaining why I first handed over the NZ pass (so airline info would tie up with his info) he told me in future not to bother and travel on whatever passport I wanted but at pass control to show my Schengen valid pass.

  6. We arrived in Italy on Oct 6th with our UK Passports and were directed by a border guard who was checking for EPLF’s to the Biometric/Electric gates. We scanned through and walked out the airport without a stamp on our Passports. No person at a desk beyond these gates as we’ve heard of previously. Yesterday we received a generic email from UKGov saying that it is the individual travellers responsibility to seek out a stamp for our Passports on arrival. If we don’t (and cannot prove our arrival date using a copy of Boarding Pass etc.) ”it will be assumed by Italian Border Control that we have overstayed”! Then we get a black-mark and all the problems that will cause when trying to visit our second Home in the future.

    Anyone else have thoughts/experience on the above?

    ….and then add in Schengen/Non-Schengen. It invariably becomes even more complicated!

  7. Question: exactly when are these new measures going to be rolled out next year? Do you we have a specific date?

  8. I have a 1 year visa in France and want to stay longer. We figured that we would leave after that 1 year, fly or drive to a non-Schengen country like Croatia, and then drive back to Italy with what I think would be a 90 tourist visa.

    Do you see any flaws in this process to end a visa and start a 90 day tourist stay back-to-back?

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TRAVEL NEWS

When will Spain lift all its Covid-19 travel restrictions?

Spain has dropped almost all its domestic Covid restrictions, but entry requirements for travel are still in force. When will Spanish authorities allow unvaccinated tourists in, remove mask rules for transport and scrap the Covid certificate and testing requirements?

When will Spain lift all its Covid-19 travel restrictions?

Over the past couple of months, the Spanish government has gradually adapted legislation to its plans to treat Covid-19 like the flu. 

They’ve stopped counting and reporting each and every Covid-19 case in the country, lifted quarantine for mild or asymptomatic cases and scrapped mask wearing rules for most indoor public spaces. 

And yet when it comes to Covid-19 travel rules, many still remain in place. 

Most travellers need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery either in the form of a Covid Digital Certificate or another certificate from an official body, many still need to fill in a health control form.

Unvaccinated EU tourists who haven’t had Covid in the past six months have to get a test before visiting Spain, and unvaccinated non-EU tourists still cannot come. 

Those who did get vaccinated but did so more than 9 months ago, have to get a booster shot to be considered immunised again.

Even though the EU has urged Member States to implement similar Covid travel legislation throughout the pandemic, they are free to ease or tighten restrictions as they see fit based on their epidemiological situation.

Other EU/Schengen countries have already lifted all their Covid-19 travel restrictions, including Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Greece is the latest country added to this list, a direct competitor of Spain in the tourism stakes.

France, Portugal and Italy still have some of the requirements Spain has, but crucially they allow unvaccinated non-EU nationals such as Britons and Americans to visit their countries if they present a negative PCR test, whereas Spain does not.

France has also just followed EU advice and removed the requirement of wearing a mask on public transport, whereas Spain has decided to keep the rule for inside airplanes, trains, taxis and buses but not airports or stations. 

When will Spain lift all its Covid-19 travel restrictions?

The Spanish government has given no indication of when it will, nor if it will keep some rules and scrap others.

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third-country nationals would be allowed into Spain in mid-May, even if with a negative Covid test as is the case elsewhere.

But Spain has extended the ban for unvaccinated non-EU tourists for another month until June 15th. 

It’s hard to understand why Spain isn’t adapting its travel regulations to the more lenient approach of domestic rules as the country looks to put the pandemic behind it and recover the full force of its tourism industry.

Perhaps Spanish authorities don’t consider that the added income unvaccinated tourists could bring is worth the potential health risk of allowing them in, even as the summer season fast approaches. 

There’s also the 270-day validity of Covid vaccine passports, which means that those who haven’t had a booster shot have to either pay for a test or cannot travel to Spain full stop. Another potential factor dissuading visitors.

In early May, the European Parliament did back a one-year extension for the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework to be kept in place, but MEPs have stressed Covid travel rules should be limited and proportionate, and based on the latest scientific advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Covid-19 infection rate data from across the EU as of May 12th 2022. Map: ECDC

The ECDC’s latest epidemiological map of the EU shows far less infection data than previously, which showcases the changing attitudes of EU nations that have lifted all travel restrictions, although the map does show how Spain’s fortnightly Covid infection rate continues for the most part above 300 cases per 100,000 people, the highest risk category.

“The European Commission (EC) strongly supports the decisions of the Member States to lift these restrictions when possible “, EC sources are quoted as saying in Spanish daily 20 minutos.

With previous Covid rules, the Spanish government has often waited to see what neighbours Italy and France did first, or for an official announcement from the EU, before executing a decision. 

This may be what Spain needs to ease the country’s travel rules, until then Spanish health authorities may continue to play it safe.

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