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TRAVEL NEWS

EES and ETIAS: The big changes for travel in Europe in 2023

There are two changes scheduled to come into effect this year which will affect travel in and out of the European Union for non-EU citizens such as Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians. Here's how EES and ETIAS will affect you.

EU border control is changing
Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

Because Brussels loves jargon both of these are known by acronyms – EES and ETIAS – they are two separate systems but they are both scheduled to come into effect in 2023. 

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 and Schengen area’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.

When – the start date was supposed to be May 2023 but the EU announced in January that it would not be ready and will now come into force “by the end of 2023”. There are serious concerns that border infrastructure in the UK at cross-Channel crossing points will not be able to handle the expanded checks, and talks are continuing between representatives of France and the UK.  

Where – this is for the EU and Schengen area’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 via Channel Tunnel or flying into Germany from the US.

What – Travellers will need to scan their passports or other travel document at an automated kiosk each time they cross an EU external border. It will not apply to foreign residents of EU countries or those with long stay visas.

When non-EU travellers first enter the Schengen/EU area the system will register their name, biometric data, and the date and place of entry and exit. Facial scans and fingerprint data will be taken and retained for three years after initial registration.

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.

What does this actually change?

Apart from a more hi-tech process at the border (and potentially big queues in Dover) 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. 

Will there be delays for non-EU travellers?

It’s very likely but will largely depend on where you are arriving into in the EU.

The Local reported recently that a number of countries in Europe’s Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EES border checks.

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

You can read the full report about fears over potential delays here.

2: ETIAS – European Travel Information and Authorisation System

Who – 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.

When – This now has a provisional start date of November 2023 after also being postponed from 2022.

What changes – 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’.

This is set to 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.

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

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

How – The application process is entirely online. The European Commission says that applications should be processed within minutes, but advises travellers to apply 72 hours in advance in case of delays.

What about residents?

This does not apply to residents, so they will not need to complete the online process before travel. Instead, they will show their passport and residency document at the border, just as they do now.

What does this change?

This spells the end of visa-free travel into the EU for many groups.

For tourists and visitors to the EU it’s a big change, meaning that pre-holiday tasks will now include the online visa for all members of the group, in addition to booking a hotel/flights etc.

The process itself sounds fairly simple – and each visa lasts for three years so regular travellers won’t need to do this every time – but it seems likely that the message of what is now required won’t filter through to many holidaymakers, leading to confusing scenes at the border.  

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?

  9. Bruce, NATO soldiers and government civilians always use both passports when travelling. We use our tourist passports when travelling anywhere else except where we are stationed (or on official duty). For me, that’s Germany. I use my official passport to re-enter Germany because that’s the one my SOFA visa is in. It is confusing and causes issues all the time. They always want to see a stamp and there often isn’t one, and despite showing them the visa allowing me unrestricted access to and from Germany, there is usually a delay and a more experienced border agent required, or, a simple wave of a military ID is sufficient to pass. This new electronic system will cause all sorts of grief for us since the visa is a stamp and not an electronic version.

  10. So do I understand that someone in legal possession of both a UK and an EU passport and resident in the UK can exit UK on the UK passport and enter the EU on the EU passport, and vice versa on returning?

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For members

VISAS

EXPLAINED: How to apply for an elective residency visa to move to Italy

The elective residency visa is a popular route to relocating to Italy, but the application process can be confounding. The Local asked the experts how to maximise your chances of success.

EXPLAINED: How to apply for an elective residency visa to move to Italy

What is an elective residency visa?

An elective residency visa (ERV) allows you to move to Italy for one year in the first instance, with a view to gaining permanent residency. You can’t work once you arrive or receive an ‘active’ income, so although it’s not a retirement visa it’s typically retirees who apply.

While the ERV is one of the most popular visas for those looking to make the move to Italy without job offers or family ties, it has a relatively high rejection rate, and the complexity of the process can trip up first-time applicants.

The Local interviewed three professionals who regularly assist clients with the ERV application process – Giuditta Petreni at Mazzeschi Legal Counsels, Nick Metta at Studio Legale Metta, and Elze Obrikyte at Giambrone & Partners – to get their insights into how to maximise your chances of success.

Where to start

You’ll need to apply for your ERV at the Italian consulate in the country and city nearest to where you are legally resident.

While the basic requirements are broadly the same, the application process varies slightly between countries and consulates. 

READ ALSO: ‘Seek legal advice’: Your advice on applying for Italian visas post-Brexit

In some countries, including the UK (but not the US and Canada), Italian consulates outsource the process of gathering applications and managing appointments to third-party companies like VFS Global.

In most cases you will need to make an in-person appointment to file your application. During the pandemic some consulates introduced postal applications, and a few have retained this option.

Some consulates accept ERV applications by courier post.

Some consulates accept ERV applications by postal courier. Photo by Joe RAEDLE/ Getty Images via AFP.

You’ll want to start by going to the website of your local consulate and looking over their ERV requirements and instructions. If anything is unclear or information is missing, ask for clarification.

The consulate has 90 days to process your application, though usually you’ll get an answer within weeks. It can take months to get an appointment at some places, however, so you’ll need to do your research and factor the average wait time into your plans.

Requirements

Generally, the key requirements for the ERV are:

  • One or more passport photos.
  • Your passport, which should be valid for at least 3 months after the date when your ERV would expire (you need to send in your actual passport, so plan not to travel abroad for 90 days).
  • Separate application forms for each person applying (even if you are applying as a married couple).
  • Proof of passive income of just over €31,000 per person or €38,000 joint income per year for married couples plus five percent per dependent minor.
  • A valid marriage certificate (re-issued in the past six months) if you’re applying as a couple, and a valid birth certificate (re-issued in the past six months) for dependent minors.
  • A property ownership deed for an Italian property or a rental lease agreement (not an Airbnb or other short-stay booking).
  • One-way travel tickets to Italy.
  • Proof of private health insurance.
  • An application fee of €116 per person.

Regardless of whether or not it’s required by your consulate, the experts we spoke to also recommend:

  • A cover/motivation letter explaining why you want to move to Italy. This should include as much supporting evidence as possible of your connection to Italy and commitment to moving there long-term – not just say that you really like the food and weather.
  • Another cover page with a clear summary of all the documents included in the application, what information they contain, and how they relate to each requirement.

READ ALSO: EU Blue Card: Who can get one in Italy and how do you apply?

You'll need to send off your original passport for up to 3 months when applying for an ERV.

You’ll need to send off your original passport for up to 3 months when applying for an ERV. Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP.

The experts’ advice

Two of the most common mistakes experts say people make when applying for the ERV is thinking they can come to Italy to open a B&B (this counts as working), and believing that having substantial savings is the same thing as a passive income.

READ ALSO: Digital nomad: What are the rules on working remotely from Italy?

“We’ve had clients come to us with very significant wealth – two, three-plus million – invested in the stock market, bonds, but they didn’t have any conventional income… so the consulate told them they would not qualify,” says Metta.

For people in this situation, lawyers or financial advisors can assist you in turning your savings into a passive income stream. Buying property that can be rented out is a common solution that is generally regarded favourably by decision-makers, say Metta and Obrikyte.

The next piece of advice is to include as much relevant documentation as possible with your application. For example, even though not all consulates require travel tickets, “it’s always better just to enclose them,” says Obrikyte.

Petreni says that in her experience, it helps if an applicant owns a property in Italy rather than signing a rental contract, as it shows you’re committed to relocating there.

Of course, you may not want to invest in a property when you don’t know for sure you’ll be able to move. Even as a tenant, standard rental contracts in Italy are for a minimum of four years, and temporary 12-month contracts tend to be viewed less favourably by the consulate, which wants evidence of a long-term commitment.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about navigating Italian rental contracts

Metta says he gets around this Catch-22 by advising clients who don’t own Italian property to sign a 12-month lease agreement but add a clause that allows them to leave with two or three months’ notice, explaining (largely for the consulate’s benefit) that they intend to property-hunt once in Italy as they plan to relocate permanently.

Lastly, Metta advises clients to book an appointment at the very start of the process – before gathering your documentation – in order to streamline things, as it usually doesn’t cost anything to book or cancel an appointment.

People enjoy dinner in a restaurant at sunset in southern Sicily.

People enjoy dinner in a restaurant at sunset in southern Sicily. Photo by ludovic MARIN / AFP.

The consulate is king

A key concept that applicants need to wrap their heads around at the start of the process is that your consulate has total control over your application, and can introduce additional requirements at will.

In fact, says Petreni, it’s not so much the consulate as the one individual working there who has all the power to decide who gets an ERV: “One consulate can be very strict, but if the officer changes, then it can become a friendly consulate.”

Unfortunately, you can’t choose a consulate with a more ‘lenient’ officer, as you can only apply to the one where you’re legally resident.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

Because of this, you want to be careful to couch your requests in the politest of language and be humble in your dealings with anyone at the consulate. “You don’t want to go there and say ‘oh, here is the printing of the law’ and this and that – absolutely not,” says Metta.

You also want to avoid doing anything that could even imply you’re making a demand. For example, you’ll want to book your travel tickets for at least 90 days after your appointment date – the full period allotted for them to make a decision.

The most alarming discretionary power held by the consular officer from an applicant’s perspective is their ability to stipulate a passive income threshold that is far higher than the official minimum of €31,000 per person or €38,000 per couple.

Petreni says it’s “typical” for the consulates Mazzeschi deals with to require three to four times this amount.

Metta’s experience is less extreme – “in general, they will honour the €31,000, one person and €38,000, spouse” – but he’s also dealt with consulates that interpret the rules as requiring €31,000 per person, regardless of whether they are married, and a few routinely say they won’t take less than €100,000 per person.

Unfortunately, consulates are allowed to do this, as the minimum is “purely indicative” says Petreni – while it feels unfair, they ultimately have the power to set their own thresholds.

Visitors walk down a street in Bolgheri, Tuscany in October 2017.

Visitors walk down a street in Bolgheri, Tuscany in October 2017. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

What to do if you get rejected

Fortunately, it’s not necessarily the end of the line if your application is rejected on financial or other grounds.

Metta says his colleagues frequently contact the officer in charge at the consulate if they’ve issued a rejection to try and negotiate a solution, and this often works.

In a recent case where a client was asked to show income of €100,000, “we contacted the person in charge, exchanged correspondence, provided some extra legal support in terms of evidence and official sources, and we got another appointment and the person finally got their visa,” he says.

Obrikyte says it’s typical for consulates to issue a ‘pre-rejection’ letter before delivering their final answer that specifies what the sticking point is, giving you a chance to fix the issue.

READ ALSO: ‘Arduous process’: What to expect when applying for Italian permanent residency

“In that occasion it is possible to try to negotiate and change their mind, and this happens very very often,” she says.

If this doesn’t work and you receive an official rejection, you can appeal in court. Obrikyte says that in her experience, simply notifying the consulate that a claim has been filed has caused them to change their minds and issue the visa.

Metta, however, advises against filing an appeal, due both to the time and expense involved and the danger that it could work against you.

“If you go through court, that requirement will pass, but there will be… I don’t want to say retaliation, but there will definitely be a dragging, forever, of the process.”

Instead, he advises clients to start from scratch and reapply. “Usually what we recommend is, let’s rearrange your finances and submit the paperwork – it will be so much faster, easier.”

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For further information on the ERV and how to apply, visit the Italian foreign ministry’s visa website.

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