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EES and ETIAS: The big changes for travel in Europe

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EES and ETIAS: The big changes for travel in Europe
Passengers proceed through an automated ePassport gate equiped with a facial recognition system at the British border of the Eurostar at the gare du Nord in Paris on February 17, 2017. - After London last year, Eurostar has installed electronic passport gates with facial recognition technology for passengers travelling from Paris. Passengers with biometric passports scan the document at a first gate and then proceed to a second gate where a camera compares their features with their passport picture before allowing them through to the departure lounge. (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP)

There are two changes due to come into effect 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.


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 over the next year. 

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 this was then pushed back to "by the end of 2023" and there are reports that it will be delayed again until 2024, with officials in Paris keen to delay it until after the Paris Olympics in the summer of 2024.

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 - As with EES, this has also been postponed several times and its start date is now simply "2024"

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.  


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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John 2023/04/19 18:39
So why are the xenophobic morons in Norway's UDI advising foreigners with documented citizens' rights to reside in Norway not to travel abroad without a new residency permit? Why haven't Norway invested in adequate admin resources to process applications in a timely manner with some reason beyond "our shit Nordic system and wank-stain attitude says 'no'"? The posilsibilities are very limited, between gross incompetence to "we trolls really don't care about humans". Weirdos regardless.
andersennrs 2023/01/06 17:01
Margs - if you have dual citizenship, isn't the worst thing that can happen that you would have to explain yourself to a human? I typically leave UK/enter EU on my EU passport and leave EU/enter UK on my UK passport. And once the people checking when leaving EU asked if I had permission to stay in the EU because the blurry exit stamp in my UK passport from 9 months earlier was hard to distinguish from an entry stamp.
margsmorley 2022/08/05 19:13
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?
lyssa77 2022/06/24 14:51
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.
calimoncope 2021/11/16 18:55
Thank you for your reply to my question knkiwi. It has helped me get my head around these future rules.
kellyfrances733 2021/11/15 18:37
It says, above. 2021/11/15 18:12
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?
knkiwi 2021/11/15 12:31
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):
knkiwi 2021/11/15 12:12
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.
pinesolprincess 2021/11/14 18:53
Question: exactly when are these new measures going to be rolled out next year? Do you we have a specific date?
j.lovenduski 2021/11/13 11:00
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.
varennaflat 2021/11/13 10:32
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!
keith.john.simpson 2021/11/13 08:15
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.
calimoncope 2021/11/12 17:02
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
mheredge 2021/11/11 10:11
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.
ketcheson.bruce 2021/11/11 09:26
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.
ketcheson.bruce 2021/11/11 09:24
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.
silkroadstudio8 2021/11/10 22:38
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.
thelocal_605cdc2fc8d83 2021/11/10 18:32
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.
mheredge 2021/11/10 15:20
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?

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