On April 25, 2018, European Union ambassadors reached an agreement between the European Council and representatives of the European Union Parliament for a European version of the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
ETIAS will function similar to ESTA, as it will require visa-exempt individuals (such as U.S. citizens) traveling to the Schengen Area (the 22 EU member states and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) to complete an online application and pay a fee of seven euros. This system will allow the EU to conduct advance checks on visa-exempt travelers, which will also provide the EU with the ability to deny travel authorization to visa-exempt travelers. The ETIAS will use information collected by EU member states and Interpol to review applicants for issues which would provide grounds to deny travel authorization. ETIAS will have a goal of approval or refusal of an application within 96 hours of submittal, although in certain cases more information may be requested which could lead to longer processing times. If approved, an individual will be authorized to travel in the Schengen Area for three years or until the end of the individual’s passport, whichever comes first. Once implemented, air carriers, sea carriers, and buses will need to verify whether visa-exempt individuals possess the relevant ETIAS approval.
The next step is for a regulation authorizing ETIAS to be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at, and subsequently to the European Council for adoption. There is currently no specific timetable for implementation of ETIAS, and travelers from visa-exempt countries (i.e., U.S. citizens) to the Schengen Area do not need to apply at this time. However, the European Union has a target date of 2020 for full implementation.