The EU has delayed the introduction of a €7 visa waiver form to enter the passport-free zone, meaning UK travelers won’t face the charge until 2024 at the earliest.
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which applies to non-EU citizens from 60 countries who can travel with the EU visa-free, is now scheduled to enter into force from November 2023. Travelers will then be given a six-month transition period, while border authorities will conduct information campaigns about the new requirements.
Etias, which is modeled after the US Esta scheme, means that non-EU travelers must fill out a form and pay €7 (£5.91) before entering Europe’s passport-free zone. The €7 rate applies to anyone between the ages of 18 and 70 and is valid for multiple visits during three years. In most cases, approval is expected within minutes.
Etias was scheduled to be operational in late 2022 and then May 2023, but has been delayed by a further six months, a delay first reported by the website SchengenVisaInfo.com.
The European Commission has published the new start date on its website, without specifying a reason for the delay.
According to an EU source, the six-month transition period will be followed by a grace period of unknown length when travelers crossing the EU border below the requirements for the first time are given some leeway.
Some British commentators have denounced Etias as a “Brexit punishment”, despite the plans predating the EU referendum and being supported by the British government for security reasons during the UK’s time as a member state.
It has been suggested that the scheme could simplify the lives of British travellers. Many Britons heading to the continent faced a stalemate in the port of Dover at the start of the school holidays last month, as peak demand clashed with post-Brexit legal requirements for stricter passport controls, as well as temporary staff shortages.
“Having an ETIAS means Britons can skip some of the checks they are currently undergoing as all their information will be available in their ETIAS. Border guards don’t even have to ask the questions they’re asking now,” said Besart Bajrami, founder of SchengenVisaInfo.com.
According to a European Commission report published in May, about 1.4 billion people have the right to travel to the EU without a visa.
The form is required to enter all countries within the EU border-free zone, including Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania, which have yet to join the Schengen area. Citizens from Ireland, an EU member state that is not in the Schengen zone, are exempted from the ETIAS form.