The Schengen Area is made up of 26 European countries that combined to create a border-free environment for free and unrestricted movement of people. It covers most EU countries, except the UK and Ireland. There are also a number of non-EU countries (61 of them, think Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein) whose citizens can enter the EU Schengen Zone without needing a visa. Citizens of these countries are allowed to go into the Schengen Zone for business or travel purposes for up to 90 days. During these 90 days, these visitors are not allowed to work or study, but can engage in business and tourism activities.
Last year the EU announced they were creating the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), that would pre-screen travelers for security and migration risks. Starting in 2021, the European Commission will roll out a U.S. style electronic travel authorization system for visitors from countries that are currently not part of the EU. The U.S. has a similar system called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). While the "authorization" that a traveler would get is not an actual visa, it will ensure that there will be a system of record on visa-free travelers.
Travelers and mobility programs should understand that all visitors who previously traveled visa-free to Europe, such as visitors from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many others will need an approved ETIAS to enter any ETIAS member country such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain along with other ETIAS member countries.
To stay up to date and for further information about the ETIAS program including news, launch updates and travel alerts, please visit etias.com
The European Parliament agreed to establish ETIAS in July. At the time, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, indicated that the requirement was put in place for security reasons. "The new ETIAS will ensure that we no longer have an information gap on visa-free travelers," he said in a statement. "Anyone who poses a migratory or security risk will be identified before they even travel to EU borders."