British citizens could see the imposition of a ‘travel tax’ after the UK leaves the European Union and could be forced to fill in a form providing their details under European Commission plans. This may become necessary under the ‘European Travel Information and Authorisation System (‘ETIAS’).
ETIAS will be an automated IT system, fulfilling a similar purpose to its US counterpart ESTA. The new scheme forms part of the agenda set in the Bratislava Roadmap and is supposed to ensure more efficient management of the EU’s external borders. This system will supplant the existing Schengen Information System (SIS), the Visa Information System and EURODAC. The purpose of ETIAS is to facilitate the prior registration and information gathering of those non-EU nationals who can travel visa-free within the Schengen area.
The implications of this system will be particularly relevant to Britain as it is exiting the EU. Depending on the Brexit deal negotiated, UK citizens may soon see their EU Citizenship disappear. The proposal for the regulation (available here) sets out the operation of the system from the point of the traveller. This would involve an online application and the payment of a fee (€7) after which the data received will be screened against all EU databases including the Schengen and EUROPOL databases. After the screening the individual would receive an email confirmation on whether the travel is authorised. The validity of such authorisation would be 5 years. Conversely, upon refusal, the individual would then receive which national authority was responsible for the decision and the information regarding the procedure to be followed in the event of an appeal. The burden on checking whether authorisation is valid will remain on the carrier upon check-in and/or upon boarding and subsequently it is envisaged that there will be a further check by the relevant border force.
This raises the question whether Council Directive 2001/51/EC (on carrier sanctions) will be amended to cater for carriers that allow travel by those who are unauthorised. The upshot is that such amendments will have to be made in order for the external border framework to operate effectively.
The implementation of ETIAS will therefore mean an additional layer of security checks for visa free travellers into the Schengen zone. The prospect of this applying to British citizens after April 2019 is a very real one especially, in light of the potential departure from the single market and the consequent loss of free movement rights. If the UK does leave the single market, the special rules in the proposed regulations regarding ‘third country spouses’ will have particular relevance in light of the UK’s status as a former EU member.
Whether ETIAS will apply to British citizens will depend on whether a deal can be reached on visa free travel within the Schengen zone. However, many might prefer a ‘travel tax’ of €7 and an online form to lengthy visa applications.
For more information please visit https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/etias/.
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