Last reviewed/updated 5 February 2024
30 December 2023 | Bulgaria and Romania will partially join the Schengen Area on 31 March 2024 when air and maritime border controls with other countries in the Schengen Area will be lifted. Land border controls will remain in place for the time being. Official announcement here.
15 December 2023 | From 28 December 2023, documentary requirements entering the UK will change for children under 18 on a school trip from France. Information on the changes can be found in School travel to the UK section below.
15 December 2023 | FRONTEX (EU’s border and coast guard agency) have published latest ETIAS information pack, which draws attention to common misinformation on topic.
Tourism depends on high quality visa facilitation and border processes to support economic recovery and encourage demand, particularly from emerging visa-requiring markets. Pre-COVID-19 pandemic, Europe’s share of global international tourism arrivals was declining. Only 17% of the EU’s visitors came from long-haul markets. The value of these visitors has been missed, and the appeal to them of non-European destinations will continue to grow. Meanwhile, maintaining Europe’s cross-border mobility requires political will as well as adequate infrastructure. ETOA is active on visa policy, from Schengen, UK and Ireland processing, to informing members on cross-border travel requirements both intra-European and from outside Europe.
ETOA’s policy objectives
- An objective assessment of risk allowing more countries to have visa-waiver status
- Intelligent reform to Schengen visa code and national governments visa policy including development of e-visas
- Efficient and welcoming border processes, including travel documents and health credentials required
What we are doing
- Collaborate with industry partners including Tourism Manifesto alliance
- Work with European Commission, Parliament and national governments
- Inform members on cross-border travel requirements (more below)
- Conduct origin market surveys and publish reports (more below)
New border formalities
- EES (Autumn 2024 – potentially from 6 October)
- ETIAS (Spring 2025)
- UK ETA (Full implementation late 2024/early 2025 – start date varies by nationality; currently implemented for nationals of Qatar)
NB start dates above subject to revision
Operating in Europe | What you need to know
The Schengen Area remains one of the EU’s great success stories. Borderless travel between 23 EU and 4 non-EU states (EFTA) has transformed the offer of multi-country itineraries enjoyed by long-haul visitors in particular. If there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security (i.e. a pandemic), a Schengen country may exceptionally temporarily reintroduce internal border controls but is required to notify the European Commission (list of current internal border controls).
27 Countries are in the Schengen Area – Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
On 31 March 2024, Bulgaria and Romania will partially join the Schengen Area when air and maritime border controls with other countries in the Schengen Area will be lifted. Land border controls will remain in place for the time being.
The introduction of the Entry/Exit System (EES) and European Travel Information and Authorisation Services (ETIAS) is part of a long term strategy for the Schengen Area. Information on the systems can be found below.
For further information and latest news on Schengen border policy see European Commission (DG Home)
The EU is committed to further reform, including more digitalisation and has established a common visa policy (Schengen visa) for visitors to the Schengen Area not exceeding 90 days in a rolling 180 day period (short stay). Visa policy for visits exceeding 90 days in a rolling 180 day period remain subject to national procedures. To help calculate remaining time permitted in the Schengen Area, see here.
Annex II – List of countries whose nationals are not required to obtain a Schengen visa (‘visa-waiver’)
Annex I – List of countries whose nationals are required to obtain a Schengen visa.
The cost of a Schengen visa is generally €80 per person aged 12 and above. Further information here.
In certain cases, nationals of countries listed in Annex I are exempt from the Schengen visa requirement as a member state can implement derogations. For example, nationals of a third country listed in Annex I, residing in a country listed in Annex II, travelling as part of a school trip.
School trip visa exemption: For information on which EU/EFTA member states apply this derogation, see Article 6 (2.1) in the derogations spreadsheet found in the section ‘Visa requirements for third countries‘.
Schengen Visa Digitalisation
In June 2023, the European Council and Parliament agreed main elements to digitalise both the Schengen visa and its application platform. Further information from the Commission can be found here. While this is a move in the right direction, the intended timescale is very long: a seven-year transition period is planned. Meanwhile Europe remains uncompetitive. This amplifies concerns ETOA continues to express about lack of political will to invest in visa facilitation, harming Europe’s export income.
Bulgaria and Romania will partially join the Schengen Area on 31 March 2024 when air and maritime border controls with other countries in the Schengen Area will be lifted. Land border controls will remain in place for the time being.
Cyprus has applied to join the Schengen Area and are applying parts of the Schengen acquis such as on external border policy (i.e. 90 days in rolling 180 day period). In 2023, the European Commission evaluation process started to assess the readiness of Cyprus to join the Schengen Area and is ongoing.
Ireland maintains an opt-out from joining the Schengen Area and does not participate in the Schengen acquis on external border policy (i.e. 90 days in rolling 180 day period). However, Ireland does participate in the Schengen acquis related to the Schengen Information System, police and judicial cooperation. For information on visiting Ireland and travel between Ireland and the UK, see below.
For entering Schengen Area (or Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania) – expiry date at least 3 months after intended leaving date (only months less than 10 years from issue date are included in calculation). Consequently for a 10 year passport to be valid, the day intend to leave must not be more than 9 years and 9 months since issue date.
For entering Ireland see below.
Upcoming new border formalities
EES is currently expected to be implemented in Autumn 2024 (potentially from 6 October) and ETIAS currently in Spring 2025 for non-EU/non-EFTA nationals visiting the Schengen Area (also Cyprus for ETIAS only). Note that implementation dates for both have been subject to revision, partly due to lack of readiness of border infrastructure, so please check this webpage periodically for updates.
To explain the difference between EES and ETIAS, the European Commission has published an explainer.
EES is an automated IT system for registering third country (non-EU/non-EFTA) nationals visiting the Schengen Area for short stay (max 90 in 180 days), both visa-exempt and visa-requiring.
Start date: Autumn 2024 (target date reportedly Sunday 6 October – official confirmation expected to be announced in August 2024)
Countries implementing: Schengen Area
Countries (EU) not implementing: Cyprus and Ireland
Applicable to: third country (non-EU/non-EFTA) nationals visiting for short stay (max 90 in 180 days), both visa-exempt and visa-requiring, of all ages although collection of biometric data varies by age. See question 1 in FAQs for exemptions.
System: EES will replace manual stamping in a passport and collection of biometric data will be required:
Age 12 and above – facial image and fingerprints
Under 12 – facial image
How to apply: Not required in advance of travel; biometric data to be collected at port of entry. The process collecting the biometric data (booth, tablet) may vary by country/entry port. Depending on which country arriving into the Schengen Area, a person may be permitted to upload their facial image in advance (but not fingerprints) through the mobile app (in development) to speed up processing at border control.
For frequent visitors, see information on National Facilitation Programmes.
Validity: Personal data collected is stored for 3 years and one day after leaving the Schengen Area for majority of third country nationals. When re-entering the Schengen Area and data on file is still stored and valid, new biometric data is not required to be collected.
Official website: European Commission EES webpage
ETIAS is a pre-clearance permit to be required by nationals of third countries (non-EU/non-EFTA) visiting the Schengen Area or Cyprus, who do not require a Schengen visa (Annex II). For example, British (UK), Japan, USA.
Start date: Spring 2025 (specific date to be announced). ETIAS is planned to start approx. 6 months after EES.
Countries implementing: Schengen Area + Cyprus (full list)
Countries (EU) not implementing: Ireland
Applicable to: Third country (non-EU/non-EFTA) nationals of countries with Schengen visa-waiver status (Annex II). However, an ETIAS will not be required when transiting the countries implementing and remain in international transit area.
Exemptions: Third country nationals resident within the Schengen Area or Cyprus. Third country nationals resident in Ireland are not exempt (except British nationals resident in Ireland before 1 January 2021). Information on exemptions.
Cost: €7 per person aged 18-70 years old at time of application except family members of EU/EFTA citizens where applicable (under 18 and over 70 still need to apply even though free)
How to apply (not yet launched): Required to receive ETIAS permit in advance of travel; apply via mobile app (in development) or European Commission ETIAS webpage. Third parties are permitted to apply on behalf of a traveller with a declaration of representation. For at least 6 months from start date, an ETIAS permit (transition period) will be optional including for more than one visit during this time. After the transition period, there will be a further grace period of at least 6 months whereby an ETIAS is optional, but only for a person on their first visit to a country implementing ETIAS since the end of ETIAS transition period.
Validity: 3 years or until expiration of travel document i.e. passport, whichever is sooner. Multiple entries will be permitted during period of validity. A standard ETIAS travel authorisation allows travel to all countries that have implemented ETIAS and is linked to the travel document i.e. passport.
Additional information: ETIAS will be required by nationals of a third country listed in Annex I, residing in a country listed in Annex II, travelling as part of a school trip where a visa is not required. For information on which EU/EFTA member states apply the school trip visa exemption, see Article 6 (2.1) in the derogations spreadsheet found in the section ‘Visa requirements for third countries‘.
Background information: Unlike the USA equivalent (ESTA), the revenue will not contribute to tourism promotion. Following strong representation from industry, the fee is set at a level to cover costs including development of land border infrastructure as well as the system itself. ETOA and other associations took the view that seeking profit would penalise those who had chosen to visit Europe, and that promotion should be funded in other ways. Some confusion about scope and operation has arisen due to the proliferation of unofficial websites with URLs containing either Schengen or ETIAS.
European Commission/FRONTEX latest information pack with official updates on ETIAS: December 2023
Official website (including how to apply when launched): European Commission ETIAS webpage
Ireland and United Kingdom
Ireland and the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) have a Common Travel Area (CTA) whose operation is unaffected by the UK’s departure from the EU allowing free movement for British and Irish nationals within the CTA. The CTA includes the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
For non-British/non-Irish nationals the maximum length of time permitted to visit differs between Ireland (90 days) and the UK (6 months).
While there is a different time limit for visiting Ireland (90 days) and the UK (6 months), there is common visa policy between Ireland and the UK for certain nationalities such as the British Irish visa scheme for Chinese and Indian nationals. This scheme allows travel in Ireland and the UK for Chinese and Indian nationals on a single visa (either issued by Ireland or UK, usually the country of first arrival). Ireland also has a short-stay visa waiver programme that exempts nationals of certain countries who have a UK visa from needing an Irish visa when in Ireland (this programme is not reciprocated by UK Government).
The cost of an Ireland short stay ‘C’ visitor visa is generally €60.
Since 1 October 2021, the EU List of Travellers Scheme has ended for school trips from the EU to the UK. As a result, children of UK visa requiring nationality now require a visa to visit the UK (except on a school trip from France). In addition, EU ID cards are no longer accepted for most visitors and a passport is required (unless exempt or a child on a school trip from France).
Security of new EU ID cards is improving following European Commission regulation in August 2021. ETOA has been campaigning with other industry associations for UK Government to re-instate acceptance of EU ID cards for children under 18, as well as waiving the need for a UK visa for children of visa-requiring nationality on EU/EFTA school trips to the UK. The UK-France Joint Leaders’ Declaration in March 2023 committing to making changes to documentary requirements for children on a school trip from France is welcome, however bilateral agreements of a similar kind with other EU member states have not been announced to date.
School trip from France
From 28 December 2023, documentary requirements entering the UK have changed for children under 18 on a school trip from France (with 5 or more pupils) whereby:
- an EU ID card is accepted for entry instead of a passport
- children of visa requiring nationality do not require a UK visitor visa
These changes are only permitted if a France-UK School Trip Travel Information Form has been completed. A passport is still required for adults supervising the children. Further information on the process here.
When travelling between Ireland and Northern Ireland, there are no immigration controls on the land border, but a person needs to check if a Irish/UK visa is required for their nationality in either country.
For nationalities who do not require a UK visa, a pre-clearance permit (UK ETA) is/will be required in Northern Ireland (start date varies by nationality). As it stands, a UK ETA will be required in Northern Ireland arriving from Ireland unless resident in Ireland.
Passport/ID card for nationals of countries in EU/EFTA: A passport is not required in Northern Ireland arriving from Ireland (entering Ireland with an EU ID card is permitted). However, a passport is required when arriving in Northern Ireland from elsewhere, and for onward travel to Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales).
New UK border formality
The UK has introduced the requirement for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) applicable to nationals who do not require a visa to visit the UK (excluding British and Irish nationals). Start date varies depending on nationality and is currently implemented for nationals of Qatar only (full implementation is planned for late 2024/early 2025).
ETA is a pre-clearance permit required by non-British/non-Irish nationals visiting the UK who do not require a UK visa (national of a country not on this list) e.g. EU/EFTA (excluding Ireland), Japan, Canada and USA.
Start date: varies by nationality
In effect: nationals of Qatar
22 February 2024: nationals of other GCC countries and Jordan (apply from 1 February)
Late 2024/early 2025 (date(s) to be announced): other nationals worldwide who do not require a UK visitor visa e.g. EU/EFTA (excluding Ireland), Japan, Canada and USA. Announcement on start date(s) is currently expected in spring 2024 and anticipated to be from autumn/winter 2024.
For nationals of GCC countries an ETA replaces the electronic visa waiver. There is currently no change for other nationals who require a UK visitor visa moving to visa waiver status as a result of ETA.
Implementing country: United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
Applicable to: non-British/non-Irish nationals visiting the UK, who do not require a UK visa (national of a country not on this list). An ETA is also required when transiting the UK and remain in international transit area.
Exemption: Non-British/non-Irish nationals resident in Ireland who do not require a UK visitor visa are exempt when travelling to the UK (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) from Ireland or elsewhere in the Common Travel Area (CTA). An ETA is required if arriving into the UK from outside the CTA. To prove residency in Ireland, these documents are accepted.
Cost: £10 per person (payable by all ages). The revenue is/will be used to cover costs and invest in the UK border system.
Validity: 2 years or until expiration of travel document i.e. passport, whichever is sooner. Multiple entries are permitted during period of validity. An ETA allows travel to all countries in the UK and is linked to the travel document i.e. passport.
Application process: Either via dedicated mobile app or online (process differs between mobile app and online). When applying via mobile app a photo of the traveller and their passport is taken and for ages 10+ also a facial biometric. When applying online a photo of the traveller and their passport is required to be uploaded. Most applications are reviewed within 1 day, but may take up to 3 working days. Third parties are permitted to apply on behalf of a traveller (applications should be made online where the traveller is not present).
Official website (including how to apply online or download app): UK Government ETA webpage
ETOA Visa Impact Surveys and Reports
ETOA conducts origin market surveys with its members and publishes reports assessing current impact of Schengen, Ireland and UK visa processing. Its results help ETOA and policy makers map current problems and identify good practice: poor visa processing costs Europe valuable business.
Presentation from our visa processing survey in autumn 2022 focusing on Asian origin markets can be found below. Findings suggest that Schengen Area countries as well as Ireland and UK need to improve service standards to avoid deterring high-spending Asian visitors.
Disclaimer: While best efforts have been made to verify the accuracy of the information, the information displayed on this page should be used as guidance only.