Latest news

24 May 2021 | UK Government policy paper on future immigration and border control. Includes implementing an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme before the end of 2024 (groundwork will begin in 2021). This scheme will apply to visa waiver nationals entering the UK (except British and Irish citizens). Details on cost and implementation date will be added to this page when announced.
18 March 2021 | Following EC announcement on Digital Green Certificates, ETOA issues issues statement reinforcing value of non-European visitors: Restoring International Mobility.
12 March 2021 | Link to European Commission’s webpage on ETIAS added to the page.
11 March 2021
| ETOA is participating in EU consultation on proposal for digitalisation of Schengen visas. The main options are set out in this document: we favour options 4 and 5. A public consultation (closing 3rd June) is available here. A regulatory proposal is expect Q4.2021.
25 February  2021 | The Tourism Manifesto Alliance issues its Exit Strategy to restart travel and tourism.
19 January  2021 | The European Commission has published a consultation on Security and border management for the Schengen Area (ends 16 March 2021)


Visa and border policy remains particularly subject to political risk. Travel restrictions related to Covid-19 control have been compounded by the potential need for ‘health credentials’ that may become a requirement for international border crossings. Their development and implementation is widely seen as a pre-condition for a widespread return to international travel.

In early 2021, internal travel between EU and non-EU Schengen countries is still subject to temporary border controls whose persistence challenges the fundamental freedom of movement that is one of the EU’s founding principles. A responsible return to cross-border mobility is a pre-condition for economic recovery but its conditions remain hotly contested.

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. Growth in international arrivals to non-EU European destinations routinely outpaced growth to the EU: in 2017, 8% average for EU, and an average of 12% to non-EU southern and Mediterranean Europe, including Turkey.

High quality visa facilitation and border processes are essential to support recovery, and encourage demand from emerging visa-requiring markets. The appeal to them of non-European destinations will continue to grow: part of that appeal will be visa-free travel and smart visa processes. In 2021 the EU is planning a legislative initiative on the digitalisation of visa procedures. This would replace the current sticker in a passport. The regulatory roadmap can be viewed here.

For citizens of visa-waiver countries (e.g. Japan, UK, USA) the Entry/Exit System (EES) and ETIAS are both planned to become operational during 2022 to enter the Schengen Area plus Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. EES and ETIAS will not be applicable travelling to Ireland.

What you need to know

  • Increasing risk of economic loss as non-European destinations develop
  • Health credentials are likely to become a requirement for international travel
  • Information on border restrictions/re-opening during 2021 see our COVID-19 resources page (member only – log-in required) which includes European Commission’s Re-Open EU map.
  • Entry/Exit System (EES) expected to become operational first half of 2022. This is an automated IT system (no cost to the traveller) for registering non-EU nationals including visa required and visa-exempt travellers to the Schengen Area plus Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. EES will replace manual stamping in a passport. Factsheet here.
  • ETIAS expected to become operational second half of 2022 for citizens of visa-waiver countries visiting Schengen Area plus Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania [see box below]

ETOA’s policy objectives

  • An objective assessment of risk allowing more countries to have visa-waiver status
  • Intelligent reform to Schengen visa code including development of e-visas (for current public consultation click here)
  • Efficient and welcoming border processes, including health tests and credentials

What we are doing

  • Collaborate with industry partners including Tourism Manifesto alliance
  • Work with European Commission, Parliament and national governments
  • Conduct origin market surveys and publish reports

The requirement to obtain a visa before travel is a deterrent. Only 3 – 4% of the EU’s leisure visitors from outside Europe have a visa, yet citizens from large source markets require them, including China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia. While some improvement has been made, Schengen visa processes remain problematic and costly.

Ireland and the UK 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 citizens within the CTA. The British Irish visa scheme for Chinese and Indian nationals allows travel throughout the CTA on a single visa (either issued by Ireland or UK, the country of first arrival).

The Schengen Area remains one of the EU’s great success stories. Borderless travel between 22 EU and four non-EU states transformed the offer of multi-country itineraries enjoyed by long-haul visitors in particular. The introduction of the Entry/Exit System (EES) and European Travel Information and Authorisation Services (ETIAS), expected first and second half of 2022 respectively, should increase confidence in borderless travel and enable more origin markets to qualify for visa-waiver status.

Following strong representation from industry, the ETIAS fee has been set at a modest level, as the EC originally proposed, and will not be used as revenue stream for promotional purposes. ETOA and others took the view that seeking profit would penalise those who had chosen to visit Europe, and that promotion should be funded in other ways.

European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)

ETIAS introduces a mandatory pre-clearance permit for visitors to Schengen area[1] plus Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, who are citizens of countries with Schengen area visa-waiver status, including Japan, UK and USA. For a list of Schengen visa-requiring and visa-waiver countries, see Annexes I and II of regulation 2018/1806/EU. The framework legislation for ETIAS has been in force since late 2018. Official EU press release is available here.

The system is expected to become operational in the second half of 2022. A permit will cost €7, be valid for 3 years and allow multiple entries during this time.

Unlike the USA equivalent, ESTA, the revenue will not contribute to tourism promotion. The fee is set at a level to cover costs including development of land border infrastructure as well as system itself. Some confusion about scope and operation has arisen due to the proliferation of unofficial websites with URLs containing either Schengen or ETIAS. Further information can be found on this European Commission webpage which will link to the official site to apply when launched. We will also update this page.

[1] Schengen Area comprises 26 states: EU27 states except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania; plus the four EFTA states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland. Ireland has an ‘opt outs’ and is not obliged to join (this was also the case for the UK as an EU member);

The other five EU states (excluding Ireland) should eventually join the area as currently apply the Schengen acquis to a large extent. One of the key differences currently that time spent in these EU non-Schengen countries does not count towards the time limit in the Schengen area.  

Schengen visa processing in India

This impact survey presents high level preliminary findings from research conducted by ETOA between July and September 2018. It is intended to inform current debate on the reform of the Schengen Visa Code.

Download now

Europe: Open for Business?

Impact survey on Schengen visa processing in origin markets: China and India, 2018. Report and Recommendations.

Download now