Europe’s Tourist ‘Visa’ Has Been Postponed—Here’s What to Know


In 2016, the European Commission first introduced the idea of a new pre-entry requirement that many likened to a tourist visa. After years of delays and false starts, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) was set to launch in early 2024, but a recent statement revealed that implementation has been postponed yet again.

The timeline adjustment was announced by the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council on Oct. 19, citing the need for new technology to make the ETIAS rollout possible. “The new roadmap for the delivery of the new IT architecture foresees… that ETIAS will be ready to enter into operation in Spring 2025,” read a statement detailing the Council’s meeting. Before the latest set of delays, ETIAS was scheduled to go live in 2021—before being pushed back to November 2023.

So, what's the holdup? This postponement is due, in large part, to setbacks in the building of another new IT infrastructure in Europe: the Entry/Exit System (EES), which will replace manual passport stamping with electronic registration. According to European Commission Spokesperson Anitta Hipper, ETIAS cannot launch until EES is fully operational as the traveler authorization system will rely on EES data to identify potential risks.

The contractor in charge of creating these IT systems, eu-LISA, estimates that EES will launch in autumn 2024, with ETIAS following approximately six months later. “The revised timeline… is linked to several factors, which include delays in developing the system at the central level by the contractor, but also in [EU] Member States when it comes to delays in preparation for the necessary equipment to use the EES at the border crossing points,” Hippie explained to Condé Nast Traveler via email. “The Commission will continue working very closely with Member States and eu-LISA to minimize the impact of the delays and deliver interoperability under this mandate.”

When the new authorization system is eventually implemented, travelers with passports from visa-exempt countries will have to apply for ETIAS online prior to their arrival in Europe. This requirement will affect citizens from the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among dozens of other countries. Unlike traditional visas, the application process for ETIAS is relatively quick and easy—it’s also inexpensive, costing only €7 (about $8) for a three-year approval.

Travelers will simply fill out an online form with their basic biographical data and travel history. They’ll also respond to several security questions, and if everything checks out, they’ll receive approval via email within an hour. This will be the case for most travelers, although some may require additional security checks that prolong the process to up to 96 hours.

“I do not see [ETIAS] as a big deal considering I am from the US and have a lot of passport privilege,” said Sojourner White, a remote social worker and travel content creator who once lived in Europe and plans to travel back there in the near future. “We are just not used to having travel restrictions, so people are freaking out, but honestly paying $8 is so much cheaper than what other people have to pay in order to travel in Europe.”

She does, however, believe that the delay is only going to further confuse travelers, especially when ETIAS is eventually implemented. “The constant rescheduling of the launch reminds me of the real ID issues in the US. When you put out information prematurely people make plans with that information,” White said. “I foresee some problems, at least in the beginning, with people being confused as to what they need to do, especially if they are not seasoned travelers or it’s their first trip to Europe.”

Her best advice for newer travelers so they don’t get caught off-guard?

“Be in tune with the US Department of State website. They have the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP) that I recommend everybody sign up for, too, so that you can be notified of changes that may be happening as you are traveling.”

Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler