The number of terrorist attacks in Europe has been on a steep decline in recent years as European authorities have stepped up measures to identify and stop potential plots related to terrorism.
Catherine De Bolle, the executive director of Europol, recently expressed her satisfaction with the decline in casualties from terrorism in Europe during a presentation on Terrorism Status and Trends to the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament in September 2019.
However, she stressed that further measures still needed to be taken to increase internal security within European borders in the coming years.
One such measure is the upcoming introduction of the ETIAS visa waiver, an electronic travel authorization similar to the US ESTA visa waiver system for visa-free nationalities.
Once introduced by the end of 2021, it will be necessary for many non-European citizens to pre-register for an ETIAS online before traveling to any of the countries and territories in the Schengen passport-free zone.
British citizens will also be required to apply for ETIAS after Brexit and once the electronic visa waiver system has been fully implemented in 2021.
An approved ETIAS visa waiver is a multiple entry travel authorization that permits the holder to travel to all of the Schengen Area territories multiple times during its validity.
ETIAS will allow a total stay of 90 days with each entry, within every 180-day period. It is valid for a total of 3 years from the date of approval, or until the associated passport expires, meaning there is no need to apply before every trip to Europe.
How ETIAS Will Help to Fight Terrorism in Europe
In general, terrorism in Europe and the number of people affected by such acts are already on the decline: there were only 13 victims of terrorist attacks in the European Union in 2018 compared to 62 in 2017 and 135 in 2016.
The number of foiled terrorist plots also increased in 2018 to 16 from 11 the previous year, signaling a tighter crackdown and the implementation of tougher security measures.
However, as terrorism continues to be an ongoing threat, the EU has sought to find a more efficient way of identifying potential threats to European borders. This led to the European Parliament approving the introduction of the ETIAS authorization system in 2016.
It will take roughly 5 years to implement the online visa waiver application for Europe and it is currently expected to launch sometime in 2021.
All of the information provided on the ETIAS application form will be screened against several European security databases before an approved travel authorization will be granted, including SIS, VIS, Interpol, Europol, and a dedicated ETIAS watchlist.
This will allow European authorities to pre-identify any potential security risks before travelers are permitted to arrive in any of the Schengen Area countries.
How to Apply for an ETIAS Visa Waiver from the US
Americans will not require a visa to travel to Europe after 2021 for short stays, but it will be necessary to register for an ETIAS visa waiver before departing the US to travel to any of the countries and territories in the Schengen passport-free zone. All travelers from the United States, no matter their age, will be required to have an individually approved ETIAS to enter the Schengen Area
Once implemented, it will be possible to apply for an ETIAS for US citizens through a simple online form which will only take a few minutes to complete with basic personal, passport, and travel information.
Before the application can be submitted, it will also be necessary to answer a range of security-related questions, the answers to which will be checked against the security databases previously mentioned.
The security questions on the ETIAS form will involve questions related to subjects such as terrorism, human trafficking, personal drug use, and criminal history.
Unlike the US and Canada, a minor criminal conviction is not expected to result in a refusal of the travel authorization for Europe. However, applicants with major convictions with jail time served are likely to be refused entry to the Schengen Area countries.
Those who wish to submit an ETIAS application from the USA are advised to do so at least 72 hours before the intended date of entry to Europe to guarantee sufficient processing time for the visa waiver.
Once successfully processed, an approved ETIAS for Americans is electronically linked to the same passport used to complete the online form, and a copy is sent to a current email address. The traveler is then able to present their ETIAS-linked passport to board transportation to Europe and gain entry to the Schengen Area upon arrival.