Canadians planning a trip to Europe from 2022 need to be prepared for the launch of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
Whilst Canadian citizens will continue to enjoy visa-free privileges, they will also need to apply for ETIAS, the new visa waiver for Europe. Once the grace period for ETIAS comes to an end, it will no longer be possible for Canadians to enter the Schengen Area using a passport alone.
ETIAS works by cross-checking personal details against a number of security databases in order to identify potentially risky individuals. ETIAS is not a visa but an electronic authorisation aimed at boosting border security.
Whilst this added safety is of great benefit to travellers, some people may be concerned about how their details will be used and kept safe.
This article explains how and why personal information is gathered and the technology in place to ensure its safe access and storage.
Personal information collected by ETIAS
To complete the ETIAS registration process for Canadians, applicants are required to complete an online form.
Unlike when applying for many visas, there is no need to provide paperwork in person at an embassy or consulate, nor attend an interview. Instead, just a few basic personal details and passport information is requested, including:
- Full name as it appears of the passport
- Date and place of birth
- Contact details including an email address
- Passport data: expiry date, issue date, country and number
In addition, applicants will be asked which Schengen Area country they intend to visit first. A few questions relating to public health and security complete the form.
All the requested data must be provided fully and accurately, any blanks or errors may lead to delays and could even result in the application being rejected.
Passenger information is gathered at ePassport gates when crossing the border
An ETIAS visa waiver is granted if there are no hits in the system during the pre-screening process. However, the final decision on whether to allow an individual to enter the Schengen Area lies with the European border control agency (Frontex).
Passengers scan their passport at electronic gates on arrival at the airport. As well as reading the passport’s electronic chip to detect a valid ETIAS visa waiver, this process will provide European authorities with information regarding the movement of Canadian citizens in and out of the Schengen Area.
This is a key stage in keeping visitors and residents across the 26 ETIAS countries safe. The authorities can quickly be alerted of any suspicious behavior which may be grounds for refused entry.
Why is Canadian traveller information collected by ETIAS?
Data provided by Canadian citizens, and all other third-country nationals, will be used to boost safety and security across the Schengen Area.
Canadians and citizens of the other visa waiver countries are able to enter the European Schengen Area without a visa. Currently, all that is needed is a valid passport.
Whilst this policy has provided easy access to Europe, it has been unable to provide the highest levels of security.
By pre-screening traveller info against international security databases, residents and visitors are better protected from the challenges of international terrorism and diseases arriving from overseas.
The collection of data in this way also makes crossing the border faster and more efficient. Electronic passport gates replace manual inspection and therefore reduce waiting times.
How is personal data checked by ETIAS?
When the ETIAS application form is submitted, the details provided are automatically cross-checked across several security databases.
The Schengen Area’s security system is made of 3 key components that work together to identify dangerous individuals:
Visa Information System: preventing fraud and identity theft
The Visa Information System (VIS) allows Schengen Member States to exchange visa details.
VIS helps prevent fraud and identity theft by detecting anyone attempting to use travel documents belonging to someone else.
Schengen Information System: enabling border and law enforcement collaboration
The Schengen Information System (SIS) provides the police, migration, and justice authorities with intelligence about criminal and behavior and missing people. This is important due to the absence of internal borders in the Schengen Area.
The lack of frontiers means that Canadians with an approved ETIAS can travel from one country to another without facing additional border checks. The same visa waiver is valid for all 26 nations facilitating movement throughout the region.
European Dactyloscopy: the EU asylum fingerprint database
European Dactyloscopy (EURODAC) is responsible for revising asylum applications using an EU asylum fingerprint database.
This database can be used to determine which EU country should be responsible for examining an EU asylum application.
Canadian traveller info is run through these systems, in addition to some other databases. The vast majority of applications will be approved in minutes, however, if there are any hits in the systems, the application will go on to be processed manually.
If the decision is made not to grant the ETIAS visa waiver on security grounds, the individual will not be able to access any of the 26 Schengen Area nations.
ETIAS and safe storage of personal information
State-of-the-art technology is being implemented by eu-LISA (the agency responsible for the large-scale ETIAS IT system) to encrypt Canadian traveller details, keeping it safe and secure.
Canadians should be assured that their data will only be accessed when necessary by authorised personnel at border control and by police officers.
Despite such thorough checks, Canadians with a criminal record should not be deterred from applying, ETIAS requests are analysed on a case-by-case basis. Only those individuals considered a threat will be denied a visa waiver.
ETIAS will increase safety for Canadians visiting popular tourist destinations such as France, Germany, and Italy whilst keeping their data completely safe.
By monitoring the movement of third-country nationals in and around the Schengen Area, visitors and residents will benefit from greater protection and peace of mind than ever before.