The latest news from the European Commission confirms that the release date for the ETIAS electronic visa waiver system has been pushed back to 2022.
This is extremely relevant for Canadians planning a trip to Europe as Canadian passport holders are among those that must apply for ETIAS once the program comes into full force. Up until now, the launch was expected for 2021.
New details have just been revealed, including not only the change of date but also the fact that ETIAS may not be mandatory for everyone, at least in the beginning.
When Will ETIAS Go Live?
It’s now official that ETIAS will not go live before the end of 2022. This gives Canadians (together with nationals of other 62 countries) one extra year to enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen area.
Starting from late 2022, however, ETIAS will become a mandatory requirement. Once the program is launched, Canadians won’t lose their visa-exempt status but will need to obtain a valid ETIAS authorization if they wish to cross the external Schengen borders and visit Europe.
ETIAS Won’t Be a Requirement Straight Away
Canadians may not have to start applying right when the system goes live. European officials confirm that once ETIAS is implemented in 2022, getting the visa waiver may remain optional for one year.
The transition period will start with 6 months in which, while ETIAS will not be a requirement for travelers, Schengen member states will be obliged to inform all non-EU citizens crossing the border that they will soon need to register with ETIAS.
Shengen authorities will issue informative leaflets to distribute at the entry points and in relevant European embassies and consulates around the world.
After that, there will be 6 further months of grace period when ETIAS will be a requirement but, under specific circumstances, eligible nationals may still be let into Europe without having registered. European officials report:
“During the grace period the border authorities shall exceptionally allow third-country nationals subject to the travel authorization requirement who are not in possession of a travel authorization to cross the external borders where they fulfil all the remaining conditions, provided that they are crossing the external borders of the Member States for the first time since the end of the period”.
This means that Canadians and other eligible foreigners may enter Europe without a valid ETIAS during the grace period, provided that they meet all other requirements for travel. At the ID check desk, they will be reminded that ETIAS has become mandatory for them.
Extending the grace period will also be a possibility, should the European Commission decide to adopt a delegated act in accordance with Article 89. In that case, the maximum extension allowed will be 6 months. If an extension is not approved, all travelers will need to hold a valid ETIAS at the end of the grace period.