Once the new electronic visa waiver system has been activated, citizens of visa waiver countries will be required to have an approved ETIAS to travel to the Schengen passport-free zone for short stays.
Eligible applicants will be able to complete a simple application form to receive an approved ETIAS exclusively online. In turn, this will eliminate the need to visit an embassy or consulate to apply for a visa for short stays.
The primary motive in introducing the ETIAS is to pre-register visa-exempt citizens travelling to the Schengen Area. This is in order to pre-identify any potential security threats or dangerous individuals and strengthen European borders. This aim will be also be achieved through the three Schengen Area security mechanisms: SIS, VIC, and EURODAC.
What is the purpose of the Schengen Security System?
The EU parliament has approved ETIAS in order to improve security within Europe, something which will be backed up by the pre-existing Schengen security system.
The European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security, and Justice (eu-LISA) is responsible for managing Schengen internal security and will also be responsible for the new visa waiver system.
In order to improve the security of the Schengen Area, several security measures are being implemented, including an EU border ‘lie detector’ at European airports. Once ETIAS is implemented, eligible citizens will have to answer a few security questions in order to submit an application.
The answers provided will be checked against all of the databases managed by eu-LISA, which include the SIS security system, the VIS system, and EURODAC for Europe, in order to identify any public safety risks before travellers reach European borders.
Schengen Information System (SIS) checks
SIS Europe is a supporting mechanism which assists European authorities in preserving internal security in the absence of internal border checks within the Schengen Area.
Individual Schengen states are able to use SIS to share information about suspected criminals entering the passport-free zone, as well as missing people, and stolen, lost, or misappropriated assets.
Once ETIAS is implemented, the answers to applicants’ security questions will be checked against the SIS database. SIS security Europe functions as a tool:
- To promote border control cooperation – SIS allows border guards and migration authorities to consult alerts on third-country nationals in order to decide whether to permit or refuse their entry to the Schengen zone.
- To increase law enforcement cooperation – The system allows authorities to create and consult alerts on missing persons and on persons related to criminal offences.
- To enable cooperation on vehicle registration – Vehicle registration services can check the legal status of the vehicles presented to them against SIS, and have access to alerts on vehicles, registration certificates, and number plates.
EU Visa Information System (VIS)
VIS Europe allows Schengen Area countries to exchange visa information, supporting the common EU visa policy, and consists of a central IT system and communication infrastructure linked to national systems.
When travellers apply for a visa for the Schengen Area, 10 fingerprints and a digital photograph are collected. This biometric data, along with the data collected in visa application forms, is recorded in the VIS system. The system can then perform biometric matching of fingerprints for identification and verification purposes.
The main purposes of VIS are to:
- Fight abuse: VIS helps to prevent fraudulent activities such as “visa shopping”, the practice of making visa applications to the other EU States after an initial application has been rejected.
- Protect travellers: The Biometric technology employed by VIS allows the system to fight identity theft by detecting visitors who are using another person’s travel documents.
- Enhance security: The VIS system helps to prevent, detect, and investigate terrorist activities and other serious criminal offences.
- Help with asylum applications: VIS enables EU countries to determine who is responsible for processing an asylum application.
European Dactyloscopy (EURODAC) Database
EURODAC for Europe is a fingerprint database which allows Schengen states to identify asylum seekers and those who illegally cross European borders, and works in tandem with the SIS security and the VIS system.
EURODAC registers instant recognition of a traveller’s fingerprints every time they apply for asylum in the European Union, by comparing fingerprint datasets. The fingerprint comparison provided by EURODAC permits EU states to determine responsibility for examining the individual applications of asylum seekers.
Once the ETIAS visa waiver is implemented, all these of these systems, SIS, VIS, and EURODAC, will help to support the processing of applications for the electronic visa waiver system and further improve security for all travellers coming to the Schengen Area.