Things are moving fast when it comes to new European migration and visa policies. As Canadian travellers may already know, the ETIAS visa waiver program is expected to come into effect in 2021.
The system is being implemented to simplify and streamline entry to travellers who do not require a visa to visit the Schengen area, while at the same time strengthening border control for the territory.
Meanwhile, the European Commission Office has recently announced that a new electronic registration system is also in the making. The system is called EES (Entry/Exit System) and is being designed for holders of Schengen travel permits.
It ‘s important to know the differences between a registration, visa, and visa waiver and why these new systems are being put into place. This page contains useful information for Canadian citizens wanted to learn more about the new EES program, including:
- What EES is
- Who will EES apply to
- The differences between EES, ETIAS, and Schengen visas
- How the EES information will be used
What is EES and how does it work?
EES stands for Entry/Exit System and is a large-scale IT program that will become part of the Smart Border Package for the Schengen area announced in 2016.
The Package is meant to strengthen and simplify security processes for the external borders of the Schengen territory. In general, the EES system is expected to improve the safety measures of the area.
Thanks to recent passport and document check technology, EES will be able to automatically and digitally monitor the movement of non-EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens as they cross the Schengen external borders. EEA is not meant to affect the freedom of movement within Schengen countries that EU citizens and Schengen travel permit holders currently enjoy.
Once fully operational, the system will take advantage of electronic passport-reading gates and reduce the need for traditional passport stamps and manpower at Schengen entry points like airports and seaports.
EES will be operated by EU-Lisa, the EU agency that handles large-scale information systems concerning freedom, security, and justice.
Why Is EES Being Launched?
Travelling is becoming easier and faster. In order to keep up with new trends in tourism and increasing migration volumes, the European authorities have decided to modernize border control for the Schengen area.
The EES program will do so by electronically screening entry and exit data of passengers crossing Schengen’s external borders. The system is designed to be more accurate and efficient than traditional passport control. While the number of visitors to Schengen member countries increases, the number of immigration officers required to carry out the necessary checks will decrease.
Data collected by EES will also be used for purposes other than monitoring and will affect the travellers’ eligibility to be granted a visa and cross the Schengen border. The system will be able to indicate whether a foreign national does match the Schengen entry conditions or after having been correctly granted a travel permit, ceases to match them.
Moreover, Schengen embassies, consulates, and other relevant institutions will be required to collaborate with EES. This means that EES will assist visa-granting institutions in making a decision regarding a traveller’s request. European authorities will be able to consult EES data before granting, rejecting, cancelling, or extending a Schengen travel permit.
Benefits of EES for Schengen member countries
As explained above, there are several results that the new EES system is expected to bring about. Here is a list of examples:
- Fighting international crime and terrorism thanks to better border control
- Fighting identity theft and other misuses of passports and ID documents
- Limiting irregular migration thanks to a unified protocol that easily identifies visa overstayers
- Assisting in migration flow management thanks to real-time reliable data
- Providing useful information to foreign travellers regarding their Schengen travel visa, i.e. the length of their permitted stay
How will EES affect me?
EES applies to all nationals of countries other than the EU, EEA, and Switzerland. This means that even if you’re from a nation that enjoys visa-free status from Schengen, like Canada (and therefore will need to apply for ETIAS starting from 2021), EES will be relevant to you. The same goes for non-visa-free foreigners — those who currently have to apply for a Schengen visa in order to enter the area.
Although details still need to be confirmed, EES won’t require a great effort on the traveller’s part. Simply, you will be automatically registered with EES once you cross the Schengen border as you enter or exit its territory.
What Countries is EES being designed for?
EES is meant to strengthen and modernize the borders of the Schengen territory. Countries within the Schengen area currently are:
- San Marino
- Czech Republic
- Vatican City
What are the differences between EES, ETIAS, and Schengen visas?
EES is not a travel permit but rather, an automated registration system that will only be carried out at the airport or other points of entry. Unlike visas and the ETIAS visa waiver, you won’t have to apply for EES in advance. Simply arrive at the Schengen border with your passport and travel permit, scan your passport at the automatic gates, and you’ll be registered with EES in minutes.
On the other hand, visas and ETIAS must be applied for in advance. In the case of Schengen visas, this may be done at an embassy or consulate for a Schengen country near you. ETIAS visa waivers, on the other hand, can be applied for entirely online in minutes. ETIAS is not a visa (in fact, countries issuing ETIAS-eligible passport will remain visa-free for Schengen) but travellers will still need to obtain it before travelling to Europe.
What information will EES collect?
EES will only collect and store data relevant to border security and migration control. This may include:
- Picture(s) for facial recognition and fingerprints
- Applicant’s full names
- Their date and place of birth
- Their gender and nationality
- Passport information, including passport number, issue and expiry date
- Relevant Schengen visa(s) or ETIAS details
- Border crossing information: point and dates of entry and exit
All this data will be securely stored and encrypted. It will not be used outside of security and migration purposes and will only be handled by authorized personnel such as border control officers and migration and visa authorities.
Member countries will access EES information to investigate and prevent terrorist threats and other criminal activity.