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The visa policy of the European Union is changing. From 2022, travellers from third countries who had previously been able to cross an external EU border using just a passport will need to register with ETIAS. The European Travel Information and Authorisation System is being introduced to boost EU border security and reduce the threat of terrorism and other serious crimes. Whilst Finland already ranks as one of the safest places on earth, this additional layer of security provides even greater peace of mind for residents and visitors.

ETIAS: how it benefits the European Union

ETIAS is set to be launched at the end of 2022 and will become a mandatory entry requirement following a 6-months grace period. From this point, travellers from more than 60 visa-exempt countries will need to apply for a visa waiver before being granted entry to Europe. ETIAS is valid for tourism and business purposes, and will also be required to transit through a Schengen country. The online application is quick and convenient, taking just a few minutes to complete. Travellers will fill in the form with a few basic personal details and passport information before paying the ETIAS fee and submitting the request for review.

ETIAS consults international security databases

The information provided by the applicant is automatically cross-checked against several international security databases. By doing so, potentially dangerous individuals can be identified swiftly and prevented from crossing the EU border legally. Three of the databases consulates are the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Visa Information System (VIS), and Europol data.

The Schengen Information System

The SIS is the largest information sharing system for security and border control in Europe. It allows national authorities to consult alerts on persons of interest.

The Visa Information System

The VIS allows Schengen countries to share visa information, helping to prevent the use of fraudulent documentation to enter Europe.

Europol and the ETIAS watchlist

Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, also provides data about serious international crime and convicted criminals which allows ETIAS to identify potential threats. There will also be an ETIAS watchlist, this list will contain the names and information of any persons considered likely to commit terrorist activity or other serious crimes in Europe. In the majority of cases, nothing will be flagged up during the automatic screening process and the application will be approved almost immediately. On approval, the ETIAS visa waiver is linked electronically to the biometric chip in the applicant’s passport, making it easy for officials to verify at the border.

Manual review of applications

If there is a hit in one of the databases, the request will be reviewed manually by the ETIAS Central and National units. Information is analysed on a case-by-case basis with a decision being reached within 2 weeks. Applicants who are denied entry have the right to appeal.

ETIAS and protecting public health

The introduction of ETIAS will also bring health benefits. As seen during the recent coronavirus pandemic, international travel allows infectious diseases to cross borders and spread quickly. When completing the ETIAS form, applicants are also asked some health-related questions. Individuals with certain contagious conditions may be blocked from entering Europe in order to minimize the epidemic risk, safeguarding international health.

Revocation or annulment of ETIAS if circumstances change

An approved ETIAS visa waiver is valid for 3 years, or until the passport used to apply expires. However, to maintain high levels of security across Europe, the visa waiver can be revoked or annulled at any time if new information comes to light. Should a new alert be introduced which indicates that an ETIAS holder is a potential threat, the ETIAS is annulled and access to Europe will no longer be possible.

ETIAS: how it benefits travellers

ETIAS is also beneficial for travellers. Visitors from eligible non-EU countries will enjoy increased security across top destinations, including Helsinki, whilst maintaining their visa-free privileges. In addition, the same ETIAS visa waiver is valid for the entire Schengen Area, that’s 26 countries in total. Tourists may make the most of their trip to Finland to visit nearby Sweden or Norway. ETIAS holders can enjoy up to 90 days in Europe in a 180-day period, plenty of time to explore one, or several, nations.

A multiple entry permit valid for 3 years

ETIAS is a multiple entry permit, third-country citizens can visit Europe numerous times as long as the authorisation remains valid. As the visa waiver is linked to the passport digitally, people don’t need to carry around a paper permit or worry about damaging or misplacing the visa waiver over the years. With so many advantages, it is hoped ETIAS will encourage tourism across the EU, ensuring that European destinations remain some of the most popular, and safest, in the world.