Travel’s not in our to-do list for the near future but it’s still important to keep abreast of the latest updates in the industry so that we’re ready to go once the green light is given!
Here’s some news that all Singaporeans should take note of if you’re dreaming of travelling to Europe post-pandemic: All Singaporeans will be required to apply for an online visa waiver to visit European countries within the Schengen Area (more on this later) come late-2022.
About the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)
Simply put, the ETIAS is a travel authorisation issued to those already eligible to enter the Schengen Area visa-free. It’s not a visa but instead, similar to the ESTA and eTA arrangements currently in place for travel to the USA and Canada respectively.
The decision to implement ETIAS was first made around four years ago, in response to a rise in terrorist attack across Europe (such as the November 2015 Paris attacks and 2016 Brussels bombings).
According to the European Commission, “ETIAS will be a largely automated IT system created to identify any security or irregular migratory risks posed by visa-exempt visitors travelling to the Schengen Area, whilst at the same time facilitate crossing borders for the vast majority of travellers who do not pose such risks.”
The European Union has promised that this new programme will help to “protect and strengthen its borders”, allowing for safer and more efficient travels.
Who needs to apply?
All countries currently benefiting from visa-free travel to the Schengen Area will be required to apply for ETIAS, including Singapore. This will apply for both business and leisure travel.
The Schengen Area comprises the following countries:
- Including micro-states (Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City)
- At the moment, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are in the process of joining the Schengen Zone and will eventually require an ETIAS.
However, citizens of these countries who are family members of an EU citizen and who hold a residence card or residence permit, or those already holding long-stay visas in a Schengen Area country, need not apply.
How to apply?
Travellers will be able to apply for the ETIAS through an official website and mobile application. However, the domain has yet to be released (we will be updating this article with the confirmed application portal once it has been released). The application should take no more than 10 minutes.
In order to apply, you’ll need to prepare the following information and documents:
- A valid Singapore passport with at least 3 months remaining from the date of arrival in Europe
- A current email address (to receive the visa waiver)
- A valid credit or debit card (in order to make the payment)
- Personal details
- Passport details
- Personal, employment and security questions
During the application process, you’ll also be asked to select which country you intend to visit first. However, this does not necessitate that you must follow through during your travels. It simply allows for the assignment of jurisdiction to a specific member state to review your application.
Approval for the ETIAS will be instantaneous for a vast majority of applications (over 95 per cent, based on the EU’s targets). Once approved, you’ll receive a confirmation message via email. Your travel waiver will then be automatically linked to your passport.
What do they check for?
The applicants’ information will be checked against various security databases including:
- EUROPOL DATA
- TDAWN (INTERPOL)
- SLTD (INTERPOL)
Should any of your details generate a ‘hit’ on these systems, your application will undergo manual processing by a Central Unit in the European Border and Coast Guard Agency or by a Member State team. This can take up to four days, or in exceptional circumstances, up to four weeks. Additional information and further procedural steps may also be required at this stage.
You will be able to appeal any ETIAS refusal.
Application for the ETIAS costs 7 Euros (~S$11 based on conversion rates at the time of writing).
Anyone under the age of 18 or over the age of 70 at the time of application will be exempt from this fee, although they are still required to apply.
How long does an ETIAS last?
Upon approval, your ETIAS will be valid for a three-year period or until your passport’s expiry, whichever is sooner. Within this time frame, you’re able to visit the Schengen Area countries without needing to re-apply for an ETIAS.
You will be allowed to arrive in countries within the Schengen Area up till the final validity date of your ETIAS. However, should you enter within 90 days of its expiry, the border guard or automated border system will be obligated to inform you of:
- the remaining validity period;
- the possibility to submit an application for a new ETIAS even during your stay in the Zone;
- the obligation to be in possession of a valid ETIAS for the entire duration of your short stay.
ETIAS renewal can be done for a further three years within 120 days of its expiry, through the same application process as described above. The same application fees of 7 euros will apply.
Other Things to Note
The ETIAS authorisation is electronically linked to the chip in your passport and cannot be transferred. Thus, should your passport expire within the 3-year validity period, a new ETIAS will be required.
Obtaining an ETIAS during check-in?
You will not be allowed to check in if you have not obtained an ETIAS in advance.
Will a valid ETIAS guarantee entry into Europe?
Short answer: no.
The final say of whether you are permitted entry into countries within the Schengen Area lies with the national border guard on duty at the time of your entry. You may be denied entry should officials believe you:
- intend to seek employment whilst in Europe
- plan to overstay your visa waiver authorisation
- are carrying or attempting to import illegal weapons, firearms, and/or other contraband into the country
You may also be asked to provide evidence of the following (similar to travels without the ETIAS):
- Proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay in Europe
- Valid health insurance
- Return tickets or proof of onward travel
Can I obtain an ETIAS with a criminal record?
Yes, unless you’re deemed as a current threat, or have a history of serious cross-border crime or terrorism offences.
Can my ETIAS be cancelled?
Your ETIAS can be revoked under the following conditions:
- It was obtained fraudulently, or if the conditions under which it was issued are no longer met
- There is a new alert in European security databases regarding a refusal of entry or a reported lost or stolen travel document
Dual nationals who hold citizenship with one of the 26 Schengen Area countries need not apply for an ETIAS, provided you enter the Schengen Area using your EU passport. Those with dual citizenship from two ETIAS eligible non-EU countries can apply using either one.
Passengers transiting through a country in the Schengen Area generally do not require an ETIAS as long as they are travelling on a single ticket, checked through to your final destination outside Schengen, and will not leave the international departures (airside) area of the transit airport.
The ETIAS does allow for short-term study in Europe of up to three months. However, this not a substitute for a student or work visa. Those who wish to live, study, work, or remain in Europe for longer than the stipulated 90 days will be required to apply for a visa.
For more information
For more information, you may refer to the ETIAS website at https://www.etiasvisa.com/etias-requirements/singapore