Canadians looking to vacation within Europe will soon be forced to seek permission from the European Union and pay a fee every three years.
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will begin in January 2021 as a vetting process for short-term travellers from 61 countries, including Canada. The main purpose of the ETIAS screening process is for security, as stated on the visa-information website for the EU Schengen Zone.
The Schengen area comprises 26 countries, including France, Germany and Greece. The United Kingdom, though not part of the Schengen zone, is currently excluded from the 61 countries that will soon need ETIAS approval to enter Europe, pending the fate of Brexit.
The impact on Canadians will be significant. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians made almost five million visits to the EU in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available.
The process includes an online application and a fee of €7 (approximately C$10.50). The estimated time to hear back if you have been approved is 24 hours.
Minors applying for ETIAS waivers will be exempt from the fee but will need to identify their parent or guardian on their application.
“The news wasn’t even out for a week yet when I had two calls from clients who wanted to know what this meant for them,” said Cathy Hayman, a cruise vacation counsellor with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers for travellers from Toronto and across North America.
“Travel visas can already be complicated. Between distinctions in passports/visas with different immigration and permanent resident statuses, dual citizenship. Which passport would you apply with? This will add one more layer.”
Applicants will be asked to provide personal information, including travel and health history, as well as any criminal records. Anyone not approved may appeal the decision but will not be allowed into the continent until given approval.
For new Canadians used to the Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and the USA’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), the new ETIAS requirement comes as no surprise.
“I’m used to the American Visa travel system already and feel that it is the correct security for European countries,” said Linda Hendrie, a Scottish-Canadian who now lives in Toronto.
“My only concern would be of a human clerical error that might render my suitability to travel as high risk. If this can be guaranteed not to be an issue, then I’m fine with it,” she said.
Hendrie plans to travel to Scotland and Croatia in June. Neither country is part of the European Schengen area, and both are still visa-free for Canadian travellers.
The countries included within the Schengen area of the European Union are:
- Czech Republic