Currently, both Canadians and Americans can travel to Europe’s Schengen area and stay for up to 90-days in a 180-day period with no visa. In total, there are 60 countries that enjoy this visa-free access to Europe. Yay, us!
But, in an effort to protect Europeans from us psycho tourists who apparently run around committing horrible crimes across the continent during our visits, there will soon be a new process in place to keep potential threats out of Europe. Not a visa, but a visa waiver called the ETIAS, which stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. If they were trying to make it sound as dystopian as possible, they sure did a great job!
But, fear not, plebs – the ETIAS will not only enhance safety, but it will also make travel easier and more efficient! I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely sold! Whenever the government does things for our safety, it always makes life so much better, right? Wait a second….
Keep on reading to find out about the ETIAS and what it could mean for your future travel to Europe, as well as your future in general.
What is Europe’s Schengen area?
First off, let’s define what Europe’s Schengen area actually is. Touted as the world’s largest visa-free zone, the “Schengen Area signifies a zone where 27 European countries abolished their internal borders for the free and unrestricted movement of people”, as per schengenvisainfo.com.
The following countries are currently included in the Schengen area:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
For the 60-countries that currently enjoy visa-free travel within the Schengen area, visitors are able to travel seamlessly between all of the above countries for 90-days within any 180-day period without any border controls.
Introducing the ETIAS
Enter the ETIAS, which is essentially a pre-screening tool meant to keep any “potential threats” out of Europe. Not to be confused with a visa, the ETIAS is a visa waiver program, meant to strengthen the EU’s border security.
Don’t worry, it will not affect the thousands of migrants entering Europe every day, it is only for people trying to visit legally. Kind of like expecting gun control to cut down on crimes committed by criminals with illegal firearms. But, I digress.
The process to get your ETIAS approval is pretty straightforward and is done 100% online in about 20 minutes. You fill out an online questionnaire where you will be asked to provide the following information (as per the European Union):
- Personal information including your name(s), date and place of birth, sex, nationalities, home address, email address and phone number(s);
- Your parents’ first name(s);
- Travel document details;
- Your level of education and current occupation;
- The country of your first intended stay and the address of your destination;
- Details about any past criminal convictions, past travels to war or conflict zones, and whether you have recently been the subject of a return decision.
Your information will be cross-checked against various databases and you should have your approval within minutes, in most cases. Once you have your approval, it is digitally linked to your passport and you are good to go for 3-years. The cost to apply is low, at only 7 Euros.
All in all, it sounds like a pretty quick and easy process.
Schengen Visas vs. ETIAS
You might be wondering, what is the difference between Schengen visas and the ETIAS? Here’s the Cole’s Notes version:
For countries without visa-free access to Europe’s Schengen area, potential visitors must physically go and apply for their visa at the embassy or consulate of their destination country. It can take several weeks to get approved for your visa, and, if you want to travel to more than one country in the area, you need to apply for a visa in the country in which you will be spending the most time.
Once approved, your visa is physically entered into your passport. Once you have your visa, you have the ability to stay in the Schengen area for 90-days in a 180-day period. (Source: https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/how-to-apply-schengen-visa/)
ETIAS visa waivers
The ETIAS visa waiver is for those people from countries with visa-free access to Europe. As mentioned above, it is a much faster process done fully online and linked digitally to your passport. It acts as essentially a pre-screening tool for visitors with visa-free access to the Schengen area.
When does the ETIAS come into effect?
Well, the good news is, after numerous delays, ETIAS is still not slated to come into effect until mid-2025. So, you still have some time to enjoy your visa-free travel to Europe without this additional step.
Is ETIAS the first of its kind?
Nope! The United States already has a visa waiver form called ESTA, which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It’s essentially the same thing as ETIAS, requiring visitors with visa-free access to the U.S. to apply ahead of time for pre-screening purposes. In Canada, we have the eTA, or Electronic Travel Authorization. A few other countries have something similar, too.
In all cases where a visa waiver is present, you will need either a visa or a visa waiver to enter the country, but not both.
Is this a pre-cursor to digital ID?
Probably! It’s pretty clear that most of the world’s governments are dragging us in this direction, along with organizations such as the WEF and the WHO. Once they digitize and link everything, they will have the power to control your movement as they see fit. This is never about security, it’s always about control.
I also found this gem while researching for this article:
“In order to obtain the Canadian ETIAS visa waiver for Europe, Canadian citizens must answer some background questions on the subject of security and potential health risks.” (Source: https://www.etias.ca/)
What stands out to me about that sentence is the mention of potential health risks. I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere else on the “official” ETIAS or European Union websites, but the EU is actively working with the WHO to institute digital health passports for everyone, based on the EU’s Digital COVID-19 Certification. I don’t think it’s much of a leap to assume that enforcing certain health protocols (i.e. vaccines and whatever else they decide) is part of the intention of these visa waiver schemes.
I also find the language used in much of the official information about the ETIAS to be purposefully vague. What constitutes a potential threat, exactly?
A criminal record?
The wrong sounding name?
A spicy Facebook post?
An article critical of the ETIAS scheme? (uh oh)
A potential threat is whatever they say it is. Nowadays, that often includes wrong-think, even if you’ve committed no crime at all.
Start jumping to conclusions
Well, this article took a bit of a dark turn that I wasn’t expecting. I wanted to share about the ETIAS, but it’s hard to ignore the obvious march towards digital ID with all of these initiatives. What really drives me crazy is how they always try to sell it as being for our safety and to make our travel more efficient.
Have you traveled lately? Do you feel like your government is making the process easier for you as you remove your shoes and belt like a good little citizen? That is, if you weren’t already banned from all air travel due to your personal medical decisions?
What sounded like crazy conspiracy theory just a decade or even 5 years ago, is becoming reality in front of our eyes. And they are not even hiding it anymore.
My advice to you, Dear Reader, is to go ahead and start jumping to conclusions. It’s pretty clear where this is all headed, so now is the time to start preparing that Plan B to give yourself options. Even if none of this global control scheme comes to pass, and I sure hope it doesn’t, options are always a good thing. And if, God-forbid, it does come to pass, options are a necessity.
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Thanks for reading and have a great week!
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