The EU has delayed the introduction of a €7 visa waiver form for entering its zone without a passport, meaning UK travelers are unlikely to be charged until 2024 at the earliest.
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (Etias), which applies to non-EU citizens from 60 countries who travel visa-free with the EU, is now expected to start operating from November 2023. Travelers will then benefit from a six-month transition period while border authorities carry out information campaigns on the new requirements.
Etias, which is modeled on the US Esta scheme, means non-EU travelers will need to complete a form and pay €7 (£5.91) before entering Europe’s passport-free zone. The €7 tax will apply to anyone between the ages of 18 and 70 and is valid for multiple visits over three years. In most cases, approval should be granted within minutes.
Etias was to start operating at the end of 2022, then May 2023, but was postponed for another six months, a delay first reported by SchengenVisaInfo.com website.
The European Commission published the new start date on its website, without providing a reason for the delay.
According to an EU source, the six-month transition period will be followed by a grace period of unknown duration when travelers crossing the EU border for the first time under the requirements will have a certain flexibility.
Some UK commentators have denounced Etias as a ‘Brexit punishment’ despite the fact that the plans predate the EU referendum and were backed by the UK government on security grounds when the UK was EU member.
It has been suggested that the scheme could make life easier for UK travellers. Many Britons traveling to the mainland faced traffic congestion at the Port of Dover at the start of the school holidays last month when peak demand collided with post-Brexit legal requirements for more demanding passport checks , as well as with temporary staff shortages.
“Having an Etias means that Britons will be able to skip some of the checks they currently have because all of their information will be available in their Etias. Border guards won’t even have to ask the questions they are asking now,” said said Besart Bajrami, founder of SchengenVisaInfo.com.
About 1.4 billion people from 60 countries are eligible for visa-free travel to the EU, according to a European Commission report published in May. The visa waiver form will be required to enter all countries inside the EU borderless zone, including Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania, which have not yet joined the space Schengen. Citizens of Ireland, an EU member state that is not part of the Schengen zone, will be exempt from the Etias form.