ETIAS and ESTA: All about the ETIAS Waiver

ETIAS for Brighton in the UK is similar to the ESTA for US travel to Venice Beach and beyond.

What is the ETIAS? How does it differ from the ESTA?

ETIAS, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, was first proposed by the European Commission in 2016 and formally established by the European Parliament in 2018. It is anticipated that the system will go into effect by the end of 2022 or at the beginning of 2023. Under the new travel system, citizens from 59 of the 62 countries that currently may enter the Schengen countries without a visa will maintain their visa-free status. The new travel authorisation system will soon require eligible individuals to obtain the ETIAS Waiver for travel to Europe. Find out more about the new European travel authorization system, what it will mean for British citizens entering the European Union, and how it compares with the existing United States ESTA Visa Waiver Programme.

What is the ETIAS electronic travel authorisation for Europe?

Sometimes referred to as the ETIAS visa, this electronic travel authorisation is for eligible passport holders to enter the Schengen Area visa-free. This area is comprised of 22 European Union (EU) member states, 4 non-EU member states, and 3 micro-states. The purpose of the ETIAS visa waiver is to provide a pre-screening programme that enhances border security by preventing terrorism, illegal entry, and identity theft while maintaining visa-free privileges for eligible travellers. Benefits for individuals that will utilise the European travel system include the convenient online application system that provides quick results, shorter wait times upon arrival to the Schengen Area, and a more streamlined port of entry process. The same European waiver authorisation may be used for multiple trips to all Schengen countries for the duration of its three year validity period.

Participants of the new system, including British citizens and American citizens, will be advised to apply for the European visa waiver at least 72 hours in advance of travel. Once authorised, the ETIAS visa waiver may be used for trips of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. A general list of acceptable travel purposes includes:

  • Transit to another country
  • Vacation, tourism, and to visit friends and relatives
  • Business trips, conferences, and trade fairs
  • Attend classes or study without receiving credit
  • Short-term medical treatment

Obtaining the appropriate Schengen visa will still be required for trips greater than the 90 days permitted or for trip purposes outside of those accepted, such as to study for credit or to work in Europe.

Is the ETIAS similar to the ESTA Visa Waiver Program?

In many ways the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is like the United States’ Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). Both provide eligible travellers from low-risk countries to pass through a US port of entry without first obtaining a visa. Both visa waivers are electronic, have similar acceptable travel purposes, and have a 90-day trip limit. The online application and process for each is much the same. Applicants can expect that the European travel waiver application will request information such as:

  • Applicant personal data (name, date of birth, place of birth, residential address)
  • Passport details (passport number, validity dates, issuing country)
  • A series of eligibility questions related to public health risks, previous entry refusal, and criminal activity
  • Trip details (such as the first Schengen state to enter)

It is expected that the application results will be determined in 24 hours or less, similar to the VWP’s quick approval time. Participation in both travel authorisation systems can be revoked at any time if the individual is deemed no longer eligible. 

What is the ESTA?

The US ESTA, (the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is the travel document for the Visa Waiver Programme. First implemented in 2007, the ESTA authorisation permits entry to the United States, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico for trips of up to 90 days. To have ESTA eligibility, an applicant must hold a valid passport from one of the 39 countries that participates in the programme.

What are the differences between the ETIAS and ESTA Waiver?

While the two visa-waiver systems have similar objectives and functions, each has unique characteristics. While the ESTA document is valid for a maximum of two years, the ETIAS can maintain validity for up to three years, as long as the corresponding passport also remains valid. While both travel authorisations may be used for trips of up to a 90-day limit, there is no time requirement between trips to the United States with ESTA. The ETIAS waiver permits no more than 90 days total to be spent in the Schengen Area within a 180-day period. The application for the European travel waiver requires knowing which Schengen state will be entered first, whereas the US visa-waiver requests the US destination address, but this information is not mandatory. The ETIAS waiver maybe used for entry to multiple European countries, whereas the VWP travel waiver is only valid for entry to the United States and US territories. While citizens of 39 countries are eligible for US VWP travel, 59 countries world-wide will be eligible to enter the Schengen Area through the new European travel system.

What do I need to apply for the ETIAS?

To apply for the European travel authorisation, a valid passport from a participating country is needed. The passport should remain valid for at least three months after the arrival date. Obtaining a new passport will require submitting a new application. A reliable internet connection is necessary to complete the online form. A bank card or debit card will be required to submit payment for the application. Lastly, applicants will need a valid email address where the electronic ETIAS authorisation may be sent.

Do you need more information on the ESTA Visa Waiver?

For British citizens planning visa-free travel to the United States, applying for ESTA and the Visa Waiver Programme is a convenient and simple option. A wealth of information is available throughout the pages of this website to answer most ESTA related questions. Here you can discover the passport requirements for travel with ESTA, find out whether a visa waiver or US visa is required for an upcoming trip, and learn all that is needed to know about the application process. Still have questions? Our live agents are available every day of the week to assist you with the visa waiver form.

Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.

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