France has suffered from terrorist attacks in recent years and is one of the 28 or so member countries of the European Union (EU) that have pushed the European Commission to put in place stricter border controls. A system based in part on the US ESTA visa waiver system has been proposed and may soon be the norm for anyone wishing to enter France outside the EU and who has not needed a visa so far. .
The new visa exemption for France is called ETIAS and was officially confirmed in November 2016. The system does not only concern visitors to France, but visitors from all Schengen countries, almost all of which are in the EU
Are you a frequent visitor to France?
If you are a frequent visitor to France or elsewhere in the EU, the new visa exemption for France or ETIAS could apply to you if:
- You are not a citizen of the EU
- You are not a citizen of a non-EU Schengen country, ie Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland,
- You are not a citizen of one of the countries that needs a visa at the moment.
All citizens of the Schengen area and the few EU countries not currently in Schengen (Great Britain, Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia and Romania) do not need Schengen visas and can freely cross all borders. The visa exemption in France or ETIAS will not apply to this group. This situation could change quite quickly for British citizens because of the recent BREXIT vote and the ongoing negotiations for Britain's departure from the EU
If you are American, Canadian, Australian or any other person on a list of 54 countries, you do not need to apply for a Schengen visa so far for a stay not exceeding 90 days over a period of 180 days. This is the group to which ETIAS will apply. The EU authorities want information that can be shared between Member States about anyone wishing to visit Europe in this group. At present, this does not happen and anyone from a visa-exempt country can simply show up at a border crossing in one of the Schengen countries and automatically get 90 days anywhere in Schengen.
If you are a citizen of Colombia, South Africa, Turkey, Thailand or any other country not included in the last two groups, you must obtain a visa before landing in France or in France. another Schengen country. This situation is currently unlikely to change with the introduction of the France or ETIAS visa exemption. This means that you will always have to apply for a Schengen visa in the usual way.
How will the ETIAS system work?
The way ETIAS is supposed to work is similar to the way any person from a visa-exempt country requests a US ESTA (electronic travel authorization system). This was introduced a few years ago for reasons very similar to those of ETIAS. The United States suffered a terrible attack on its own soil (9/11) and put in place several strategies to secure its borders. The only problem was that the existing visa application process was quite complicated and often resulted in delays in business and tourist travel to the United States. The solution was to streamline the application process of citizens in countries considered "less risky". At the same time, ensure that full visa applicants pass through other hoops before they can get their visa.
One of the few differences between ETIAS and ESTA is that the new ETIAS will apply to many more people than the US. At the same time, the amount of information it will provide, which was nonexistent before, will also be much greater.
It is expected that ETIAS applicants apply online before going to Europe. They will have to provide a certain amount of information about themselves and pay a fee of € 5 before obtaining a five-year multiple entry authorization. Applicants under the age of 18 will not have to pay the 5 € fee.
The United States is not the only country to have developed an electronic pre-trip authorization. Canada followed suit this year with a very similar Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
Is the visa waiver in France not a question of money?
Some people have suggested that one of the reasons European ETIAS is currently being pushed is that the EU's coffers are not as full as they once were. The fees for the ETIAS applications will go directly to the EU Commission, but the small fee of € 5 for people over 18 will hardly raise eyebrows. Europe remains a very popular place to visit, so it is unlikely that the new system will have much effect on the number of people who still intend to travel there.