The ETIAS Central Unit: Everything You Need to Know


  • Posted on 25 Oct, 2021
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What is the role of the ETIAS Central Unit?
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is changing the way many individuals will travel to Europe. This program allows for visa-free travel to Europe and will be required for most short-term travellers. Learn more about ETIAS and its Central Unit, the entity that will oversee this new system.

What is ETIAS?

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System, abbreviated as ETIAS, is a type of visa waiver for the Schengen Area of Europe. The purpose of this authorisation process is to confirm traveller identities, assess for security risks, and help keep track of border crossings. Many travellers worldwide are accustomed to travelling to Europe with no more than a passport, but that will change in late 2022 when ETIAS launches.

The Schengen Zone is a region comprised of 26 countries, many of which are EU members. Schengen countries include:
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland and the micro-states of Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City. 

This pre-travel authorisation will also be accompanied by improved border crossing processes and will hopefully create a much smoother system for external border crossings.
This electronic document is an authorization that will allow travellers to cross any external border of the Schengen Area of Europe, and then travel freely across internal borders without additional paperwork. Authorisation is valid for three years, and you must already have a valid passport to apply.

But why the change to the ETIAS system?

As it is right now, the European Union and Schengen Area countries do not have much information on short-term travellers. ETIAS was developed to address this gap in information, while also allowing European security groups to better monitor inbound and outbound traffic.

Similar visa-free travel authorization systems are in place in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

What is the ETIAS Central Unit?

The ETIAS Central Unit will oversee the entire ETIAS operations, beginning in 2022. The Central Unit will supervise all aspects of the electronic system and will also be the body that manually processes applications flagged for review. They will also manage data security and privacy concerns, in addition to auditing and revising security thresholds. Frontex, the EU border control agency, manages the ETIAS Central Unit. 

What is the purpose of the ETIAS Central Unit and what do they do?

The Central Unit is designed to administer all aspects of the ETIAS system. From data security to identification confirmation, The Central Unit will be responsible for the entire system. The Central Unit will be formed by staff and resources from Frontex, the border control agency of the Schengen Zone and the European Union.

What is Frontex? Is it the same as the  European Border and Coast Guard Agency

Frontex is the European Union’s border control agency, sometimes known as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Frontex’s purpose is to create more efficient border control over Schengen Area and European Union countries.

Frontex is going to manage the ETIAS Central Unit and is backed by a large staff and equipment, and Frontex anticipates staffing 250 individuals specifically to operate the Central Unit 24/7, in addition to other Frontex personnel.

How does this affect individuals travelling to Europe under the ETIAS?

The ETIAS waiver will change the way individuals from 61 countries get to Europe:
Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanautu, Vatican City and Venezuela.

The actual application process is fairly simple, but applications must be filled out accurately to avoid delays. Many applications will be approved within hours but could take up to 30 days in rare instances. 

The application process is more work for most travellers than it used to be, but once you are approved for travel, your authorisation is valid for three years.

However, if your travel plans include staying for longer than 90 days in any 180-day period, you will need to apply for a traditional visa. Visas are more costly and time-consuming and may even require an in-person interview. 

When will travellers be able to visit any country in the Schengen Zone under the ETIAS travel waiver?

ETIAS is anticipated to launch in late 2022. Travellers should adhere to the most up-to-date guidelines until then. However, when the online application portal opens, we recommend applying as soon as possible. In some instances, applications can take up to 30 days to approve, so it is recommended to apply for authorization early to avoid delays.

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Europe is ready when you are. Be prepared for the changes ahead and sign up for our ETIAS travel newsletter featuring the latest travel updates. 

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