ETIAS Travel: What is the ETIAS watchlist?


  • Posted on 10 Jan, 2021
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As the European Travel Information and Authorization System (HOME) (ETIAS) comes closer to its implementation date (late 2022), the European Council is making improvements to its ETIAS watchlist, a database of persons of interest and security risk.

Multiple organizations to contribute to the database

As the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) comes closer to its implementation date (late 2022), the European Council is making improvements to its ETIAS watchlist, a database of persons of interest and security risk. This article will help you learn more about the ETIAS watchlist and European security updates. 

What Is the ETIAS watchlist?

We should start the conversation with a quick discussion of the European Travel Information and Authorization System, called the “ETIAS.” In the past, short-term travelers have been able to enter the Schengen Area of Europe with just a passport. Going forward, travelers from dozens of ETIAS eligible countries will be required to obtain authorization in the form of the ETIAS visa waiver for visa-free short-term travel, or to obtain a traditional Schengen visa. 

The result of ETIAS application approval is an electronic document, which is an authorization, tied to your passport also known as a visa waiver. Once travelers enter the external border of the Schengen Zone, they may travel freely across internal borders without additional paperwork. For information about which countries are part of the Schengen Zone, click here. ETIAS allows for travel of up to a 90-day limit and is generally valid for 3 years.

This authorization process involves confirming traveler identity and running a background check for security risks, which is where the ETIAS watchlist comes in.

If at any point during the visa waiver application is an electronic document, which is an authorization, tied to your passport also known as a visa waiver, or “ETIAS visa waiver.” Once travelers enter the external border there is a suspicion or doubt regarding an applicant’s identity or security risk, the applicant may be placed on the watchlist. This watchlist will help protect Europe from security risks like terrorist attacks, human trafficking, and other criminal activity.

The watchlist also contains detailed information about known or suspected criminal activity in Europe. 

What will the ETIAS watchlist be used for? 

The ETIAS watchlist will be used to identify individuals considered a threat to European security and check waiver applicant information to determine potential risk. 
The European Council (the legislative arm of the European Union) made updates to their counter-terrorism policies.

Per the 2020 Counter-Terrorism Agenda, the goals are to:

  • Anticipate vulnerabilities
  • Prevent radicalization
  • Reinforce external borders
  • Support victims and minimize impact

To aid these goals and as part of the ETIAS visa waiver application process, applicants will provide information about their identities, including:

  • Name
  • Passport information
  • Biometrics

This visa waiver application information will then be cross-checked with the watchlist database of security risks. A connection between applicant information and database records can result in application denial and refusal of entry. 

However, that does not mean that every applicant with a database ‘hit’ will be denied entry. Any applicant that is flagged will then have their application manually processed for a more detailed examination. 

Who oversees the ETIAS watchlist?

The primary owner and user of the watchlist is Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union. All 28 European Union member states, in addition to Europol, are responsible for providing database updates regarding criminal activity, including trafficking restricted goods, human trafficking, and irregular migration trends. 

According to Europol’s website, they state: “Organised crime often has an international dimension that requires an international response. Europol supports the Member States in preventing and investigating a wide range of crimes. From economic crime to terrorism, cybercrime to child sexual exploitation and drug trafficking to the facilitation of illegal immigration, Europol is on the case.”

When a border applicant’s name creates a hit in the watchlist database, the ETIAS central Unit and National Units, with the assistance of Europol, will manually investigate and determine risk. 


What traveler data causes red flags on the watchlist?

We should first begin with the types of information in the watchlist. The database contains information on known and suspected security risks, including:

  • Criminal names, nicknames, and aliases
  • Birthdates, birthplaces, and nationalities
  • Passport information and information related to other travel documents
  • Residency information, including known addresses
  • Known contact information, including email addresses and phone numbers
  • Visits to areas of conflict

When applicants apply for the ETIAS visa waiver, they will be asked to supply information to confirm their identity, including biographical information, information. This information will be compared with that held in the database, and any matches will require further investigation. The waiver process is typically a fast process, but in cases where there are potential matches against the security database, travel authorization may take as long as 30 days and about residency and nationality, work and school information, and passport identification.

s to process.

Most travelers are not anticipated to experience delays but planning ahead is recommended once ETIAS comes into force late 2022.


ETIAS – European Travel Information & Authorisation System

ETIAS, The European Travel Information & Authorisation System will offer a convenient way to visit any and all of the Schengen Zone countries without the need for a visa. Stay up-to-date with the latest ETIAS News and travel information.

European travel and security guidelines are changing rapidly, and travelers should monitor news, security information and travel regulations. While the ETIAS application is fairly straight forward, inconsistencies in the application can result in delays, and even potential security investigation. Learn about your ETIAS eligibility, with our easy eligibility checker.  Read our most recent news about the SIS, Schengen Information System, to learn more about ETIAS and visa-free travel to Europe’s Schengen Area.

We will be ready to assist with visa waiver applications as soon at the ETIAS system becomes available next year. 

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