Travellers looking to visit Europe in the not-so-distant future might find the process more complicated — and they might miss showing off their passport stamps to friends and family, too.
While it hasn't started yet, the European Union (EU) plans to implement a new IT system for non-EU travellers by May 2023 called the Entry/Exit System (EES).
The new system will register foreigners who are travelling for a short stay each time they cross the external borders of European countries (there are some exemptions, but most Canadians will be required to use it). Refusals of entry are also recorded in the system.
The program concerns travellers who require a short-stay visa and those who do not need a visa to stay for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period, according to the EU.
What parts of Europe will use the EES system?
Primarily, the new system will apply to all of the European countries in the Schengen zone. This zone is comprised of the following 26 countries, otherwise known as Schengen States: 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.
Once a traveller is issued a Schengen visa, they can travel freely through the countries in the Schengen zone as long as they do not exceed the permitted length of their stay. Travellers may stay for no more than 90 days in any 180-day period in the zone as part of the "short-stay visa." There are three different types of Schengen visas, however.
Some of the countries in the Schengen zone are not members of the EU, while other popular countries are not included in the visa-free zone, such as the United Kingdom.
Travelling to Bulgaria and Romania
Two countries that do not issue Schengen visas are also included in the EES system: Bulgaria and Romania.
These two countries are EU members and will require specific rules for entry.
If you don't require a visa to enter them, then your overall length of stay in either country will be calculated into the "overall limit permitted for a short stay — 90 days in 180 days."
But if you need a visa and have a Schengen short-stay visa, the period of your stay in these two countries will not use up the number of days you are allowed by the Schengen visa to stay in the Schengen area.
What kind of information will the EES system collect from me?
The EES system will electronically register you in the system and collect your travel document data and personal data, as well as your entry and exit dates.
The EES collects and records:
- data listed in your travel document (e.g. full name, date of birth, etc.)
- date and place of entry into and exit from a European country using the EES
- facial image and fingerprints (called ‘biometric data’)
- refusal of entry, where relevant.
At the first checkpoint, you will have four fingerprints taken and then cross-checked against data already held in the EES or VIS, according to Etias Visa. Additionally, your passport photograph will be verified against a live facial image. The next time you cross a border, you will be able to do so using your face.
The new system will reportedly be "faster and more secure than passport stamping" and the new eGates and self-service kiosks will reduce ID identity fraud.
A file containing the data listed above will be created for each traveller entering the Schengen zone at least once. Some specific information on each entry and exit from the Schengen area will be registered in the EES.
This EES file will facilitate your border crossing and also support other border control systems to manage the influx of travellers to and from the EU Schengen countries.
Your data will be stored in the system for the following durations:
- Records of entries, exits, and refusals of entry: three years, starting on the date on which they were recorded
- Individual files containing personal data: three years and one day, starting on the date of your last exit record (or of your refusal of entry, if you were not permitted to enter)
- If no exit has been recorded: five years, starting on the expiry date of your authorised stay
After each time period expires, your data is automatically erased.