European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)

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ETIAS is the new European travel authorisation system similar to the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Overview

Third-country nationals who do not require a visa to enter the Schengen area must apply online for ETIAS travel authorisation before travelling to the Schengen area. Authorisation costs EUR 7 and is valid for three years.

On 9 October 2018, the EU adopted the Regulation establishing the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS Regulation). This is a further step in the development of the Schengen acquis and must be adopted by Switzerland.

ETIAS conducts a largely automated risk screening of travellers to ensure greater internal security, prevent illegal immigration and protect public health. Prior risk assessments close existing information and security gaps, thereby increasing the effectiveness of border control. ETIAS travel authorisation is a new condition for visa-free third-country nationals entering the Schengen area. Travellers are not automatically granted authorisation; without it, they will be refused entry into the Schengen area. Carriers will be required to check that their passengers have valid ETIAS travel authorisation at the start of their journey.

ETIAS is designed to enhance internal security while allowing visa-exempt third-country nationals to travel freely.

Present situation at EU level

The IT agency of the European Union eu-LISA is responsible for the technical development and operation of the ETIAS central system (ETIAS CS). ETIAS is scheduled to be launched in May 2023 at the earliest.

The ETIAS Central Unit will be set up as part of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, and will carry out the manual preliminary examination of applications and determine which member state is responsible for taking the application further. Only those cases in which travel authorisation cannot be issued in the automated process will be checked manually.

Present situation in Switzerland

On 25 September 2020, the Federal Assembly approved the adoption and implementation of Regulation (EU) 2018/1240 on the Establishment of a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). No referendum was called by the deadline of 14 January 2021.

In the meantime, the EU has amended Regulation (EU) 2018/1240 with Regulations (EU) 2021/1150 and (EU) 2021/1152, which were adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on 7 July 2021. The Federal Council approved the adoption of the regulations on 11 August 2021, subject to parliamentary approval. The necessary amendments to domestic law are currently being drawn up.

Various federal and cantonal bodies in Switzerland are responsible for implementing the ETIAS Regulation. National systems need to be connected at a technical level to the EU's ETIAS central system (ETIAS CS). In addition, a national ETIAS unit (NEU) is to be set up within SEM; the unit's main task will be to manually examine applications in Switzerland's area of responsibility. Finally, it will be necessary to create a central access point for the security and law enforcement authorities (ZZS).

The aim of SEM's ETIAS project is to implement the ETIAS Regulation in SEM's area of responsibility, which is defined by provisions in Swiss law relating to the ETIAS Regulation. Under the project, SEM will develop both the structural and procedural organisation of the NEU, a specialist application for the unit and the technical means to connect the national border control, migration and law enforcement authorities' systems to the ETIAS CS.

The ETIAS project does not include making the necessary adjustments to the national systems to obtain access to the ETIAS CS nor any adjustments to the associated organisational processes; this is the responsibility of the respective competent authority. Nor does the project include the establishment of the ZZS, which will be based at fedpol.

Switzerland is implementing the new legislation in line with the EU schedule. SEM actively participates in the working and expert groups of the European Commission, the IT agency eu-LISA and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex.

Last modification 13.01.2022

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