World Security Report2018-04-25 12:58:46
Pre-screening visa-exempt travellers for increased security when travelling to Europe
Third country nationals exempt from visa requirements will have to get an authorisation before travelling to the EU, under new rules approved on Wednesday by the Civil Liberties Committee.
MEPs backed, with 45 votes to 10, the informal deal reached with EU ministers establishing a new European Travel and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
The system, which should be operational in 2021, will allow for advanced checks on visa-free travellers and those considered to pose a risk in terms of security, irregular migration or high epidemic risk will be denied access.
Non-EU nationals who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen area will have to fill in an electronic form prior to their intended travel with their personal data (including name, date and place of birth, sex and nationality),
travel document information (validity, country of issue), home address and contact information, and the European country of first intended entry.
A dedicated public website and an application for mobile devices will be set up, managed by eu-LISA (the EU Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice).
The travel authorisation will cost 7 euros (Parliament negotiators managed to waive the fee for travellers under 18 and over 70 years of age), and it will be valid for three years, or until the travel document expires.
The applicant will also need to inform authorities of any convictions for serious criminal offenses (such as terrorism, sexual exploitation of children, trafficking in human beings or drugs, murder and rape), about stays in specific war or conflict zones and of any prior administrative decisions requiring them to leave a country, all over the last ten years.
In the case of terrorist offences, the period will extend to the previous twenty years, and additional clarification on the date and country of the conviction will be needed.
MEPs succeeded in removing all health-related questions from the application. They also restricted the level of detail required on occupation (to job group) and education (just primary, secondary, higher or none) related information.
The application will automatically be checked against all relevant databases, including the new ETIAS’ watch list (which, fed by Europol, will include suspects of terrorism or other serious crimes), the Schengen Information System, the Entry/Exit System, as well as other Europol and Interpol databases to verify, among other issues, whether the travel document used has been reported lost or stolen and whether the person is wanted for arrest.
If there are no hits, the travel authorization will be issued automatically (that is expected to be the case for the vast majority of applications). In case of one or several hits, or a positive reply to any of the questions on criminal records, trips to conflict areas and orders to leave a country, the data will be manually checked and the security, migration or epidemic risk individually assessed. The applicant may be requested to provide additional information, and in exceptional circumstances may be invited for an interview.
Travellers should get a reply, or a request for additional information, within 96 hours from the moment of lodging the application. Thanks to amendments introduced by Parliament, they will be able to check the status of the application, via the webpage and mobile application.
Kinga Gál (EPP, HU), Parliament’s rapporteur, said: “I consider the ETIAS extremely important for the security of EU citizens as there is no freedom without security. Our aim was to create a system which contributes to a more secure Europe preventing terrorism, illegal immigration and epidemic risks, but which won’t put an excessive burden on visa exempt citizens visiting the EU.”
The draft legislation will now be put to a vote by plenary, scheduled in July. Once formally adopted by the Council of Ministers, it will be published in the Official Journal. The aim is for it to be operational in 2021.
There are currently more than 60 countries and territories whose nationals can travel visa-free to the EU. The Commission expects a significant increase in the number of visa-exempt travellers crossing the Schengen borders in the coming years, from 30 million in 2014 to 39 million in 2020.
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