As the global vaccination rollout powers ahead and countries begin to relax coronavirus entry restrictions, the concept of traveling to Europe for business is becoming less of a distant memory and more of a real possibility once more.
However, in addition to new document requirements such as negative COVID tests or vaccine certificates, you may need to obtain a travel authorization or visa before your next European business trip. Depending on your nationality, this may be an ETIAS visa waiver or Schengen visa. Here’s a look at the difference between the two.
What Is ETIAS?
ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is an electronic visa waiver, similar to the US ESTA, which is being introduced for all of the countries in the passport-free Schengen Area.
First approved by the European Parliament in 2016, the ETIAS program is expected to take roughly 5 years to fully implement. Once the system is fully operational by the end of 2022, ETIAS will be a mandatory requirement for all visa-exempt foreign citizens traveling to Europe for business to visit a Schengen country.
ETIAS is not a visa. The aim of this electronic travel authorization program is to pre-screen visa waiver travelers before arrival in the Schengen Area to identify security threats and strengthen European borders in the process. Once it is available, all visa-exempt passport holders will be required to complete a simple online ETIAS registration in advance of departure for Europe. All of the information they provide will then be screened against European security databases before the travel authorization can be approved.
Traveling to Europe: Do I Need an ETIAS visa waiver?
Although travelers from a large number of countries can currently visit the Schengen Area (an area comprising 26 European countries that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders) for short periods for tourism or to do business in the EU, these same passport holders will need an approved ETIAS for the same duration and motive of stay.
Once it becomes mandatory in 2022, citizens of all of the following visa waiver countries will need an ETIAS if planning a stay of up to 90 days in a Schengen country:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- Marshall Islands
- North Macedonia
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- San Marino
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- Timor Leste
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
- Vatican City
The good news is that ETIAS is a multiple entry electronic travel authorization, and allows multiple stays of up to 90 days in all of the Schengen countries during its validity. It is valid for a total of two years from issue date, meaning that there is no need to submit a new application before every trip to Europe.
The Schengen Visa Explained
A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows a person to travel to any members of the Schengen Area, per stays up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes. All foreign citizens who are not visa-exempt for Europe need this visa to travel to a Schengen country, regardless of the amount of time they intended to spend or the motive for their visit.
A Schengen visa is also required for anyone from a visa waiver country who wishes to spend more than 90 consecutive days in a European country, and for long-term purposes such as to launch a startup in Europe, undertake employment, enroll in an extended study program, or take up permanent residence.
Unlike ETIAS, which is electronically linked to the traveler’s passport upon approval, a Schengen visa is issued as a paper document. Also unlike ETIAS, a Schengen visa is usually issued for one individual European country and is not valid for entry to the entire Schengen Area. Nevertheless, there are various types of Schengen visas, and some of the long-term immigrant visas do permit the holder to enter multiple Schengen countries during their validity.
How to Apply for a Schengen Visa
The process of applying for a Schengen visa differs tremendously from the ETIAS application protocol. While eligible citizens can apply for ETIAS exclusively online from the comfort of their own homes, it is necessary to visit an embassy or consulate in person to submit a Schengen visa application.
Schengen visa applicants are first required to make an appointment at the nearest diplomatic mission of the primary Schengen Area country they plan to visit during their trip. They will then need to print, download, and complete an embassy visa application form and gather a range of varying supporting documents in paper form depending on the motive of the intended stay.
While it will only take a maximum of 1-2 days for an ETIAS application to be processed, the processing times for a Schengen visa are significantly longer and it may take a few weeks for the document to be approved. Therefore, if you need a visa to travel to Europe, it’s advisable to begin the application process well in advance of your intended arrival date just to be on the safe side.
Craig Lebrau is the CMO of Media Insider, a Wyoming-based PR company that aims to disrupt the way companies communicate their brand in the digital era.
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