Think you’re safe from visa fees if an EU citizen? Think again

Starting in 2024, some travellers to countries in the European Union will have a new hoop to jump through before they embark on their journey. Picture: Reuters

Starting in 2024, some travellers to countries in the European Union will have a new hoop to jump through before they embark on their journey. Picture: Reuters

Published Jul 26, 2023


By Sofia Andrade

Starting in 2024, some travellers to countries in the European Union will have a new hoop to jump through before they embark on their journey.

Following new travel authorisation rules announced by the EU under the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), prospective visitors from more than 60 "visa-exempt" countries will have to fill out an online application and pay a small fee before travelling to any of 30 European countries.

"It'll be a minor hassle, but it's not unusual for countries to have entry requirements like this one," said Cameron Hewitt, content and editorial director at Rick Steves' Europe.

"It certainly shouldn't cause anyone to rethink a trip to Europe. From what we know, ETIAS looks like it'll simply be a manageable bit of red tape."

Here's what travellers need to know:

When will the EU start accepting applications?

The official ETIAS website says the EU will open applications "from 2024." An exact date has not been announced yet.

Who needs to apply to visit an EU country?

Any national of the visa-exempt countries to the EU who is looking to travel to an EU country for a short-term stay must apply for ETIAS authorisation.

These visa-exempt countries include the US, Canada, the UK and Mexico.

A short-term stay is defined by the European Union as any stay (or combination of stays) up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

Stateless people living in and with a travel document from one of the visa-exempt countries or Ireland will also be required to apply for ETIAS authorisation.

ETIAS can also be used in place of a visa for certain people who are nationals of visa-required countries.

The full list of those eligible for this exception include students on a school trip who are nationals of visa-required countries but reside in any of the visa-exempt countries, Switzerland or Liechtenstein.

The full eligibility requirements can be found on the ETIAS website.

How much does it cost to apply?

There is will be a fee of 7 euros (about R150) attached to the online application for ETIAS authorisation.

This authorisation is valid for three years or earlier, if the travel document used to fill out the application expires before the authorization does.

Once used, this authorisation is only valid for 90 days of travel within a 180-day period. If a traveller has not yet reached a 90-day stay in an EU country but wants to travel again more than 180 days after the authorisation was first used, they will need to apply for a new authorisation.

This means that, starting in 2024, travellers who only visit an EU country for one week every year, for example, will need to apply and pay the 7 euro fee each year.

What information do I have to provide to ETIAS?

To apply, prospective travellers will have to provide personal information including their name, date of birth, nationality, address, parents' names, email address and phone number.

They will also be asked to share their current occupation and level of education, as well as details about intended travel and stay in EU countries.

Applicants must also include details of the document they will be using to travel, such as a passport. There are special requirements for eligibility for travel documents from some countries.

ETIAS applicants will also be asked to provide details about any criminal convictions among other personal information.

How do I know I've been approved?

Once the system is up and running, ETIAS applicants will receive an email confirming their application has been submitted.

This email will have an application number that is important to keep for future reference. Once an application has been processed, travellers will receive a second email with the authorisation decision.

How long will it take for ETIAS to approve me?

Most applications should be processed within minutes of applying, but prospective travellers should expect to receive an application decision within four days.

Exceptions are if additional documentation or information is needed, or if applicants are asked to be interviewed.

If approved, travellers should confirm that all their personal information is correct; if there is a mistake that isn't corrected before travel, the authorisation will not be valid to cross into the EU If an authorisation is for some reason rejected, applicants can appeal the decision.

How far in advance do I need to apply?

Starting in 2024, prospective travellers should apply for ETIAS certification at least a month before their planned travel date, and ideally before that.

This is because it could take an additional 30 days beyond the normal turnaround time if you're flagged for an interview. In the case of a rejected application, an appeals process would be necessary to travel.