The EU is planning to implement new IT systems for better monitoring of travel within the Schengen Area, meaning non-EU nationals will need to obtain a new travel authorisation to enter the EU.
The EU Entry/Exit System (EES) will automatically register non-EU travellers every time they cross external EU borders, while the interconnected European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will require citizens of non-EU countries who don’t need a visa to apply for travel authorisation before entering the EU.
Once the ETIAS is launched next year, more than 1 billion people from over 60 countries who could previously travel to the Schengen Area without a visa will no longer be allowed to cross external EU borders without ETIAS approval.
Here’s an explanation of how the ETIAS will work when it becomes operational in 2024, and how it could affect you if you own a second home or other property in Spain and travel there frequently from outside the EU.
What is the ETIAS and how does it work?
The EES will replace the manual passport stamping system by creating a digital record of the travel history of third-country nationals. It will record travel document information and biometric data, as well as entry and exit times and locations and any historical entry refusals, which will help to flag those who ‘overstay’ beyond the authorised period.
To facilitate the recording of entry and exit information, third-country nationals from outside the EU must register with the ETIAS to gain pre-approval for short-stay travel. In addition to providing details through your ETIAS application, border authorities may require further information on the reasons for and duration of your stay.
It must also be stressed that while non-EU nationals can travel within the Schengen Area – between EU countries with no border checks – for up to 90 out of every 180 days, their travel documents must not expire within 3 months from the date they will leave the area and must have been issued within the last 10 years to be considered valid.
As there is a Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland, neither system will be in use for travel between those countries. However, for travel between the UK and Spain, for example, having a valid passport will no longer be enough to enter the EU once the ETIAS comes into force.
UK nationals will only be exempt if they have the right to reside in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement, and other non-EU nationals will only be exempt if they hold residence permits for any country using the ETIAS.
How to apply for the ETIAS
The ETIAS will essentially be a pre-travel screening process designed to identify individuals who may pose a security threat or illegal migration risk. The form requests information such as the traveller’s name, home address, nationality, occupation, destination country, and criminal history.
When the system is live, non-EU travellers must pay the 7€ fee and submit an ETIAS application online through either the official website or mobile app. Applications will be free for children under 18 years old and adults over 70 years old.
The system will then perform an automated check, verifying the information you provide against multiple EU security databases. If no issues are flagged, your travel authorisation should be issued within a few hours. According to the EU travel website, most applicants should be approved within minutes, and no longer than 96 hours at most.
However, if there are any issues and more information is required, you may have to attend an interview with the national authorities in your country and provide further documentation. This could take up to 30 days, which is why it’s advised to apply before booking transport and accommodation.
Once approved by the ETIAS, your authorisation will last for 3 years or until your passport expires, whichever is soonest. You’ll then be able to enter the EU and move between member states without having to re-apply for authorisation, though you’ll still be subject to the 90/180 day rule.
What happens if you own property in Spain?
If you are a non-EU citizen, such as a UK resident, and you do not have the right to reside in Spain, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with the short-stay limitations of travelling to the Schengen Area from outside the EU.
However, if you own a holiday home in Spain as a foreigner who travels to the EU several times a year, then you must apply for ETIAS authorisation as soon as possible once the system launches. You will not be able to travel to Spain and enter the EU without this authorisation, regardless of being a property owner.
The good news is that the authorisation only costs 7€ for adults between 18 and 70 years old, and it can last for up to 3 years without requiring renewal. This means that once you have been approved for travel to the EU by the ETIAS, you can come and go without worrying about having to re-apply every time.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you no longer have to think about your tax obligations as a property owner in Spain. If you don’t stay on top of your obligations for paying non-resident tax in Spain, this could be flagged in your records, preventing approval the next time you try to enter Spain.
If you have any concerns about travel visas or non-resident taxes, you can consult Manzanares Lawyers for professional legal support from English-speaking lawyers in Spain. Get in touch by phone or email to learn more about how we can help you.