Last Updated on Thursday, 18 November, 2021 at 10:49 am by Andre Camilleri
People travelling to EU countries, including Malta, will soon have another piece of admin to face. This is completely unrelated to Covid documentations. Non-EU citizens, including Americans, Australians, Brits and other travellers from outside the Schengen zone, will need to fill out a €7 application to enter as from next year. This was confirmed by a spokesperson from Identity Malta. She said that, “Malta is obliged to implement the changes”.
Under the so-called ’90 day rule’, citizens of these and many other countries are only permitted to spend up to 90, in every 180 days in the EU. Any longer, and they need a visa. Essentially, that is not changing, as people are still entitled to spend this much time inside the EU, but the process will no longer be completely admin-free. Called the ‘European Travel Information and Authorisation System’ – ETIAS for short – the new rule is intended to “increase security and help prevent health threats to the bloc”.
Such measures will have an impact on us – MHRA President
Speaking to the Malta Business Weekly, Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) president Tony Zahra said he had not been informed officially of such changes and that “such measures will inevitably have an impact locally, as the islands are a popular destination, particularly for the British market”. He also noted it would be an added increase in bureaucracy, and costs may be regarded as a negative for the tourism sector, which is still recovering from the pandemic.
With regards to who will be impacted from this change, the new security measure affects those who do not live permanently in an EU country or those who do not require a visa to stay in one. Therefore, tourists, second-home owners, temporary workers, or those visiting family or friends in the 26 Schengen zone countries should take note. The new ETIAS programme is likened to the Australian ETA and the US ESTA visa waivers, both used for short-term stays. The rules for those who require a Schengen visa, including the majority of citizens in Africa, Asia and South America, will remain the same.
As for when this change will come into place, ETIAS is set to come into force before the end of 2022. For non-EU citizens, eligible travellers will have to fill out an online application before they arrive, which costs €7 or is free to under-18s or over-70s.
The European Commission states this will have a “minimal effect” on people travelling to Europe. It should take only a matter of minutes to fill out the form, requiring biometric passport information and travel details and some basic security questions. However, travellers are advised to apply at least 72 hours before travel in case of any delays. Once the application has been approved, it remains valid for three years – which is positive news for frequent travellers, although they must renew it.