European Travel Information and Authorization System also known as ETIAS, has introduced new entry procedures into the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Area is a zone made up of 26 countries all found in Europe which had abolished internal borders to allow for free and unrestricted movement of people.
ETIAS which comes into effect in 2021 will affect the 61 countries which are not within the EU but do not need a visa into the Schengen Zone. Prior to the introduction of this system, citizens of countries such as Canada, Australia, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia etc. were allowed to go into the Schengen Zone for business or travel for 90 days.
It has been gathered that recent security concerns with terrorism and the migrant crisis have now warranted the need for better management of those who enter the EU borders which falls in line with the EU goal of making traveling within its borders more secure.
HOW THE ETIAS SYSTEM FUNCTIONS
Citizens of countries with visa-free entry into this area are expected to fill out an online form to provide travel details and pay the application fee.
The system will then proceed to check three major facts; if the information provided was correct, if the applicant is eligible to enter the country as well as any risk factors related to the application.
The ETIAS will go through a detailed security check of each applicant to determine whether they can be allowed to enter any Schengen country in order to make sure those who gain access are not a security threat. Information provided will help the system address any threats of ineligible individuals before they can cross the borders.
At the moment ETIAS will take effect in about 26 countries in the zone such as Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Denmark etc, with a possibility of it extending to other countries.
IMPACT OF THE ETIAS SYSTEM
Although the EU has insisted that the ETIAS system is not a visa, those involved are however obliged to follow certain procedures before obtaining a travel authorization.
Whether this move will affect global passport rankings still remains quite uncertain. But it is however important to note that passports which do not meet any complex requirements for entry into several countries is one of the major criteria’s used by Henley & Partners to determine the strength of one passport over the other. The Henley Passport Index (HPI) is a global ranking of countries according to the number of countries passport holders in each country can travel to visa-free.
HPI uses three major criteria to determine the strength of each passport; firstly, passport holders are not supposed to meet any complex requirements for entry, advance passenger information and advance approval to board is not a visa requirement or restriction and passport holders do not require electronic visas (e-Visas) before departure.
According to the ranking system, a passport loses its value if the passport holders must get government approval before leaving in order to obtain a visa on arrival. Countries which could enter Schengen zone visa-free have been limited by the need to acquire an authorization prior to entry. This however, means that such a passport has automatically lost a point in the ranking system. Similarly, Passport index also considers visa-free entry as the top criteria in its rankings and also takes into consideration the Human Development Index which only comes into play when there is a tie between two passports.
The 2019 Henley Passport Index rankings has Japan as the country with the strongest passport followed by Singapore and South Korea in the second position. France and Germany were ranked third while Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden followed. The ranking has Luxembourg and Spain as the fifth strongest passports while Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States all shared the sixth position.
Japan which was ranked first by the Henley Passport Index as well as the Passport index, now need travel authorization to enter the Schengen zone. This means Japan now has restricted access to 26 countries. Thus, if other factors are not taken into consideration, the ETIAS system is likely to have an impact on its position.
However, whether the ETIAS system will affect passport rankings or not will, first of all, depend on whether the HPI and Passport Index consider ETIAS as an entry restriction. If the system is not considered a restriction by the ranking bodies, it will therefore not directly affect global passport rankings.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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