While US citizens will not need a visa for Europe in 2021 if traveling for short stays, by the end of 2022 they may be required to complete an online application form to visit a number of European countries for tourism, including Spain, depending on the length of their visit.
While this might sound like an extra annoyance in your travel preparation, the ETIAS system for Spain will actually benefit travelers, as it’s being implemented to improve the border security of a number of countries in Europe. Click here for more information.
All Visa-Exempt Travelers for Spain Will Need ETIAS
ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System and it is being introduced for all of the 26 countries in western Europe that have signed the Schengen Agreement for passport-free travel, including Spain. This visa waiver program was approved by the European Commission in 2016 and is expected to take 5 years to fully implement.
Once ETIAS is implemented at the end of 2022 US citizens will need to pre-register online to travel to European countries for short stays. Americans won’t be the only ones who will have to submit an electronic application, however: Australians, Canadians, and UK citizens need an ETIAS too, alongside all other visa-exempt nationalities for Schengen countries.
Submitting an ETIAS application will only take a few minutes, and approved authorizations are expected to be issued within 24 hours. The form will ask applicants to fill in basic personal, passport, and travel information, and to answer a few ETIAS questions regarding health and security matters.
An approved ETIAS authorization will be required for US citizens who wish to spend up to 90 days in Schengen countries for tourism, medical treatment, transit, or business purposes, or to study in Europe.
Although under 18s will be issued an authorization for free, the ETIAS visa waiver will cost around $8 for each adult applicant, and the fee must be paid online before the application is submitted.
The good news, though, is that once approved ETIAS is valid for 3 years from the date of issue, and allows multiple entries during its validity, meaning you won’t have to apply before every trip to Spain.
All ETIAS Spain Applications will Be Pre-Screened
As stated above, ETIAS requirements for US citizens visiting Europe for tourism, business, or to study involve providing a range of information about the applicant as well as answering some security questions.
Before an ETIAS can be approved, all of the data the applicant supplies will be screened against various European security databases operated by eu-LISA, the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.
These databases include a dedicated ETIAS watchlist as well as EURODAC, EUROPOL, and INTERPOL. Screening ETIAS Spain applications against these databases will help to pre-identify any health and security concerns with all visa-free travelers before they even reach European borders.
However, as the Spain ETIAS online system is geared towards identifying terrorist, drug trafficking, human trafficking threats, and other serious crimes, applicants with a criminal record for minor offenses may still be able to have their authorization approved.
If an application is flagged up by one of the databases, it will be manually revised by ETIAS personnel to assess whether the traveler currently poses a threat to Spain and the rest of the Schengen Area before it can be approved.
As manual processing may take up to 3 days to complete, all applicants are advised to submit their ETIAS Spain application at least a few business days before their intended date of travel to Europe, to allow for enough time to receive approval.
ETIAS Spain Is Linked to European Information Systems
In addition to the databases mentioned above, ETIAS is also being integrated with the already-existing Visa Information System (VIS) and the Schengen Information System (SIS) for Europe, to further allow for the identification of any security risks among visa-exempt visitors.
VIS will allow border authorities to verify the validity of ETIAS visa waivers and ensure that no fraudulent travel authorizations are being used. SIS is being modified to include a biometric search service and new alerts related to flagging down wanted terrorists and other criminals, as well as missing people.
Two new information systems are also being developed by the European Union in order to further enhance the efficiency of the ETIAS program and increase border security:
- The European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) – Allows border authorities to access the records of criminals convicted of offenses within any Schengen Area country.
- The Entry/Exit System (EES) – Registers all visa-free travelers entering any Schengen country as well as failed entry attempts, and permits ETIAS personnel to identify any irregular migration patterns.
So remember, while Schengen countries do not currently ask US travelers to have a visa for short stays, if you’re planning to visit Spain for tourism in 2023 you’ll have to register for an ETIAS first!