EU Ambassadors Approve Electronic Travel Authorisation System For "Third Countries" (That Means Us Now)

By James O Malley on at

Another slow clap for the Brexiteers today as ambassadors to the European Union have all agreed on a new system that will see the EU adopt an ESTA-style visa approval system for anyone visiting the Schengen Area from a non-EU country. And because Britain is in the midst of a national nervous breakdown, where we voted to make life actively worse for ourselves, that will include us too.

The way the system will work sounds relatively simple: Once implemented, if you book a holiday from Britain to, say, France, before you go you'll need to log on to the the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) website and fill in a bunch of personal details. Then you'll have to pay seven Euros, and the system will then determine if you're allowed to visit Europe or not by checking you against various Interpol and EU databases.

Assuming it works like the ESTA system for visiting the United States, chances are for most people it will be authorised fairly instantaneously - unless the EU judges you sufficiently dodgy to either require a formal visa process (and thus a trip to the French embassy), or outright denies you entry all together. The EU says the process will take no longer than 96 hours to complete, and once approved you'll be able to visit the Schengen area (the 26 European countries that don't have internal passport controls between each other) for three years.

It isn't clear from the press release whether this will have an impact on whether we Brits will still get to use e-passport machines, or will have to join the longer, international queues - but we've reached out to the EU to find out. What is clear though is that travelling to Europe looks set to become even more of a headache.

Why is the EU doing this? The EU has talked of a need to better control its external borders. So, if you voted Brexit and are annoyed by this extra inconvenience and expense then... well... don't you dare complain as the irony would cause the world to implode.

So when will these new rules apply? So far, it has only been approved by ambassadors and the European Council, the EU's executive body. The next step is a journey through the European Parliament so that MEPs can vote on it. Though it sounds like an inevitable done-deal to us, it does still mean there isn't a hard timeline yet.