There will soon be 2 different Schengen Area entry permits, the existing Schengen visa and the new ETIAS visa waiver.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will be launched by the EU in November 2023. UK citizens are amongst those eligible for the visa waiver.
But, what are the differences between ETIAS and the Schengen visa and why do UK need to apply for ETIAS? Find out the answers to these key questions below.
What is an ETIAS visa waiver for UK citizens?
ETIAS is an electronic travel authorisation for non-EU citizens who do not need a visa for Europe.
Although the UK is no longer part of the European Union, British passport holders do not require a visa to visit EU member states short term.
The United Kingdom is one of more than 60 visa-exempt third countries. Its citizens can go to Europe for up to 90 days for tourism or business activities. They can also transit through an EU country visa-free.
However, from November 2023, British passport holders visiting Europe will need ETIAS. ETIAS is not a visa, it is an electronic pass similar to the United States ESTA.
ETIAS will be used to pre-screen arrivals from Britain and other visa-exempt third countries. It’s a security measure that will make European destinations even safer for British tourists.
Get an ETIAS visa waiver from the United Kingdom
One of the main differences between the Schengen visa and ETIAS is the application process. It’s quick and easy to get an ETIAS visa waiver from the UK online.
British citizens can obtain their ETIAS authorisation in 3 simple steps:
- Fill out the ETIAS application form
- Pay the visa waiver fees
- Receive the approved ETIAS by email
Just basic information is requested including personal details and contact information. In addition, ETIAS processing is fast, most applications made from the UK will be approved within a couple of working days.
Schengen visa applications require additional documents
The Schengen visa application is more complex and time-consuming. Applicants need to present supporting documents such as proof of financial means, travel insurance, and accommodation.
Schengen visa processing also takes longer, travellers need to begin the application process at least 15 days before departure.
Which countries can British citizens visit with ETIAS?
UK citizens with an approved ETIAS visa waiver can travel to any of the countries in the Schengen Area.
As there are no internal borders, UK passport holders should only need to show their valid passport and ETIAS at the external border. They can then go to top travel destinations including Spain and France without further border checks.
Thanks to the border-free policy, Schengen visa holders can also visit all countries in the Schengen Area. However, as explained below, some Schengen visas are only valid for one trip.
The ETIAS is valid for multiple trips during its 3 year validity period, offering more opportunities to visit different Schengen nations.
ETIAS and Schengen validity periods
One similarity between the ETIAS and the Schengen visa is the length of time a UK citizen may stay in Europe.
Both permits allow for stays of up to 90 days per 180-day period.
The difference is that all ETIAS visa waivers allow for multiple entries. British citizens can enter and leave the Schengen Area multiple times provided the total stay does not exceed 90 days in 6 months.
Schengen visas, on the other hand, can be single, double, or multiple-entry. Single-entry visa holders may not have the opportunity to use as much of their 90-day allowance. As soon as they leave the Schengen zone the permit becomes invalid.
ETIAS and Schengen visa for tourism and business
Both ETIAS and the Schengen visa can be used to travel to the European Schengen Area for tourism, business, or transit.
Neither permit is suitable for UK citizens who wish to reside, work, or study long-term in the Schengen Area. National visas or residence/work permits are required in these circumstances.
Do British citizens need ETIAS or a Schengen visa for Europe?
British citizens will need ETIAS for Europe from November 2023. UK passport holders will be able to apply for ETIAS to visit the Schengen Area for:
- Up to 90 days per 180-day period
- Tourism, business, or transit
ETIAS applicants must also meet ETIAS health and safety requirements.
UK citizens who wish to stay longer than 3 months or for other purposes such as to work or to live, should apply for a visa or residence permit. The Schengen visa is not suitable in these cases as it is valid for the same activities and length of stay as ETIAS.