What is the change?  The European Commission has proposed a package of reforms to move toward a “smart borders” system.

What does the change mean? The changes introduce stricter border checks, electronic tracking of non-EU nationals’ stays in the Schengen area and an electronic pre-authorization system for visa-waived nationals.

Key proposals:

  • Entry-exit system. Foreigners traveling within the Schengen area are only allowed to stay for 90 days in any 180-day period. Currently, travelers’ passport stamps are checked systematically upon entry into Schengen, but not when leaving it. The Commission intends to implement an EU-wide entry-exit system in which passports and fingerprints would be scanned when travelers enter and leave the Schengen area. This will result in electronically tracking the days in the territory and an automated check through databases.
  • Registered travelers program. The Commission proposes the implementation of technology that would enable a complete automation of Schengen border crossings, which exceed 700 million every year. The system would save 25 percent of border inspectors’ time and should decrease waiting times for travelers, as automated border checks would only take 20 to 40 seconds. Travelers enrolling in the registered travelers program would be issued a card with a unique number. At the gate for both arrivals and departures, the traveler would swipe the card, at which point the card, travel documentation (visa sticker number if applicable) and fingerprints would be read by a computer. The traveler would then proceed through the gate.
  • Registration and prescreening of visa-waived nationals. The Schengen area is the most welcoming territory in the world, with 1.4 billion people from 60 countries benefiting from visa-exempt travel. However, year after year almost 300,000 people are refused entry at the border, mainly due to a negative migration assessment or security risk. Such cases will be processed before going through the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which is similar to the ESTA system in the U.S. Foreigners who do not require a visa will need to log onto a website and provide basic information such as name, passport number, occupation and background information (e.g. contagious diseases, criminal records, presence in war zones, etc.). All of this information is then checked across several databases and if no red flags result, an approval is emailed. The ETIAS approval will be checked by the carrier before onboarding and by the border guard.

Next steps: The European Parliament and the Council are now in the process of clarifying their positions on these proposals. Once they are finished, the proposals will go through a three-party procedure in which the European Commission, Parliament and Council negotiate with a goal of producing a mutually accepted regulation.

Analysis & Comments:  An entry-exit system means that the authorities would be able to adequately monitor days spent in the Schengen area. It is likely that overstays would consequently be subject to sanctions and that return decisions or entry bans would be more easily enforced. It will be beneficial for frequent travelers to enroll in the registered travelers program, which allows them to electronically follow their days spent in the Schengen area and should facilitate, as well as speed up, the border crossing process. An extra administrative burden would be placed upon visa-exempt travelers, as they would need to be in possession of an ETIAS before travelling.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.