(CNN) — It’s finally here: the end of free travel to the European Union.
The EU has announced the launch of its highly anticipated ETIAS visa waiver scheme, which will debut in May 2023.
Although ETIAS is not the same as a visa – it is faster, processed online and does not require biometric information – there is still a procedure and cost to obtain it, just like in the US ESTA scheme.
ETIAS, which stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System, was previously scheduled to debut at the end of 2022.
Travelers from the EU are exempt from tax and have freedom of movement within the block, allowing them to spend as much time as they want in many countries. EU residents will also be exempt.
But for everyone else entering the block from a country that did not previously need a visa, ETIAS will be mandatory. The move affects around 60 countries, including the US and UK, which lost their freedom of movement after Brexit. Nothing changes for those who previously required a visa to enter.
The application process will go through a “largely automated IT system” with approval granted “within minutes” for around 95% of applicants, according to a new memorandum issued by the EU. The maximum time required for approval can be up to a month in “very exceptional cases”. Anyone whose application has been rejected has the right to appeal.
The ETIAS authorization is valid for an unlimited number of entries for a period of three years. However, owners must comply with immigration and overstay rules. Currently, third-country nationals cannot stay in the block for more than 90 days in total for every 180 days.
Cost: EUR 7 (USD 7.35) for persons aged 18 to 70. It is not yet clear if others will have a reduced rate or if they can apply for free. By comparison, in the US, an ESTA permit is charged $21.
A start date for applications has not yet been announced.
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