The European Commission proposed on November 16, 2016 to establish a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) to strengthen security checks on visa-free travelers. The cost for developing the ETIAS system is estimated at more than €212 million ($225 million) and the average annual operational cost at €85 million ($90 million).
Once ETIAS will have been implemented every visa-free traveler will need to apply for their own ETIAS, as in the USA’s ESTA program. This includes children and even babies.
Just like ESTA, ETIAS is not a visa. Nationals of countries that have visa-free travel agreements with the EU will still be able to travel without a visa, but will have to obtain travel authorization prior to their travel to the Schengen Area.
The final decision to grant or refuse entry to the EU will be taken by the national border guards, who conduct border controls under the Schengen Borders Code. But prior verification of travelers through ETIAS will facilitate border checks and promote a harmonized assessment of visa-exempt third-country nationals.
What will the taxpayer get in return for the €212 million investment plus €85 million annual operating cost? Probably the same as in the American taxpayer is getting for the cost of the ESTA program. That is, many false positives and false negatives.
False positives are people who have been included in the no-fly list on the basis of inaccurate or false information and are no threat for security in anyway. False negatives are people who should be on the no-fly list, but have erroneously not been included in the list.
False positives are easier to discover than false negatives although not easily to admit by the government. As there is little insight in the false negatives it is unclear whether ESTA has made flying safer. Illustrative is that terrorists in planes have never been overpowered by air marshals, only by passengers.
For the flying public there are important differences between ESTA and ETIAS. While ESTA is valid for only 2 years and costs $14 (€13.20), ETIAS will be valid for 5 years and will cost only €5 ($5.30).
Every traveler will need to apply for their own ETIAS including children and babies. However, payment of the application fee is only required for applicants older than 18.
When using ETIAS you should be aware that you need to have access to the same email address you had at the time of the application. If this address has changed or is no longer operational you will have to submit a new application.
The implementation of ETIAS will take years. It is unlikely that it will be completed before 2020/2021.