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16 Nov 2016

Non-EU travelers now will face a €5 fee to enter the passport-free Schengen Zone

‘Pre-clearance’ levy modeled on US scheme as Brussels boosts border security.

European ESTAPrivileged travelers from the countries enjoying visa-free travel in the Schengen Zone, including Britain, have to pay a 5€ fee for ‘pre-clearance’ to be able to enter within the bloc’s border, as a part of the undertaken measures to increase border security.

Under the European Commission’s proposal, which will still have to be unveiled on Wednesday, entering the zone with a visa-waiver passport will have to be vetted as part of a new EU Travel Information and Authorization System otherwise known as ETIAS.

Among the range of measures launched in Brussels that aim to tighten border security after the terror attacks across the EU as well as entry of migrants during the last year, 2015.

This specific scheme, is based on the US’ ESTA system, will cover the 30m people entering the EU every year from any of the 60 visa-waiver county, including Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand. This list may also soon include Georgia and Ukraine – countries still in the process of approval.

It is yet unknown whether the Britons will have to pay too – all depending on the visa system the UK will negotiate with the EU, right after it leaves the bloc. If UK citizens get a visa-waiver, Britain will fall under the ETIAS scheme.

“ETIAS will be followed for all current and future visa-free third countries. No country or region is singled out,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the one commissioner responsible for home affairs.

As per the ESTIA plan, anyone entering the EU from a visa-waiver country would have to run their details against the database, including details of the international police organization Europol and Interpol, as well as the Schengen Information System, which security agencies use to monitor border entry. If granted the permission to enter the zone, it would only last for five years in comparison with two years granted through the US ESTA system.

As far as the citizens from non-Schengen EU member states, such as Ireland, paying the fee to travel freely within the bloc is not required.

European Commission officials have estimated that the scheme cost would be around €230m to be introduced. If approved quickly by the EU member states and the European Parliament, the system could be up and running by 2021.

The €5 fee is lower than expected and all under-18s would not face any charges. Press reports in places such as the countries of former Yugoslavia suggested a levy as high as €50, which sparked fears that the EU is trying to reduce travel from the region by making it as expensive.

Before travelling, all airlines, ferries and bus companies are expected to make sure that the passengers have the correct documentation. Many EU countries have introduced strict ‘carrier liability’ laws since the migration crisis, leaving travel operators to face big fines if they fail to do so.

“In an era of increased mobility in the face of continuous security threats, the objective of this automatic system is to provide an additional security check while also ensuring an easy and fluid entry into the Schengen area of visa-free traveling at the same time” added Mr. Avramopoulos.


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