Monday, December 18, 2023

You'll soon need to get your fingerprints taken when entering Europe 

Over the last 10 years, the countries making up the European Union have been working to revamp how travelers outside of Europe pass through its borders.

For those whose passports do not require them to obtain a tourist visa, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is meant to serve as a quick online application that screens the traveler for security for a nominal fee of seven euros every three years. The U.S. has had its own Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for visitors from the EU and other visa-exempt countries in place since 2008.

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But between the pandemic and regular delays rolling out a software that would work across 27 borders, the implementation of ETIAS has been scaled back numerous times over the last decade. A part of the ETIAS, the EU'S Entry-Exit System (EES) is a fingerprint system meant to replace passport stamps and track how much time one has spent in the EU digitally.

Here is what you need to know about the changes around EU airport entry

As first reported by the news outlet Eurotunnel, the rollout for this part of ETIAS has finally been set for October 6, 2024. Plans to roll it out in 2023 were delayed by France's request to push it back to after the 2024 Summer Olympics taking place in Paris due to the country not being ready to start a new system during such a large inflow of visitors to the country.

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"The kiosks have been tested in Paris and are being reworked for improvements but we will be ready, especially as we are sure now EES will start after the Olympics, even perhaps at the start of 2025," Union of French Airports delegate Nicolas Paulissen said in a statement in August 2023.

That said, the multiple delays have led other European authorities to push for an earlier start date now confirmed to be in October 2024. The wider EITAS, meanwhile, has been pushed back once again to mid-2025 earlier this autumn due to not having the software to process online applications and the database of travelers complete.

'Name, type of travel document, biometric data and the date and place of entry and exit'

For now, travelers passing through EU airports from Oct. 6 onwards will need to have their fingerprints and facial data registered to track how long they have been in the EU — even if, according to some skeptics, another pushback may not be entirely implausible given how much technology needs to be installed at airports across Europe in the nine months before the announced date and how much such a big change will slow down airports that are already dealing with overcrowding amid the rush of post-pandemic travelers.

The software will also need to be installed at crossings from the United Kingdom after the country formally left the EU in 2020.

"The system will register the person's name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and captured facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit, in full respect of fundamental rights and data protection," reads a description of the program on the European Union's Home Affairs website.

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