There’s been a lot of talk recently about the new European Union Entry-Exit System, also known as EES. Many questions have come up, especially regarding travel to and from the Schengen Zone.
As we know, Schengen or Tourist Visas allow for free travel within the European Union for a measured amount of time. However, the manual process of passport stamping in the past has made it easier for some to bend some rules.
However, this new EES system changes things…
In this article, we’re going to expound on these changes. We’ll help you understand exactly what this system is, who it’s for, and what it means for immigration in the European Union. Are you ready?
What is the Entry-Exit System?
The EU Entry-Exit System is an automated IT system meant to replace the current system of manually stamping passports. EES was created specifically for third-country travellers or Non-European citizens.
That being said, whether or not you need a visa to travel to Europe, you will be required to go through the Entry-Exit System each time you cross an EU external border.
The EES, which is a border control system, is not to be confused with the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), which is a travel authorization for Non-EU citizens who do not need a visa to travel to Europe.
Thus, the ETIAS is certificate that would be reviewed through the EES, and will be implemented after the EES is good and running.
Who is the EES for?
As mentioned earlier, the EES system is for Non-European tourists/short-stay visa holders. Thus, the data of Non-EU citizens under the visa regime, and Non-EU citizens under the visa-exempt program, will be required.
That being said, EES is not for Non-EU citizens who are legal residents of the EU or have long-stay visas to live in the EU.
Now, before getting into the details of how it works, here’s an infographic summarizing all the important things you need to know about the European Entry/Exit System.
How does the European Entry-Exit System work?
If you are a Non-European citizen, the EU Entry-Exit System will collect your biometrics (facial image and fingerprints), personal data (full name, date of birth, nationality, sex), travel document data (i.e. type of travel document, issuing country, expiration date), and the date and place of entry and exit.
However, there is a slight difference depending on whether or not you need a visa to enter the EU:
If you need a visa to enter the EU, your fingerprints would have already been previously recorded in the Visa Information System when you applied for the visa, and thus would not be necessary for the EES.
On the other hand, if you do not need a visa to enter the EU, your fingerprints would be recorded and stored in the system.
What will the ESS process look like?
The European Entry-Exit System starts with self-service kiosks wherein travellers will first have to scan their passports and other necessary travel documents.
Then, you will have to pass the border control lane wherein the scanned information will be checked by a border guard against security databases.
This process aims to be quicker than the manual process of stamping passports. It was also implemented to improve security and efficiency, this will be expounded on in the following section.
Why is the EES being implemented?
EES is being implemented by the Security Union to improve border management and prevent cross-border crime and terrorism.
The Entry-Exit System also aims to be more efficient, be more reliable, and allow border control to automatically detect overstayers, as the number of tourists entering the EU continues to increase.
This is as opposed to the manual system of passport stamping, which does not provide accurate information on border crossings, and can sometimes take up too much time.
Additionally, it also aims to strengthen the Schengen Area borders while preventing illegal immigration and to eliminate the use of fake documents like passports.
Who has access to my personal data?
That being said, for border management, EES data will be used by border guards and consular offices dealing with visas.
Then, for criminal identification and intelligence, law enforcement authorities of EU member states and Europol will have access to EES data.
Of course, you also have a right to your own personal data. You have the right to ask authorities which data they have about you; you have the right to request that inaccurate information is corrected; and, you have the right to request that unlawfully processed personal data is erased or restricted.
How will the Entry-Exit System affect immigration in the European Union?
As previously mentioned, the Entry-Exit System will improve loose border control, and this will have an effect on immigration in the European Union. The system will record the exact date of entry or exit and will record overstays, which will, not only prevent illegal migration, but also make it impossible to bend rules, such as the 90-day rule.
The 90-day rule, states that an individual with a Schengen visa or short-stay visa can only remain in the Schengen Zone for 90 days within a 180-day period.
If you enter through Spain, for example, and then travel to Portugal, your days in Portugal will still count for the 90 days as you are still in the Schengen Zone.
However, individuals have been able to evade this rule by renewing their passports while within the Schengen Zone, thus eliminating the previous entry stamp. Because there is no entry stamp on the new passport, border control cannot determine whether or not the individual has overstayed their 90 days.
With the Entry-Exit System, data will immediately show that one has overstayed, and will record this information.
Luckily, once the Entry-Exit System is in place, you will be able to check online, through their web service, how many days you have left in the Schengen Zone in regard to the 90-day rule.
Aside from overstays, the digital system will also record refusals of entry. This means that cases of document and identity fraud will be kept in the system, creating a safer and more comfortable environment for the genuine traveler.
What happens if I am recorded as an overstayer?
Being recorded as an overstayer may prevent future attempts to re-enter the European Union. It may also lead to fines, detention, or expulsion.
However, if you overstayed for valid reasons/unforeseeable events, such as medical issues, and provide true evidence, then your title as an overstayer can be removed.
For how long will the EES keep my data?
There are three types of data that will be stored in the EES for different time periods. The first is the data on entries, exits, and refusals of entry. This information will be kept for three years starting on the date it was recorded
The next is on personal data. Your personal data will be stored for three years and a day, starting on the date of your last exit record or refusal of entry.
The third is data regarding your stay in Schengen. This is if no exit has been recorded at the time of travel authorization expiry. If this is the case, your data will be stored for five years, starting on the date your travel authorization expires.
When will the EES be implemented?
The EES was first meant to be implemented in 2022, but has been postponed a couple of times since then. Currently, it is scheduled for 2024, however, most likely not until after the Paris Olympics in the summer.
Some member states have begun setting up the kiosks to prepare for the official implementation, but a final date has yet to be announced.
Until then, we are on standby and will continue to keep you updated on news and/or changes about the EU Entry-Exit System. As always, if you have any questions about immigration processes in Spain or would like assistance for expats, we are happy to help you!