Fraud fears over new EU permit
UK travellers heading to the EU will have to apply online for a VISA exemption.
A new EU electronic travel permit aimed at better managing those heading to one of the 27 member states has come under the microscope 12 months before it is expected to be fully operational.
ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) will require tourists heading to the EU – including those from the UK and other European countries outside the EU – to apply online for a VISA exemption at least 96 hours before they travel, with approval required before being allowed to enter popular destinations like France, Spain or Italy.
The problem is that a number of websites have already been registered containing ‘etias’ in their domain name, leading to fears of large-scale fraud, with the EU confirming it will allow third-party sites to sell the service.
While specific sites will no doubt act in the interest of tourists, some will undoubtedly grab the chance to extracting information from holidaymakers, charge a fee and offer nothing in return; there is the added danger that they will use any personal information obtained on scam sites to defraud customers.
The EU has itself admitted there are potential problems with the system, which, in their words, could lead to “attempts to mislead applicants into believing their site is an official channel for submitting an ETIAS application” and that “this may give the false impression that the additional fee charged by the commercial intermediary is a mandatory part of the application process”.
A similar system in operation for travel to the United States, ESTA, has led to a number of scams, and it is feared the EU version will suffer similar problems.
Scheme will open in summer 2023
The scheme is expected to open in the summer of 2023 with travel experts warning tourists to be wary of third-party sites promising to fast-track applications for a fee – the official EU website will only charge users for the application, with Britons paying €7 for the waiver which will last three years from its issue date.
The system’s priority is in the security of EU member states. When announcing the plans back in 2016, former president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “We need to know who is crossing our borders. This way, we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here.”
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