EES (Entry/exit system): New requirements to travel to Europe

Written by Axel Strauss 
DATE: 13/02/2024

On June 14th, 1985 — in a town called Schengen in southeastern Luxembourg — France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands signed what’s commonly known as the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen treaty was designed to abolish border checks and thereby facilitate easier migratory movement between those five countries. Since then, the Schengen Zone has grown to include a total of 27 countries in Europe. And while not all European Union nations are part of the Schengen Zone, most of them are — making travel within the EU relatively easy for many in recent decades. 

However, ever since 2016, the EU has been planning to tighten up security somewhat — namely with the introduction of two new border control systems: ETIAS and EES. You can follow the link above to learn about the former. Meanwhile, AXA has all you need to know about the latter below. 

How are the EU's borders controlled?

First off, here’s a quick overview of how the EU’s borders have been kept safe since 1985. As stated by the European Commission, “since no checks are carried out at the borders between the Schengen Member States, EU countries have decided to join forces to attain the objective of improving security through efficient external border controls.” 

EU countries, therefore, have “a single set of common rules that govern external border checks on persons, entry requirements, and duration of short stays in the Schengen Area.” To that end, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency — aka Frontex — “supports EU and Schengen countries in the management of the EU’s external borders and the fight against cross-border crime.” 

In other words, Frontex — with the cooperation of local Schengen Member State agencies — provides security for the EU. And it will, therefore, also be a key player in the EU’s upcoming implementation of EES.

What is EES?

EES itself, meanwhile, is simply an abbreviation for Entry/Exit System. The European Commission — i.e., its creators — describe it as “an automated IT system for registering non-EU nationals traveling for a short stay each time they cross the external borders of European countries.”

 The system will register the traveler’s name, biometric data (i.e., fingerprints and facial scan), and the date and place of entry and exit. The facial scans and fingerprint data, meanwhile, will be retained for up to three years after each trip. 

NOTE: EES will apply to both travelers who need a short-stay visa and those who do not. 

PRO-TIP: Not sure if you need a visa? AXA can help.

What is the purpose of EES?

The European Commission states that “the main advantage of the EES is saving time.” Because, essentially, it will replace traditional passport stamping and “automate border control procedures, making traveling to European countries more efficient for the traveler.” 

But the European Commission then goes on to say that the EES “also makes it easier to identify travelers who have no right to enter or who have stayed in European countries for too long.” And that it “makes it easier to detect travelers using fake identities or passports” and “helps to prevent, detect and investigate terrorist offenses or other serious criminal offenses.”

 In other words, another key component of EES is, of course, added safety and security — both for the EU and its visitors.

Which countries will be using EES?

EES will apply to travelers entering all EU member states — apart from Cyprus and Ireland — as well as four non-EU countries in the Schengen Area: Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Here’s a list of all 29 countries that will be implementing EES (courtesy of the EU): 

  • ITALY 
  • MALTA 
  • SPAIN 

Is EES the same as ETIAS?

No. According to the European Commission, “both systems aim to strengthen European security and the security of those who travel.” But there are a few key differences. 

For example, ETIAS is an entry requirement for travelers who do not need a visa to enter 30 European countries — that is, the 27 Schengen countries, plus Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania — for a short stay. And ETIAS will require visa-free travelers to apply for a travel authorization before starting their trip. 

PRO-TIP 2: The European Commission adds that “ETIAS is not a visa, and its introduction does not modify the visa-free status of travelers.” 

Meanwhile, EES will register visa-free and visa-required travelers entering Europe for a short stay upon their arrival in the EU. So “no action will be required from travelers before they start their trip, as registration will be done at the external border of any of the 29 European countries using the system.” 

Furthermore, while registration with ETIAS is expected to cost travelers 7€ (according to the official sources), it seems that registration with EES will be free (or included in the cost of ETIAS). But double-check with the official channels above — just in case. 

And, finally — for logistical reasons — the EU can not implement ETIAS until they implement EES.

When will EES be implemented?

And this is the tricky part — and one that has been causing a bit of controversy on the internet. Because while the European Commission does state that “the main advantage of the EES is saving time,” both ETIAS and EES have already been postponed multiple times since their original inception in 2016. 

For example, on June 6th, 2023, the European Commission stated that “ETIAS and the EES will not be launched at the same time,” and that “the EES will become operational first and ETIAS will follow a few months after.” They added that “the exact dates will be announced by the EU later this year (i.e., 2023).” 

And yet, as of early 2024, the EU’s Official Website had “TBC” (i.e.,”to be confirmed”) under the category “When will the EES become operational.” 

And as far as ETIAS goes — the official date remains “starting in mid-2025.” 

Nevertheless, numerous media outlets (in the U.K. and elsewhere) started reporting in early 2024 that EES will in fact go into effect on October 6th, 2024. It was also reported that Eurotunnel — which runs train services between the UK and France — was already testing the EES technology. 

So we recommend that you stay tuned to the internet — but also make sure to double-check with the proper channels. And, who knows — with a bit of luck and some patience — the sound of your passport being stamped when entering Europe will be a thing of the past sometime in the foreseeable future.

Do I need travel insurance to apply for ETIAS/EES approval?

No. Having travel and/or medical insurance is not a requirement to be eligible for ETIAS/EES authorization (although it is mandatory for obtaining a Schengen Visa). 

However, it’s definitely never a bad call to have your trip to the EU insured. Especially since the EU itself is obviously trying to up its levels of overall security in recent years. 

Fortunately, AXA’s Schengen travel insurance plans already require zero passport stamping. Moreover, there’s no need to wait for news from the EU itself. Your plan can be purchased online — within a matter of minutes — today. 

Related topics: 


Which EU countries are exempt from EES?

The two countries currently in the EU that will not require EES approval are Cyprus and Ireland. However, this might change by the time EES is implemented.

Can I apply for ETIAS before 2025?

No. You can only apply once ETIAS goes live.

Can an ETIAS travel authorization be revoked?

Yes. Authorization can be revoked if the conditions for issuing your ETIAS no longer apply or if you are found to have violated any of the ETIAS rules and regulations.