Carriers’ inspection obligations in the implementation of Smart Borders
In the near future, the European Union will introduce two information systems related to the crossing of external borders (the Entry/Exit System and the Travel Information and Authorisation System ). The information systems will have an impact on carriers’ activities.
The introduction of the systems requires the preparedness of all Member States. The systems will be introduced at a date to be fixed by the Commission when the conditions laid down in the Regulations are met.
The regulations include obligations on carriers. In the regulations, a carrier refers to air carriers, sea carriers and international carriers transporting groups overland by coach. Group transport by coach refers to group transport by road across external borders. The regulations do not apply to route traffic by road and rail.
The purpose of the Entry/Exit System (EES) is to register electronically the time and place of entry and exit of third-country nationals admitted for a short stay to the territory of the Member States and to calculate the duration of their authorised stay. The system will replace the obligation to stamp the passports of third-country nationals. According to the current estimate, the system will be introduced in May 2022.
According to Article 13 of the EES Regulation, carriers shall use a web service to verify whether third-country nationals holding a short-stay visa issued for one or two entries have already used the number of entries authorised by their visa.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is a pre-registration system for nationals of visa-free third-countries aimed at establishing in advance the fulfilment of the entry conditions laid down in the Schengen Borders Code, enhancing border controls and supporting the objectives set for the Schengen Information System. According to the current estimate, the ETIAS system will be introduced in late 2022.
The use of ETIAS will be voluntary for a transitional period of six months from the date on which it starts operations. During the transition period, the requirement for a passenger’s valid travel authorisation shall not apply. For the first three years following the ETIAS’ entry into operations, the verification of travel authorisations will be optional for international carriers transporting groups overland by coach.
Chapter VII of the ETIAS Regulation provides for the obligation of carriers to use the ETIAS Information System. According to Article 45 of the Regulation, carriers are obliged to check from the ETIAS Information System whether third-country nationals who are required to have a travel authorisation are in possession of a valid travel authorisation. The check must be carried out before the passengers enter the vehicle. Carriers can query the ETIAS Information System by means of a secure gateway. ETIAS will provide the carriers with an ‘OK/NOT OK’ answer indicating whether or not the person has a valid travel authorisation. Checks using mobile devices will also be enabled.
The financial penalty procedure laid down in Section 179 of the Aliens Act (301/2004) will be applied in case of a carrier’s failure to comply with their obligations. The Ministry of the Interior has prepared a draft government proposal to the Parliament for supplementary legislation concerning the EES and ETIAS systems. Chapter 11 of the Aliens Act would be complemented with provisions on the carrier’s obligation to check in advance whether a person entering from a visa-free third country has a valid travel authorisation and exceptions to the imposition of a penalty for non-compliance with the obligation to check. The Government’s draft proposal is out for a round of comments between 7 June and 10 August 2021 (intermin.fi/en/projects-and-legislation, ID SM040:00/2019).
An Interface Control Document (ICD) for the carrier query interface is under preparation at the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems (eu-LISA). Eu-LISA has announced that it will distribute the technical description of the interface to carriers. The Border Guard will provide information on the completion of the query interface after we have been informed of the matter. At the same time, we will inform you of a possible national information event discussing EES and ETIAS obligations and questions related to the query ICD.
Further information is available on the European Commission and EU-LISA website.