The European Union’s border protection agency, Frontex, has raised concerns about the increasing number of unofficial European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) websites on the internet.
According to the Director of the ETIAS Central Unit Division at Frontex, Francois Laruelle, the number of these websites is higher than 50, and many of them are translated into multiple languages aside from English.
“While some of these websites are run by genuine businesses, others may not be as trustworthy,” Laruelle has said regarding the matter.
The ETIAS, which is a travel authorisation that will be required for travellers from over 60 world countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area, is expected to become fully operational by mid-2024.
In a statement issued on Friday, April 14, Frontex – which hosts the ETIAS Central Unit – also points out that the official ETIAS website europa.eu/etias, has been launched last year, though applications for a travel authorisation will not be opened until the scheme starts operating, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
And while the ETIAS Regulation permits the operation of commercial intermediaries to apply for an ETIAS on behalf of others, Frontex has warned travellers that wheever is completing an application form for them, means that they will have to give sensitive information such as passport details, and credit card number.
“…it is important to ensure that such sensitive information is not misused,” the agency has warned.
It also points out that while applying for an ETIAS through the official website will cost only €7, applying through intermediaries will be more expensive, depending on the extra charges that they decide to impose.
“When applying for an ETIAS authorisation, it is important for travellers to consider whom they are giving their personal information to and how much they are willing to pay in addition to the application fee,” Director Laruelle has advised, adding that travellers must make the time and assess these factors with utmost care.
The ETIAS was previously scheduled to become operational in November 2023. However, the same has been postponed to 2024, due to the delay in the preparations for the Entry/Exit System (EES), which was supposed to go into effect in May 2023, but now it has been postponed to the end of the year.
Since the ETIAS is being developed closely with the EES, this means that it cannot become effective before the EES launches first.
Both systems, the ETIAS and EES, have been created by the EU in a bid to strengthen security in the bloc, and keep track of people who enter and leave the EU and Schengen Area territory.
This is not the first time that concerns regarding unofficial ETIAS websites are being raised, as in February, the Austrian Ministry of Interior has warned of websites dedicated solely to the ETIAS travel authorisation, the intentions of which are not entirely known. At the time, the Ministry had warned of about 20 such websites.
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