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EES 2024 in the European Union

EU Entry/Exit System 2024: Migration & border control

The EU authorities are launching the EU Entry/Exit System (EES) to streamline the collection and verification of immigration information. These initiatives align with the EU member states' ongoing efforts to minimize the risks of irregular migrations, which include overstayers and illegal travelers. The EU intends to fully launch the EES system in October 2024.

We highlight everything you need to know about the EES to help prepare your employees with the smoothest relocation experience in response to the anticipated border control changes.

Table of contents

What is the Entry/Exit System (EES)?

The EES is an incoming automated border management system that closely monitors border management within the Schengen area. EU authorities assigned the project to the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in freedom, security, and justice (eu-LISA).

Once fully implemented, the EES efficiently registers short-term (for a maximum of 90-day visits within 180 days) and long-term, visa-exempt travelers with non-EU citizenship at border checks. Aside from eliminating the risk of irregular and illegal immigration, the EES could also lead to quicker immigration practices since it replaces manual passport checks. The system uses a quick authentication method to scan and collect the passport holder's unique biometric information and the date and time of exit and entry.

The EES then verifies the information with the holder's electronically stored identification documents. EES validates border entries with collected fingerprint and facial scan data that the security council retains for three years upon storing the information. However, the system keeps the information for up to five years if the holder has yet to enter the Schengen Area. These immigration improvements could form a part of a more extensive effort by the UN Security Union based on the goals of the European Agenda of Security and the European Agenda on Migration.

Objectives of the Entry/Exit System (EES)

The EES system aims to optimize the external border control of countries within the Schengen Area.

The automated EES also records refusals of entry so authorities can conveniently check and respond to repeated offenders and streamline the paperwork for smoother border control. Strictly managing traveler information also enables authorities to act decisively against illegal activities like fraud and identity theft. The EES could mitigate rising security concerns in the region and enhance overall cross-border security.

The European Union and external border management

The most important part of the EES for most travelers involves understanding how it works compared to traditional passport checks. Essentially, the automated system applies advanced biometric scanning technology that enables border, visa-granting, and Europol authorities to standardize traveler identity checks.

Authorities can objectively vet the legitimacy of each cross-border movement by checking against travelers’ recorded names, passport identity numbers, fingerprints, and facial scans (based on recorded photos). The eu-LISA ensures that the sensitive EES-collected data of each traveler remains secure from third-country databases.

The goal is for third-country travelers to efficiently pass border checks through the automated IT system. They begin by approaching the ESS device, which scans and verifies the first page of their passport containing biometric information. The ESS booth then captures a real-time photo of the traveler and verifies their facial features against their passport photograph. A valid match grants the holder entry or exit from the border, while a mismatch would entail a refusal and further query by the authorities.

Monitoring travel within the Schengen Area

The EES provides a centralized system where external border authorities can efficiently authenticate traveler intentions. Authorities achieve this via a national uniform interface (NUI) connecting to a central sensitive information repository. Each participating member state of the EES receives a NUI for collecting and processing the information with the central system via encrypted data channels known as the visa information system (VIS).

Each participating country in the EES system installs web services within their borders, which enable travelers to access and provide their personal information. The EES monitors travel via a data-backed approach that records multiple traveler information with digital precision. These include the collection of:

  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Nationality
  • Full name
  • The expiry date of travel documents
  • Visa Information System (VIS) details
  • A three-letter code of the country that issued your travel documents
  • Refusal of entry in some cases
  • The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) data.
  • Other travel documents required to validate your border travel

What countries will adopt the EES?

The EES applies to every member state and associated countries that fully abide by the Schengen acquis and EU member states that have not applied the acquis. Schengen's acquis refers to the laws and agreements that apply to countries within that geographical location in Europe. According to these outlined criteria, EES operation currently applies to:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland; and Bulgaria and Romania.

As such, any traveler from countries outside of the listed states must comply with the EES rulings for all travel purposes, both for short- and long-term stays.

Impact on border checkpoints in the UK

Despite its anticipated convenience, the EES has raised concerns in the UK. These could cause considerable delays for UK operations in these zones since they must go through manual checks compared to EU counterparts following the time-efficient EES system.

The European Scrutiny Committee continues to monitor the long-term impact of the EES on UK ports, and particularly how the system could operate compatibly with other electronic border control initiatives like the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and the UK's Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme.

European Scrutiny Committee authorities aim to mitigate the potential EES-induced border bottlenecks with a better understanding of non-EU traveler experiences. The committee seeks to conclude their findings on the feasibility of remotely applied EES application with a study slated for the 12th of January 2024.

State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)

It is important to note that the EES streamlines the process for authorities in identifying illicit travelers in the Schengen area. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) shares the consequences of overstaying in the Schengen area, which include:

  • An imposed fine that differs according to the respective rules of each Schengen member state.
  • Potential detention in the area while undergoing criminal investigations.
  • Removal from the country and, in more severe cases, the traveler gets barred from re-entering the EU.

However, ultimately, the legal action in each country differs according to national policies and with each case. Authorities may thoroughly assess the documentation in each situation and provide leeway for travelers who overstay during their visits under unexpected circumstances.

Implementation of the EES and ETIAS

While the EES and ETIAS systems streamline the immigration process, they are not interchangeable processes, although they both further the European Agenda of Security. The ESS aims to replace the manual passport stamping processes across EU borders, which improves efficiencies and overall border safety. However, the ETIAS affects current Schengen visa practices. As such, travelers and digital nomads previously entitled to travel freely under the Schengen visa arrangements may need to apply for the ETIAS system.

ETIAS is a mandatory travel process for any travelers from the 61 non-EU countries who wish to enter the Schengen Area and were previously exempt from visas. The ETIAS supports an efficient pre-screening process that eliminates the risk of illegal immigration activities that could compromise national safety. The ETIAS would take full effect in 2025. However, it is essential to note that the ETIAS is not a visa but rather an additional measure for improving border safety across the Schengen region.

The EES combines with ETIAS authorization for reinforced border security during entries and exits. 

Facial biometrics and fingerprinting

Collecting and validating travelers' unique facial biometrics serves as the core identifying metrics for the ESS system. Member state authorities have organized nationwide initiatives to install kiosks that collect vital authentication information from travelers across country borders. Some EU countries have already seen proactive steps toward implementing the EES. For example, the French government ordered 544 kiosks and 250 tablets to collect biometrics from UK ferry car passengers amid concerns about border congestion.

People managers and company decision-makers must prepare for changing immigration practices as the EU and associated states progress toward fully deploying the EES and other digital border control systems. Partnering with a relocation platform like Localyze ensures you receive quality support from relocation experts based on the latest guidelines so your talent never gets caught off guard by bureaucratic complexities.

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