European Union Announces Registered Traveler Program for Non-Citizens
The European Union announced plans to introduce a Registered Traveler Program that would allow frequent travelers who are not citizens of the European Union to bypass lengthy passport lines upon arrival. Once deployed, the system would be available in countries that are a party to the Schengen Agreement.
The Schengen treaty, signed in 1985 in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, established a zone that acts as if it were a single country with external border controls for travelers entering (and exiting) the zone, but without any internal border controls. Ireland and the United Kingdom are the only EU countries that are not in the Schengen Area, as the zone is called; four non-EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, are also in the Area.
The plans were announced by Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for Home Affairs. Frequent travelers who are prescreened to use the new system would receive electronic swipe cards. In announcing the program, which is in the proposal stage, Ms. Malmström said that the registered traveler program would allow “smoother and speedier border crossing for third country citizens who want to come to the EU.” She cited an economic basis as well: “This will not only be in the interest of the travellers but also the European economy. It has been estimated that in 2011 alone foreign travellers made a €271 billion contribution to our economy.”
Ms. Malmström sees the new program as benefiting business travelers, workers on short-term contracts, researchers and students, people living in countries bordering the EU, and those with close family ties to EU citizens.
The commissioner also announced plans to modernize border controls that will prevent “irregular border crossings” and detect “those who over stay.” The Entry/Exit System, which is separate from the registered traveler program, would replace the stamping of passports upon entry. It would log all entries in a database and alert authorities when a visitor stays beyond the allowed period of time. This aspect of the proposal has already been criticized by some as a violation of privacy.
(Photo: European Commission)