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Your key questions answered about Europe's new EES passport checks

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
Your key questions answered about Europe's new EES passport checks
Passport checks at the border are set for a radical overhaul with the introduction of the Entry & Exit System (EES). Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

The EU's new passport control Entry & Exit System (EES) is scheduled to come into force later this year and is already causing anxiety for many travellers. We've answered your questions on the new system and how it will work.


Two big changes are coming for travel in and out of the EU and Schengen zone – EES and ETIAS.

You can find an overview HERE on what they mean, but broadly EES is an enhanced passport check at the border including biometric information while ETIAS is a visa waiver required for tourists making short visits.

Despite being scheduled to begin later this year, many aspects of how EES will actually work on the ground are still unclear – while much of the available information is for people who are travelling as tourists (rather than foreigners living in an EU or Schengen zone country).

So we asked readers of The Local to send us your questions.

Here we take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions - including the situation for dual-nationals, for non-EU citizens resident in Europe, for second-home owners and the situation at the UK-France border.

Some answers are still unclear – either because they have not yet been finalised or because the available information is not very specific. Where we have had to answer "we don't know", we will continue to badger the European Commission plus national and port authorities on your behalf. We will update this article when we know more. 

When is this coming into effect?

Good question. Believe it or not, discussions on the Entry & Exit System began in 2011. At that time the UK was part of the EU and was reportedly enthusiastic about EES. Things changed and now the border between France and the UK – an external EU border since Brexit – is a major worry. More on that below.

Anyway, it's been a long term project and the start dates have been postponed multiple times, first because of Covid and then because infrastructure was not ready. The most recent postponement came at the request of France, which wanted to get the Paris Olympics over with before any border changes were made.

The EU now says that the start date for EES is the "second half of 2024" – UK media have reported October 6th as a possible start date while European airports have reportedly told to be ready by November. Meanwhile the French interior ministry says that the start is envisaged  "between the final part of 2024 and the beginning of 2025".

We'll see. 

Who does it affect?

EES is aimed at non-EU travellers who are a crossing an EU/Schengen external border.

EU citizens will not have to complete EES registration.


Neither will non-EU citizens who have residency in an EU or Schengen zone country – they will need to produce proof of residency such as a residency permit or long-stay visa.

Neither will non-EU residents who have a valid short-stay visa for a country in the EU. This could include second-home owners who have obtained a short-stay (under six months) visa in order to allow them unlimited visits to their holiday home.

However citizens from countries which do not benefit from the 90-day rule and who therefore need a visa even for short visits (eg Indians) will have to complete EES registration.

It does not apply when travelling between Schengen zone countries (more on that below).


Where does it apply?

EES is about external EU/Schengen borders, so does not apply if you are travelling within the Schengen zone – eg taking the train from France to Germany or flying from Spain to Sweden.

Ireland and Cyprus, despite being in the EU, are not in the Schengen zone so will not be using EES, they will continue to stamp passports manually.

Norway, Switzerland and Iceland – countries that are in the Schengen zone but not in the EU – will be using EES.

The full list of countries using EES is: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. 

Therefore a journey between any of the countries listed above will not be covered by EES.

However a journey in or out of any of those countries from a country not listed above will be covered by EES. 


What is EES pre-registration?

You'll soon be hearing a lot about EES "pre-registration". EES itself is basically an enhanced passport check – travellers will need to register their biometric details (fingerprints and facial scans) to enhance the security of passport checks.

Automated passport checks will also start to calculate how long you have been in the EU, and therefore automatically detect over-stayers (eg people who have over-stayed their visa or who have over-stayed their 90-day allowance). EES does not change any of the rules regarding length of stay, it just toughens up enforcement of them. 

The first time that you cross an external Schengen border you will need to register additional details including fingerprints and a facial scan, and have them electronically linked to your passport. This takes place in a special zone at the airport/port/station that is your departure point.

Once you have completed the pre-registration, you then proceed to passport scanning. 

The pre-registration only needs to be done once and then lasts for three years. Those three years renew every time you cross an external border, so regular travellers shouldn't need to renew it until they get a new passport – at which point the pre-registration must be done again.

Does pre-registration have to be done at the airport/port/station? Can't I do it on a website or app?

Advance registration is what many travel operators, especially in the UK, are calling for. They say that getting everyone to complete pre-registration in person on site will cause chaos.

However, the EU at the moment seems to be sticking to the original idea of in-person registration. There are a number of practical problems with trying to pre-register fingerprints, but a solution could yet be found.


What can I do now?

Many of our readers want to get organised now and register their details in advance to avoid border delays. Unfortunately this is not possible and at the moment all you can do is wait until the system comes into effect. Frustrating, we know.

What about dual nationals?

People who have dual nationality of an EU and non-EU nation (eg British and Irish passports or American and Italian passports) will not be required to complete EES checks if they are travelling on their EU passport.

If, however, they are travelling on their non-EU passport they would need to complete EES registration.

EES does not change any of the rules relating to dual nationality or to travelling as a dual national – full details HERE.

What's the situation for non-EU citizens resident in the EU/Schengen area?

The European Commission is clear about one point: EES does not apply to people who have residency in an EU country. This is because a major part of EES is catching over-stayers – which of course does not apply to people who are resident here.

What the Commission is a lot less clear about is how this will work in practice.

Most airports/port/stations have two queues: EU passports and non-EU passports. It's not clear which queue non-EU citizens resident in the EU should use, how they can avoid automated passport checks entirely and use a manned booth (so that they can show both a passport and proof of residency) or even whether manned booths will be available at all departure points. 


What if I live in the EU but I don't have a visa/residency permit? 

For most non-EU citizens, having either a visa or a residency permit is obligatory in order to be legally resident.

However, there is one exception: UK citizens who were legally resident in the EU prior to the end of the Brexit transition period and who live in one of the "declaratory" countries where getting a post-Brexit residency card was optional, rather than compulsory. Declaratory countries include Germany and Italy.

Although it is legal for people in this situation to live in those countries without a residency permit, authorities already advise people to get one in order to avoid confusion/hassle/delays at the border. Although EES does not change any rules relating to residency or travel, it seems likely that it will be more hassle to travel without a residency card than it is now.

Our advice? Things are going to be chaotic enough, getting a residency permit seems likely to save you a considerable amount of hassle. 

How does this affect the 90-day rule?

Citizens of certain non-EU countries – including the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – are entitled to spend up to 90 days in every 180 in the EU without the need for a visa.

EES does not change this rule, so all the current regulations and restrictions continue to apply.

READ ALSO: How does the 90-day rule work?

What EES does change is the enforcement of the rule – at present non-EU nationals have their passports manually stamped on entry and exit, and border guards use these stamps to calculate whether people are sticking to their 90-day allowance.

It's a bit of a hit-and-miss system, passports don't always get stamped when they should, sometimes border guards misread the stamps and sometimes passports get stamped in error. EES should solve all of these problems by using an electronic scan of the passport and automatically calculating the 90-day allowance.

It will make it much harder for people to over-stay (indeed, this is one of its stated aims) but for people sticking to the rules it should actually be easier and more efficient. Should. If it works as advertised, that is...

What's the deal for second-home owners?

For non-EU citizens who own property in the EU, it all depends on whether they have a visa or limit their visits to 90 days in every 180, as described above.

People who use the 90-day allowance will be subject to EES and use the system in the same way as short-stay tourists.

People who have a visa are exempt and need to show their visa at the border. As described in the "non-EU residents in the EU" section, however, it's far from clear how this will actually work in practice at the border.


Why is the UK-France border such a problem?

As discussed above, EES will apply to all EU/Schengen external borders, but the biggest fears so far are about the UK-France border.

So is this just the Brits whining about the easily foreseeable consequences of Brexit? Actually no, there are genuine reasons why this border is likely to be a problem, mostly relating to volume of traffic and infrastructure.

Although it is true that EES wouldn't have affected the UK-France border if it hadn't been for Brexit, the current reasons for the worries are more practical.

Put simply, the UK-France border is one of the busiest EU external borders that there is, with around 60 million people crossing per year. Of those travellers, around 70 percent are UK citizens, meaning they will have to complete EES formalities.

Add to that the limitations of space: several UK destination points, including the Port of Dover and Eurostar's London St Pancras terminal, are already in cramped areas with very little expansion room, meaning that creating the new infrastructure to deal with EES checks is very difficult.

For context, the newly completed EES pre-registration area at Coquelles (Calais) covers 7,000 square metres, in order to accommodate up to 60 passenger vehicles simultaneously.

The final factor is the Le Touquet agreement – the 2003 bilateral agreement between France and the UK means that passport checks for people entering France are done on UK soil, and vice versa. This creates a unique situation where people travelling from Eurostar Gare du Nord or St Pancras, the ports of Dover or Calais or the Channel Tunnel terminals of Folkestone and Coquelles go through two sets of passport checks on departure, and none on arrival.

READ ALSO: What is the Le Touquet agreement?

The double passport checks mean that delays at one area can have severe knock-on effects.

Since Brexit, the Port of Dover has reported long delays at several peak times such as the start of the school holidays while Eurostar has been forced to cut the number of trains it runs per day.

EES implementation problems won't be limited to the UK-France border, but the volume of people crossing the border means that even slight delays to one system can easily lead to hours-long queues.

What about Nato staff or people with diplomatic passports?

People who have a special status such as diplomatic passports will not have to complete pre-registration. However, as with other exempt groups such as non-EU residents of the EU or visa holders, it is unclear how this will actually work on the ground and which passport queue they should join.

Will I need an extra visa to enter the EU as a tourist?

EES does not change anything with regards to visas – in essence all the current visa rules stay the same, only the enforcement changes.

However there is another change coming down the track – ETIAS, which will affect non-EU citizens entering the EU as tourists or visitors.

You can find an overview of how it works HERE, but one thing we do know is that it won't be introduced until after EES is up and running and (hopefully) most of the problems ironed out.

One unholy mess at a time.

Will it really be an unholy mess?

The European Commission says: "The main advantage of the EES is saving time. The EES replaces passport stamping and automates border control procedures, making travelling to European countries using the EES more efficient for the traveller."


As outlined above, there could be infrastructure problems at several departure points, there is as yet little clarity on certain import details and of course all new systems take time to bed in.

After the first year of operation things are likely to get smoother – by this time most regular travellers will have already completed the pre-registration and will therefore by able to move straight into getting their passport scanned, leaving only new travellers to complete the pre-registration formalities.

That first year, however, looks like it could be a little chaotic at certain borders, especially the UK-France one, at peak travel times such as the start of school holidays. 


Comments (3)

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miles roddis 2024/04/16 21:13
A neat summary. Thanks.
Colin Hunter 2024/04/16 15:25
Hi, As a UK citizen with residency in Italy since November 2020 and with a C di S, do I also require to carry additional proof of residency , TIA
M 2024/04/16 13:50
Yikes, I’m still confused about dual citizenship and these new rules: I hold an American passport (US-born) in my married name and an Italian passport in my maiden name. My American husband holds an EU residency card for the Italy town we live in (5-6 continual months per year). For starters, what passport(s) do I use making plane reservations leaving the US and entering Italy, and then returning to the US since my dual passports have my different last names? And how does Italy (or any other affected EU /Schengen country) understand that I’m an Italian citizen with unlimited stays if I must register with EES if I have to enter using my US passport?

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