British citizens planning trips to Europe in autumn 2024 face a significant shift in border control procedures as the EU prepares to implement stringent measures post-Brexit. Set to replace traditional passport stamping, the EU Entry/Exit System (EES) mandates biometric data collection, including facial images and four fingerprints, for all non-European Union passport holders.
Scheduled for rollout on October 6, 2024, this system aims to streamline border checks but is anticipated to create substantial congestion at entry points. While concerns loom over extended waiting times, only children under 12 will be exempt from these rigorous measures.
The EES will necessitate the submission of personal data—name, date of birth, nationality, sex, travel document details, and a three-letter country code—for every traveller entering an EU nation. Travel routes between the UK and France, especially via the Port of Dover, Eurotunnel in Folkestone, and Eurostar at St Pancras International, are expected to bear the brunt of these intensified checks.
Doug Bannister, chief of the Port of Dover, highlighted the potential delays, citing current post-Brexit checks already consuming 45 to 90 seconds per car. With pre-registration requirements, a single vehicle with a family on board could face up to a 10-minute processing time, raising concerns among officials urging urgent discussions with French and EU counterparts.
Eurotunnel echoed these apprehensions, estimating an additional six minutes per car for boarding its trains. Airports are not exempt from the strain either, with Slovenia anticipating up to four times longer queues, while Austria and Croatia project processing times to double and significantly increase, respectively.
The EES extends beyond EU borders, affecting non-EU member states in the Schengen Area, including Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Notably, Ireland and Cyprus are the sole EU countries opting out of implementing the EES.
Despite assertions from the EU that the EES aims to expedite travel, concerns about heightened delays persist. An EU spokesperson cited the system’s automation of border control procedures as a means to enhance efficiency for travellers, contradicting the fears expressed by affected countries.
Originally slated for an earlier release, the EES has faced multiple delays. Additionally, a forthcoming visa waiver system, akin to the US Esta, named Etias, is poised for launch approximately six months after the EES introduction. With a cost of around £6 per person, Etias will be mandatory for those entering the Schengen Area.
As the countdown to the implementation of these measures continues, travellers and authorities brace for the imminent changes that promise heightened security but also forewarn extensive delays and operational challenges at border checkpoints.