Conclusions from the Research Monitoring Report, Enabling Seamless Travel to the European Unions

eu-LISA deliver their conckusions from the Research Monitoring Report

The legislative, security and technological landscape of international travel has changed considerably in the past two decades, while the number of travellers has almost doubled. These changes have affected the experience of travelling.

However, travel facilitation has been and remains an important goal for most countries. This report provided an overview how the main developments in international travel can support a more seamless and contactless travel experience.

EU regulations, travel industry practices, and new technological solutions can support the alignment of the travel facilitation and security objectives at all steps of the traveller journey, from the application for a visa or a travel authorisation up to the eventual border-crossing. Travel authorisations are undergoing a major revision, particularly due to the EU’s ambition to fully digitalise the Schengen visa procedure, which is expected to facilitate the process and reduce associated costs for all involved.

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System, scheduled to enter into operation by November 2023, will also modify the experience for third-country travellers that were previously not required to apply for a travel authorisation when visiting the Schengen Area. However, ETIAS will include functionalities that will support seamless travel, in particular, reducing the risk of refusal at the border crossing points.

In the past couple of years, pre-border checks have gradually become an integral part of international travel, allowing more time for checking the backgrounds of inbound travellers. The entry into operation of EES and ETIAS will have a significant impact on pre-border checks, as international passenger carriers will be granted formal access to the EU’s JHA information systems to ensure that their passengers have the right of entry to the Schengen Area.

In particular for EES, the preenrolment of information and of biometric data is expected to be a challenge at first, and the industry has been working closely with Member State border agencies to develop supporting systems and ICT solutions, such as self-service terminals or portable devices that will support the process and mitigate potential queues. Novel concepts and technologies have also been under development to streamline the process of border checks.

Automated border control continues to be an important technology supporting seamless travel, and the concepts of digital identity and digital travel credentials are expected to further accelerate identity verification at the borders. Automated border control continues to be an important technology supporting seamless travel, and the concepts of digital identity and digital travel credentials are expected to further accelerate identity verification at the borders.

In the EU, in conjunction with the deployment of EES, automated border control gates are expected to become widely used for processing all inbound travel from third countries, provided that TCN travellers are in possession of biometric passports, which has the potential to significantly improve their travel experience, especially by reducing queues at ports of entry.

In some use cases, the industry has shown that all these building blocks can be combined to offer a fully seamless and contactless experience to all travellers. However, it bears noting that the most advanced technologies and concepts are often prepared by the air travel industry for air travel use cases.

While this industry has the necessary resources to contribute to the development of advanced technologies and robust standards, use cases for other modes of transport, such as trains, buses, or people crossing borders in their personal vehicles, remain less studied and researched. On the other hand, some portable devices and new concepts can apply to all types of border-crossings, and the regulatory frameworks are ready to support their use.

Going forward, these use cases must continue to be analysed and further researched in order to come up with novel solutions to cover all types of transport and border-crossings, to avoid the situation where the benefits of seamless and contactless travel are enjoyed only by a select category of international travellers, while others must still wait in long queues to cross a border.