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Secure borders, smarter checks - 28/02/2013

Passport © EU

Proposals would strengthen controls for those entering the EU’s passport-free travel area, speed up procedures for frequent visitors, and provide more security.

EU citizens can travel freely among countries in its passport-free area without being subject to border checks. Foreigners travelling to the EU also enjoy this freedom – once they have gone through passport control at one of the area’s entry points.

However, the number of foreigners travelling to the EU is increasing, which could result in longer delays if procedures are not steamlined to help deal with the flow.

In response the Commission is proposing to establish a common system of electronic registration at borders. This would speed up entry and exit procedures for legitimate travellers while improving security for all EU countries.

Registered traveller programme

Frequent visitors to the EU would be able to sign up to a new programme allowing them to enter the passport-free area using simplified border checks. They would receive a machine-readable card after first being screened and vetted to ensure they qualify.

Once registered, they would be able to use the card at dedicated automated entry and exit gates instead of having to pass through manual passport checks. The gates would electronically check their cards, travel documents and fingerprints to ensure they are legitimate.

About 5 million travellers are expected to use the system each year. They include business travellers, workers on short-term contracts, researchers, students and those living near the EU’s borders. Making it as easy as possible for them to enter is in our economic interest. In 2011 foreign travellers made a €271 billion contribution to the EU economy.

Electronic exit and entry recording

Procedures would at the same time be improved for all travellers. A common electronic registration system would allow authorities to quickly determine when a foreign traveller has broken rules.

This would replace the current manual system, based mainly on checks of stamps and visas in travel documents. This system is time consuming and does not allow authorities to easily detect those who have stayed in the EU longer than permitted.

Next steps

The proposals will now go before the European Parliament and EU leaders for consideration, with implementation planned by 2018.

More on EU passport-free area

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