EXPLAINED: What the new European EES system means for travel to Norway
From biometric checks to the 90-day rule, residency documents and visas - here's what the EU's new EES system for the Schengen zone means for people travelling in and out of Norway.
You might have seen some rather dramatic headlines about the EU ‘harvesting biometric data’ – so here’s what the EU’s new Entry and Exit System (EES) – due to come into effect next year – actually means if you are travelling in and out of Norway.
The system has been in the works since 2013 and is due to come into effect in May 2023 – although it has been postponed several times before.
It has four stated aims – to improve and modernise border systems; to reinforce security and aid the fight against crime and terrorism; to help EU member states deal with increasing traveller numbers without having to increase the numbers of border staff; and to systematically identify over stayers within the Schengen area [ie people who have stayed longer than their visa or 90-day limit allowance].
The new system will be implemented in Norway as even though it isn’t a EU member it is part to of the Schengen Area, which the new rule applies to.
The EES is for the external borders of the Schengen Area – so if you are travelling between Norway and Sweden, Denmark or Finland, nothing will change but if you are entering Norway from a non EU-country (including the UK and US) the new system comes into play.
It applies to all non-EU citizens, including those who have temporary or permanent residency of an EU or EEA country (like Norway).
The current start date is May 2023, but as mentioned earlier the system has already been delayed several times already.
Basically, the EES changes how passports are checked at the border.
The first change is the addition of biometric data – in addition to the current details in your passport (name, DOB etc) the system will also record facial images and fingerprints of all passengers – so it will be similar to going to the USA, where foreign arrivals already have to provide fingerprints.
The second change is through recording onto the system complete details of entry and exit dates; how much of their 90-day limit (if applicable) people have used and whether they have previously been refused entry.
Exactly how this applies varies slightly depending on your circumstances.
This is the most straightforward category and the one that will apply to the majority of travellers. For tourists or those coming for a short visit little will change apart from having to give fingerprints when they enter.
They will also be told how long they can stay in the Schengen Area – for visitors from non-Schengen-visa countries like the UK, USA, Canada and Australia this will be 90 days, easily long enough for most holidaymakers.
Residents in Norway
If you are a citizen of a non-EU country but have residency in Norway then you are not constrained by the 90-day rule. Under the current system you show your visa or residency card at the border and the border official should refrain from stamping your passport (although this doesn’t always happen).
The automated system does away with passport stamping – which has become a headache for residents since it is inconsistently applied in some countries, such as Norway.
However, at this stage it is not clear how residency status will be linked to passports, and therefore how residents can avoid starting the 90-day ‘clock’ when they enter the EU.
The European Commission had previously told The Local that people with a visa or residency card should not use automated passport gates, but we are still attempting to get more information on this.
Our sister website The Local France asked the French Interior Ministry and they provided a little more detail, telling us “EES only concerns non-European nationals, without a long-stay visa or residence permit, who are making private or tourist visits for periods of less than 90 days”.
In other words – EES does not concern people who are residents in Norway or have a long-stay visa.
So how will this actually work in practice?
If you’re a tourist or short-stay visitor and you’re travelling by air you probably won’t notice much difference since many airports already have automated passport gates in place for certain travellers. In fact, the Commission says this system will be faster than the current system in place for non-EU arrivals.
If you are a resident of Norway you need to remember to avoid the automated passport gates and choose a manned booth so that you can show your residency card or visa along with your passport.
Anything else I need to know about?
Yes, EES is different to ETIAS, which is due to come into effect later in 2023. That won’t affect residents, but will require tourists and those on a short visit to pay €7 for a holiday visa – full details on that HERE.