Switzerland’s New Biometric Entry-Exit System for Schengen Area

By Danny Thakkar

European Union is going to introduce a new border management system for Schengen area that will change how international travellers enter an EU member state. This change will affect more to the travellers entering an EU member state form the non-EU countries. It is essentially a security upgrade, replacing the current system that relies on border guards and stamps with an electronic system, which will automate the process and register more details such as immigration status of the travellers.

In the wake of new EES system to be deployed, Switzerland has also amended its border control law. This article discusses about the developments taking place around Switzerland border crossings and the new EES system.

Schengen entry/exit system (EES)

Schengen entry/exit system (EES) is a large scale automated border management system for the European Union. Schengen entry/exit system (EES) is intended to replace traditional border control and immigration procedures such as manual inspection, passport stamps, etc., which are slow and inefficient with automated processes with the use of ICT and biometrics. 

EU is set to launch the Schengen entry/exit system (EES) next year (2022). The new entry/exit system is a security upgrade that will require non-EU visitors, including British nationals not covered by the withdrawal agreement to be electronically verified upon entry and exit at EU borders. The entry/exit system regulation is set to change the way travellers visit the European Union. 

It is important for third country nationals (such as British, Americans, Canadians, etc.) to be aware of this new entry/exit system regulation set to be introduced next year. The new entry/exit system regulation would require biometric data to be collected for all non-EU arrivals. However, the new entry/exit system regulation does not change anything in terms of visas or documents required for travel or the rights of the travellers. But it does change how the EU’s external borders are policed. 

How does Schengen entry/exit system (EES) work?

This system is for the external borders, so it does not apply if you are travelling between Spain to France, but would apply if you enter any EU or Schengen zone country from a non-EU country such as travelling from the UK to France or flying into France from the United States.

Instead of border guards checking passports and stamping on it, there will be an electronic screening of the passports at the border. The new system will verify the details of non-EU citizens such as name, passport details, entry and exit dates, photograph and fingerprints (live scan). It will eliminate the need for a passport stamp for the travellers entering and exiting the Schengen area. 

Many airports already have biometric passport scanners, but they only check if the passport is valid and the photo matches the with its owner’s face. However, the EES system can also calculate how long you can stay within the EU based on your rights and residency, or your 90 day allowance.It also checks whether you passport has been ever flagged for immigration offences such as overstaying a visa. 

Travellers affected by the new Schengen entry/exit system (EES)

All non-EU nationals or residents who are entering the EU as a visitor will need to go through the Schengen entry/exit system (EES). Passports will be scanned and the system will tell you how long you can stay based on the 90 day allowance or the visa linked to the passport. 

Non-EU nationals who live in an EU member state and have a national residency card such as a Carte de Séjour Residence Permit in France or a Foreigner Identity Card (TIE) in Spain are not affected by this, since they have the right to unlimited stays within their country of residence. 

Initially, Schengen entry/exit system (EES) regulation was due to be introduced in the first half of the next year (2022), but it is now suspected to be postponed and may not be implanted until after summer 2022, due to project related delays. 

What will change with Schengen entry/exit system (EES) regulation?

Apart from a more upgraded process at the border, there are likely to be two main impacts of the new system. 

  1. For non-EU nationals, who have residency in an EU member state, this could mean the end of the rather inconsistent process of passport stamping, which has particularly be an issue for British nationals since Brexit with incorrect stamps in their passports.
  2. For visitors to the EU member states, this tightens up application of the 90-day rule. It does not change the rule itself, but means that anyone attempting to overstay or play the system will instantly be spotted. 

A statement from the European Commission says:

“EES will contribute to prevent irregular migration and help protect the security of the European citizens. The new system will also help bonafide third country national to travel more easily while also identifying more efficiently overstayers as well as cases of document and identity fraud. “

In addition to this, the system will enable a wider use of automated border control checks and self-service systems, which are quicker, more efficient and enhance convenience for the travellers. For British nationals, who are not used to long lines when travelling to the EU, they are warned that they will start facing long queues at the EU borders due to the new system, specially when using the ferry ports and the channel tunnel. 

Switzerland amends its border control law

The European Union had notified Switzerland about the Schengen entry/exit system (EES) regulation in January 2018. The country had two years’ time to prepare the framework and complete necessary formalities to implement the EES in legislative form. The Federal Council of Switzerland took the necessary steps to implement the EES bill and forwarded it to the Swiss parliament in November 2018. 

Implementing Switzerland travel restrictions, in accordance with the new entry/exit system meant amendment was required in the existing Aliens and Integration Act and making necessary changes to the infrastructure for border control. The Federal IT Steering unit successfully completed the assessment of the required changes for this large scale endeavour and the project received the clearance in mid-2018. These border control infrastructure changes included incorporating IT systems and connectivity to the central EES database. 

In order to implement entry/exit system regulation of Schengen entry/exit system (EES), Switzerland travel restrictions that are supposed to come with EES will become effective on May 1, 2022, when the changes to Aliens and Integration Act comes into effect.

Conclusion

The EES will be used for the electronic recording of entries and exits of nationalsfrom third countries traveling for a short stay in the Schengen area, as well as for recording the refusals of entry. In addition, it will be calculating the effective length of stay within the Schengen area. 

On the one hand, this system will make it easier to detect over stayers (people staying longer than the authorized period) and on the other hand it will help identify those who are travelingwithout a travel document during checks at the external or internal bordersof the Schengen area, thanks to biometric facial and fingerprint recognition technology that is integrated within the system.

Danny Thakkar is Senior Product Manager at Bayometric. With 13+ years of experience in entire B2B product lifecycle management, he has Owned and Managed multiple technology, web & SAAS products from ideation, through development, to launch, growth and maintenance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.