EU to require 'authorization' for traveling Hongkongers

Hongkongers traveling to Europe starting mid-2025 will have to apply for a "travel authorization" in advance by uploading basic personal information and their criminal records, which will cost seven euros (around HK$58) per application.
Visitors to 30 European countries, including popular destinations France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Switzerland, will be required to register at the European Travel Information and Authorization System.
"The world is going digital and so is the European Union. It is a measure to make Europe a safer place for travelers and should not be an obstacle," said Izabella Cooper, ETIAS central unit division's media and outreach team leader
Those planning to travel will have to declare criminal records, past travels to war or conflict zones and previous EU entry denials
The ETIAS authorization will be valid for three years and those aged under 18 or above 70 will be exempted from the fee.
Cooper said the new measure will make border arrangements smoother, adding that nearly 95 percent of the applications will be handled automatically and quickly.
She also said that in special circumstances such as incorrect information or suspicion of the applicant posing a security risk, manual - and lengthier - processing would be required.
The EU will also implement an Entry/Exit System this fall, collecting data, fingerprints, and facial images, which will be stored for three years.
Thomas Gnocchi, ambassador and head of the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macau, said the visa-free arrangement for Hongkongers will remain unchanged.
"HK-EU relations have been affected by some of the recent political developments in HK, which the EU has spoken up about," he said.
"Nonetheless, the new travel authorization measure should make it clear that this in no way affects the visa-free status of Hongkongers and they are much welcome to visit the 30 countries of the Schengen Area," he added.
Hong Kong Tourism Association executive director, Timothy Chui Ting-pong, told The Standard yesterday that the ETIAS requirement will not deter locals from visiting.
"The permit amounts to around HK$60. That is reasonable and lower than air passenger departure tax," he said.
"The need to apply for travel authorization in the ETIAS is not targeted at local citizens. Other non-EU tourists, visa-exempt countries have to do it too."
Chui said the need for manual processing was customary under the EU's screening of border terror risks. "An online application for the permit means there is a way to inquire why an individual is rejected," he said. "It is better than flying to Europe, and then being rejected."


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