The Austrian Ministry of Interior has issued a warning about bogus websites that pose as the official European Travel Information and Authorisation System and target travellers from over 60 countries that may now travel visa-free to the 27 Schengen Area Member States (ETIAS).
According to etiasvisatoeu.com, the Austrian MIA stated on Friday, February 24, that there are over 20 unauthorised websites dedicated purely to the ETIAS travel permit, the purposes of which are unknown.
According to this statement, after the ETIAS becomes operational in 2024, travellers will be able to apply for their travel authorizations directly through the official website, eliminating the need for intermediaries, albeit the ETIAS law permits for the use of intermediaries.
“The ETIAS Regulation authorises commercial intermediaries to apply for ETIAS on behalf of others. Nonetheless, there is a danger linked with third-party websites,” according to the Ministry’s statement.
It goes on to say that the EU border agency Frontex warns that commercial intermediaries can be run by persons with bad motives, such as fraudsters, who may exploit ETIAS applicants’ personal information and credit card information.
The ETIAS rule does allow intermediaries to provide ETIAS application services to people who require them.
However, the official ETIAS website urges travellers to be wary of fraudsters, owing to the highly sensitive information necessary to complete an ETIAS application. Furthermore, the website notes that while the ETIAS price is €7, middlemen may charge additional, higher fees.
“Submitting an application through the official ETIAS website or the mobile app costs €7, but an intermediary may charge an additional price for their services – ensure that this additional amount is acceptable,” it states.
Travellers are urged that if they feel they have been abused by commercial middlemen, they should report it on the official ETIAS website at the appropriate page.
In terms of the ETIAS debut date, SchengenVisaInfo.com stated on February 24 that the EU Commission has once again discreetly postponed the launch date to 2024, rather than November 2023, as it was before.
“It is projected that the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will be operational in 2024,” according to the ETIAS website’s FAQ section, indicating that the ETIAS will not go into force in November this year.
SchengenVisaInfo.com has emailed the press staff of the EU Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs division for more information, but has yet to get a response.