EU Entry/Exit System (EES) – all you need to know

EU Entry/Exit System (EES) – all you need to know
In 2024, the EU Entry/Exit System (EES) will likely be introduced. If you are planning to travel from the UK to a country within the European Union (EU) then it's important to be aware of the new rules. 

The EU has long been planning to introduce new and updated requirements for non-EU nationals to provide fingerprints and digitalised travel authorisation to enter the member states.

Although it has had a number of delays and setbacks, it looks set to go live in the autumn of 2024.

The EU announced that there would be two separate, but interconnected travel schemes for Brits (and other non-EU citizens) – one being EES, and the other the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

This driving advice guide looks at what the EES will mean for UK travellers, and how the system will work.

What is the EU Entry/Exit System (EES)?

The EU Entry/Exit System – also known as EES – will be a new border management system for non-EU citizens to travel to the member states within the Schengen Zone.The Zone comprises most EU countries plus Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland but excludes the Republic of Ireland and Cyprus.

European Union leadership has, for a long time, pushed for an updated and technologically advanced border security and immigration processes for travellers to the region.

With the new EES system, the EU hopes to collect, process, store, and share data on entry, exit, and refusal of entry of non-EU citizens visiting the Schengen Area from autumn 2024.

Replacing the current process which sees passports stamped, the system will use a new form of data collection – biometric information. Everyone travelling will need to be fingerprinted and have their face photographed alongside providing the normal personal information (name, nationality, and other passport details).

EES will also help the EU nations track a visitor’s stay in the region, so that non-EU citizens can be tracked for staying too long or even for unauthorised visits. Visitors from the UK are restricted to 90 days’ stay in any 180 days within the Schengen area.

According to the EU, by centralising the data process and tracking systems, it will allow police and immigration offices to highlight security risks and act accordingly in a more efficient manner.

Following the original announcement of the EES, the European Commission issued a statement: “Over the past years we have been working to strengthen and protect our external borders to safeguard and increase the security of the Schengen area.

“It is an important step towards achieving more effective border management and better oversight of who is crossing the EU's external borders – and the Commission warmly welcomes this decision.

“The Entry/Exit System is a priority initiative which will modernise the management of the EU external border and contribute to the fight against terrorism and serious crime.

“It will replace the stamping of passports and will allow for an increased automation of border controls, improved detection of document and identity fraud as well as better monitoring of unauthorised short stays of non-EU nationals.”

How will the EU Entry/Exit System (EES) work?

The EU Entry/Exit System will replace many of the current customs processes currently in place, by using a combination of data collection, processing, and sharing mechanisms across the Schengen Zone.

The EES system will work when non-EU citizens enter the Schengen Area. They will need to provide their biometric data, such as fingerprints and go through facial recognition, as well as providing personal information such as name, nationality, date of birth, other passport information, and the entry/exit dates for the visit.

Border officials will use the system to perform automated checks to verify the authenticity of travel documents and biometric data.

EES then tracks the visitor throughout the duration of their stay. This is so they can detect cases of overstaying or unauthorised visits to other countries.

European Breakdown Cover

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe for just £4.17 a day*.

*Price is based on European Comprehensive breakdown cover for a 14 day trip, in a vehicle up to 1 year old, travelling in zone 1.

European Breakdown Cover

Entry/Exit System (EES) news

In October 2023, the EU announced that the much-delayed EES system would be rolled put in ‘late 2024’, with no official launch date available.

A further announcement is expected in summer 2024 – RAC Drive will keep you updated on the latest developments.

Concerns have been raised over the time it will take for UK citizens to enter or exit the Schengen Zone from the end of the year.

In fact, in January 2024, MPs were warned that Brits could be delayed by up to 14 hours at the border.

The Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee stated that this was ‘a reasonable worst case scenario’.

It is important to note that EU citizens living in the UK will not be affected by these changes.

How will the Entry/Exit System (EES) impact UK drivers?

Although there is no information currently available on the precise date this will impact Brits driving to Europe, there are going to be noticeable changes to visits to the continent.

The system will be in operation at the Port of Dover for ferries travelling across the English Channel, and at Eurostar and Eurotunnel terminals.

Although there is an agreement with the French Government in place to operate the border checks, all of the services that offer travel to Brits have expressed concerns over EES.

Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, Sir William Cash, said: “Queues of more than 14 hours; vehicles backed up along major roads; businesses starved of footfall: this evidence paints an alarming picture of the possible risks surrounding the Entry-Exit System’s implementation.

“Clearly, this policy could have a very serious impact, not only for tourists and travel operators but also for local businesses. I implore decision makers on both sides of the Channel to take note of this evidence.

“The scheme is due to be implemented in October this year; the clock is ticking, and these issues must be urgently addressed.”

Gareth Williams, Strategy Director for Eurostar, said in 2021: “We don’t currently see a practical solution. If we take the peak of August, up to 80% of people will have to go through the system.

“We do have a very extreme space challenge. At a minimum we would require over 30 kiosks, and an area about the size of our entire check-in area at St Pancras.”

The main concern for operators and travellers will be an increase in the likelihood and length of delays.

As a result, the UK Government has stated that they are looking into the issue and that they are engaging with the operators to find a solution.

Concerningly for Brits looking to drive to Europe in late 2024 and 2025, the European Commission haven’t released all the details of how the system will work, although they have said they plan to introduce it in a gradual and flexible way.

RAC Europe spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “Although it remains to be seen what impact the changes will have when it comes to the time it takes drivers to get through border controls and into the Schengen zone, it’s well worth anyone planning a trip over the Channel from the autumn being aware of what will be expected of them. We’ll aim to provide as much accurate information as we can to assist travellers as soon as it becomes available. In the first instance, we’d advise allowing much more time than usual for journeys, especially during peak holiday travel periods.”

25% off annual European Breakdown Cover*

25% off annual European Breakdown Cover*

Get covered when driving in Europe. 

*Price is based on European Comprehensive breakdown cover for a 14 day trip, in a vehicle up to 1 year old, travelling in zone 1.

25% off annual European Breakdown Cover*