The EU moved closer to introducing a digital pre-entry scheme for travellers on Thursday when the European Parliament backed adoption of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

The ETIAS scheme will introduce pre-travel screening of visitors to the Schengen area.

Travellers from non-Schengen area countries including the UK, Ireland and Cyprus, will in future need both a valid travel document and an ETIAS authorisation to cross EU borders.

The system should come into force in 2021, pending adoption by the Council, which should be a formality.

It was approved alongside a complimentary scheme to bolster the EU agency for operational management of large-scale IT systems, called eu-LISA.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said: “A stronger eu-LISA will be the nerve centre of our information systems for borders, migration and security, and ETIAS will ensure we no longer have an information gap on visa-free travellers.”

Julian King, Commissioner for the Security Union, added: “ETIAS will pre-screen visa-free visitors for potential security problems.”

Travellers will need to request ETIAS authorisation prior to a visit and pay a €7 fee for three years’ authorisation.

It will be free to those under 18 and over 70.

The EC said an online application “should not take more than 10 minutes, with automatic approval in over 95% of cases”.

When authorisation is refused, the relevant national authority will have to inform the applicant or seek additional information within 96 hours.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) welcomed the decision to adopt ETIAS.

WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “We see this as an important first step in the digitalisation of travel.

“The ultimate aim will be the use of biometric technology to ensure seamless, more efficient and more secure travel.”