Travelers beware: tighter security checks at Schengen borders

Since the beginning of April, business travelers entering or exiting the Schengen zone have to be more patient during border controls in train stations or airports. A new EU regulation requires that all 26 member states execute tighter security checks for all, including European residents, at all external borders of the Schengen area.

This amendment to the Schengen Border Code is the result of a political decision, following recent terrorist attacks, to better track movements of EU citizens coming back from conflict zones in Syria or Iraq. EU reports estimate that 2000 to 2500 European citizens are still living in these countries. The European Parliament approved this amendment to the Schengen Border Code in February.

“The regulation is a response to the increase of terrorist threats,” the European Council explained.

As a result, business travelers can expect longer waits, since border officers must not only check the validity of passports, but also consult databases like the Schengen Information System, Interpol and registers of wanted persons.

Additionally, to avoid discrimination, the regulation requires ‘systematic checks’ of all travelers. However, to prevent excessively long queues, it also allows temporary ‘targeted checks’, for a transition period up to 18 months, for example at peak hours or during holidays. Since systematic checks require more resources and personnel, it’s likely that many member states will choose to conduct random or targeted checks.

The new regulation doesn’t require any additional checks for people traveling within the Schengen zone. This includes some non-EU member states such as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. On the other hand, some EU member states like Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus don’t belong to the Schengen area.

There should be no impact for travelers going to the United Kingdom, which does not belong to the Schengen area and already conducts stricter controls.