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European E-Visa Postponed

VISA WAIVER POSTPONED

The European Commission recently announced that the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) visa waiver is delayed until 2022. If you’re unfamiliar, the visa waiver program, once fully operational, will require all citizens from visa-exempt countries to register for an ETIAS visa waiver in order to travel to any of the Schengen Area countries, which are made up of 22 EU member states and 4 non-EU members who share a common visa policy.

Originally scheduled for 2020 and then 2021, the postponement has been deemed necessary to ensure everyone involved is able to make all the necessary adjustments before the launch date. By extending this time, it is expected that the new European system will have a smoother transition. While it is now scheduled to launch towards the end of 2022, there will still be a 6-month grace period for third-country nationals.

HOW WILL THIS CHANGE TRAVEL?

Following the 6-month grace period, ETIAS will become an obligatory entry requirement to enter the Schengen region. The ETIAS will reinforce EU border security by automatically pre-screening non-Europeans and will cross-check passenger data against several international security databases.

Once the visa waiver comes into effect, eligible applicants will be required to fill out an online form with a a few personal details and passport data. Provided nothing is flagged during the security scan, the ETIAS visa waiver will be approved within minutes and electronically linked to the applicant’s passport.

From 2023 and beyond, an approved ETIAS will be needed to enter the Schengen Area for leisure and tourism, business, transit, as well as short-term medical treatment.

 

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Schengen Visa Requirements To Change February 2020

The Schengen visa allows travelers to travel to 26 European countries, 22 of them being a part of the European Union (EU) and has steadily increased in applicants every year. It has been considered hard to obtain but with the upcoming new rules being made by the EU, the Schengen Visa Code will regulate new visa issuance and benefits.

WHY IS IT CHANGING?

In May 2018, The EU adopted a proposal for the revision of Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 in order to strengthen the common visa policy and better regulate migration and security concerns. They believed the new proposal would facilitate procedures for frequent travelers to the Schengen Area and reward countries that collaborate in readmission of illegal migrants with easier visa procedures. And this past year, the proposal was given the green light.

WHEN DOES IT START?

All Schengen Visa applicants will be subject to the new Schengen Visa Code starting the first Monday of February 2020. Several other countries including Denmark, Belgium, Finland and Germany have confirmed the same start date.

WHAT RULES ARE CHANGING?

The main changes foreseen by the new code include:

  • Higher Visa Fees
  • Extended application submission periods
  • Electronic application forms in most countries
  • Representative authorities of every Schengen Member must be present in every third-country in terms of visa admission
  • Frequent travelers with a positive visa history to benefit from visas with lengthier validity

*For more information, visit schengenvisainfo.com

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European Travel Regulations are Changing

Americans are used to being able to travel to Europe with minimal planning in advance as far as comes to gaining entry. However, all that is changing come 2021. Americans will need to register starting in 2021 to travel to the European Union. Not only will Americans need to register online but they will also have to pay a fee before they enter Europe. The fee is minimal (likely about 7 Euros). Previously, this type of process was not a requirement for Americans when traveling to the EU. This new process will be considered a pre-screening and registration process.

Currently and until 2021, Americans are able to travel for up to 90 days in the 26 European Countries (Schengen area) that allow border-free travel without any sort of visa or permit. However, that will be changing.

Starting in 2021, Americans will need to apply for a European Travel Information and Authorization (ETIAS) permit in addition to having a passport and credit or debit card. Once you have received a travel authorization to enter the European Union, you will be able to enter an unlimited amount of times for 3 years. This process is similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which the U.S. uses for countries that are part of the Visa waiver program.

The ETIAS permit will require American travelers to apply online which will include filling out basic information (name, date of birth, etc.), passport information as well information about the applicant’s health, criminal record and any previous European immigration history. The application will be checked across databases and travelers’ can likely find out within minutes if their application is approved. If it is denied, there will be a reason why.

The ETIAS process will not be nearly as in-depth as a Visa process that involves consular interview and background checks. This new process that goes in to effect in 2021 was first approved in 2016 by the European Commission. However, the European Parliament did not approve it until 2018.

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Legalizing Documents Outside the US

It’s not easy to capture all the complexities that exist with legalizing documents outside the U.S. While we admit that the legalizing documents process inside the U.S. isn’t overly simple, it is definitely more simple than keeping track of all the different rules that often depend on individual countries outside the U.S. We’ve gathered our best advice on confirming you’ve gone through the right process when it comes to legalizing your documents for international business. Follow these steps for legalizing documents outside the U.S.

Be patient. This is not a process you will be able to rush or control. It is up to the embassy on how long this takes and additional hoops they may ask you to jump through. Typically the embassy is only in charge of verifying the authenticity of the seal and signature of the government authority, however, they may actually review the content of the documents. If they go through this process, they can refuse their approval based on something within the content of the documents.

Be methodical and detail orientated. There are different requirements for documents to presented in the U.S. than other countries. For example, in some countries your document may be accepted if it certified by a solicitor or a notary. However, in other countries, they may only accept a notary or solicitor, not either. It’s incredibly important for you to know these details in advance of starting this process.

Understand the Hague Convention. While you don’t need to know this in-depth, you do need to know the apostille process for the individual country you are preparing documents for. Please check the country the document is being certified in as well as the country the document is for to understand if both are part of the Hague Convention. If they both are, the process will be different than if one is not.

Don’t underestimate the hassle of going to the foreign embassy yourself. There are many agencies out there like Washington Express Visas that can help with this process. Using a company that does this all the time vs. an individual that has never done this before will help with understanding the complexities of working with a foreign embassy. It can be a stressful and long process so get help!

Let Washington Express help you with legalizing your documents. Contact us today for a consultation!

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How To Confirm An Apostille Is Authentic

It is more necessary than ever that you will need an apostille when doing business internationally. The popularity of this type of certification has made it a breeding ground for not properly certified apostilles to be used. It’s important that you always check that you have an authentic apostille. There are lots of clues that could let you know that you should double check (for example, the documents could be in a different order than you sent them and re-stapled).

The first place you can start to make sure your apostille is authentic is the issue office or the Competent Authority. The Competent Authority is the agency that issues apostilles and therefore, has records on all apostilled issued. The agency should have all the required information regarding your documents being apostilled correctly. One important piece to note when confirming your apostille with the Competent Authority this process may tell you the apostille is verified but it does not confirm the content of the original document. Therefore, you can’t rely on this process by itself but it is part of the process of understanding if it authentic.

To contact the Competent Authority you can reach the agency by phone or online. However, some jurisdictions may require you reach them by phone so please make sure to know which process your document requires. The online electronic registries can verify its origin which can make the process less complicated than contacting them by phone.

You may be wondering, how do I find the Competent Authority? Well, in the United States this agency is often the Secretary of State of the individual state. A handful of these states have the electronic process available but the rest you will need to reach by phone or in person.

The next time you are interested in verifying your apostille, have no fear, there is a process! Washington Express Visas is more than happy to help with the process of apostille. Contact us today for a consultation!

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The Most Common Export Documents

There is lots that go in to international sales and how to prepare goods to be shipped to your foreign buyer. First, you need to secure the sale. However, companies often under-prepare when it comes to making sure your goods are ready to ship to a foreign buyer. The second thing that you must do is understand the shipment documents needed in the agreement for the benefit of the various people and organizations that are involved in moving and processing the goods. Making sure that you understand the common documents necessary for this process are a critical part of this process.

Commercial Invoice: This is one of the most critical documents because it provides crucial information. A commercial invoice is the document used to describe the entire export transaction from beginning to end including the shipping terms.

Insurance Certificate: This document shows that you have purchased an insurance policy for cargo on board. An exporter will often not perform the shipping without this.

Inspection Certificate: Inspections often take place if the goods are industrial equipment or perishable like meat and cheese products. It shows the goods were received in good condition and were not effected by the shipment.

Consular Invoice. While this is not required in every country, if you are shipping to a place that requires it make sure you have it! It certifies the shipment of goods and is available through a consular representative.

Bill of Lading. This is the common document used in international shipping and is a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. It shows what is being shipped, where the goods are coming from and their final destination. This is often used as the receipt as well.

Washington Express is more than happy to help with the process of understanding and filling out the correct export documents for your foreign shipments. Contact us today for a consultation!

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Avoiding Embassy Document Rejection

The worst words you can hear when trying to legalize your document is “We are unable to process your document because…” Unfortunately, this saying is all too common when it comes to trying to get your documents legalized. We wanted to help our readers avoid some of the pitfalls that can come up while trying to legalize your documents.

As a reminder, Document Legalization is a process during which documents are navigated through an assembly line of notarizations, certifications, and authentications so that these documents can be used in foreign countries to transact business.

There are many obstacles that can come up along the way because of all the steps and different processes it takes to do this right. Here is a step-by-step guide that can help you avoid some common mistakes:

1. Get your document back from the U.S. Department of state (after likely waiting a 1-3 week period)

2. Figure out what Embassy you need to send your document. Remember! This is not always as easy as picking the closest Embassy to you. There are particular factors that go in to deciding this so make sure to read through thoroughly.

3. Find your Secretary of State. Make sure you know whether the country the document is being legalized for has rules around which Secretary of State is used. For example, certain countries have rules around using the same Secretary of State as where the documents originated. This can often create a complicated path in getting your document legalized promptly and without an “error” letter back in return.

4. Decide whether you need to include a photo ID. Some countries (China for example) require a photo ID be submitted to put on file for any company that is hoping to legalize documents with the Consulate. This can be as simple as including a color copy of your U.S. driver license but again, something you need to check before sending your documents.

Hope you enjoyed hearing about some common mishaps that can happen along the document legalization process.

Washington Express is more than happy to help with the process of apostille or authentication. Contact us today for a consultation!

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Why You Should Hire Professionals to Legalize Your Documents

We know you’ve heard it before, but we promise once you try to get your documents legalized yourself, you will know why we tell our clients to outsource the document legalization process! The process is incredibly complicated and confusing for someone who only has one set of documents to legalize. There will likely always be an obstacle that comes up along the way that will have you thinking to yourself “I should have had this outsourced.” And unfortunately, at that point, you’ve already wasted time trying to do it for yourself!

Let’s start at the beginning. Document Legalization is a process during which documents are navigated through an assembly line of notarizations, certifications, and authentications so that these documents can be used in foreign countries to transact business. From that list alone, you can see where all the hiccups can come up along the way.

There are a few simple reasons as to why we recommend having this process outsourced.

  • It’s a waste of your time. It can take hours to figure out the right process for document legalization based on what country you are working with. The worst part is not every country has the same process so if you are doing this for multiple countries…multiply those hours! It will always be better time spent for team members to spend time on the core responsibilities of their job vs. the difficult one-off process of document legalization.
  • It takes longer. This is often the BIGGEST reason companies and people outsource this process. For outsiders where this isn’t their full time job, the process can often take 2-3 weeks at least. When working with the right service providers, the process can be cut down significantly! On average it will only take up to 4 business days for an outsourced service to get the same documents legalized.
  • Better tracking abilities. One of the biggest complaints we hear when companies and people try to do this themselves is they have no idea how to track what the status is of their documents being legalized. Good news about using an outsourced service is that the service provider is going through those doors daily and can easily be the boots-on-the-ground to know what’s going on with your documents.
  • Process is always changing. One of the benefits about using an outsourced provider is they can stay-up-to-date on the ever-evolving process of document legalization. This process can change frequently and without warning. You don’t want to have to monitor this on your own.

We hope this helps you think through whether it makes sense to outsource this process before you go down the lengthy and twisty road of trying to do it yourself!

Washington Express is more than happy to help with the process of apostille or authentication. Contact us today for a consultation!

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Four Tips for Successful Document Processing

We thought we’d spend time in our blog this week discussing all the advice and tips we’ve put together based on our experiences with Apostilles and Document Legalization. We recommend following our easy 4 steps below to ensure a successful process for your documents.

  • Figure out if you need an apostille. The tricky thing about this is not all documents need an Apostille but if you request an Apostille, they will give you one regardless of if you actually need one for your specific situation. All of this depends on what country the documents are for. Check out our blog on this topic to learn more.
  • Avoid last minute requests. We often have customers that reach out to us in a real time crunch when it comes to legalizing their documents or getting an Apostille. Unfortunately, this can make the process MUCH more stressful because processing the documents from the secretary of state or state department is not always quick. We recommend using a professional service like Washington Express Visas if you find yourself in a bind like this.
  • Understand Country Status & Research Requirements. The majority of this goes back to our #1 piece of advice about understanding whether you need an Apostille or not. This all comes back to whether the country you need the documents for a part of the Hague Convention of 1961. Given that not all countries are part of the Hague Convention Agreement, not all countries have the same process and requirements for their documents. Apostille countries will go by the same requirements but countries not part of the Hague Convention Agreement will have different guidelines that are different for each of those countries.
  • Identify Fee and Payment Options. All of these will depend on the above because the forms and fees are based on what type of document you are getting legalized or apostilled. We recommend making sure you’ve identified the correct fee based on the destination country and document type. Keep in mind that you will may need a money order or cashier’s check for certain embassies. Important to look in to this for your document(s)! Unfortunately, some of the process such as requirements and fees can change based on the embassies so important that you stay up to date.

Washington Express is more than happy to help with the process of apostille or authentication. Contact us today for a consultation!

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Do You Need An Apostille?

Do you need an apostille? This can be a very tricky question! It is not always straightforward and based on different requirements in different countries, whether or not you need an apostille will vary. One important thing to remember is even if you do not need an apostille based on your documents, if you request one from the regulatory agency, they will give you one! They do not check whether it’s required based on your request that’s why it’s important to understand the guidelines as well as engage a service like Washington Express Visas to make sure you have everything you need and are not wasting time, money or energy. 

 It is important to understand the definition of apostille and the 1961 Hague Convention to know whether or not you need an apostille for your document. An apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document. And all countries that signed on to the 1961 Hague Convention agreed to accept an “apostilled” document from other countries part of the Hague Convention. Therefore, if you need to use a non-federal document in a Hague Country, you are able to use the apostille certification process. 

 As part of the apostille  process you will need to work with your state’s Secretary of State if they are non-federal documents and if they are federal documents you will work with the U.S. Department of State. This process can be made easy by Washington Express Visas. Contact us directly for more information!

 So now back to our original question…do you need an apostille? Well the answer to that goes back to the Hague Convention of 1961. If you are sending documents to a country part of the Hague Convention, then the answer is yes! You will need to apostille your document. However, if you are sending documents to a country that is NOT part of the Hague Convention…then you do NOT need an apostille. Instead you need to authenticate your document(s). The process of authentication looks very similar to apostille but is not actually the same. For authenticated documents for countries not part of the Hague Convention, you must first send your document to the Secretary of State before it gets authenticated by the U.S. State Department. Again, keep in mind that if you are not aware of the difference in this process and you send your documents to the Secretary of State and ask for an apostille, they will give that to you! Regardless of if your documents are for a country not part of the Hague Convention of 1961. 

 Washington Express is more than happy to help with the process of apostille or authentication. Contact us today for a consultation!