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Americans Will Need A Visa to Visit Europe Starting in 2021

Americans Will Need A Visa to Visit Europe Starting in 2021
Meg Butler

Travelling to Europe just got a little bit more complicated for Americans citizens. In just a little under two years, Americans will need to apply for a new travel document to visit any of the 22 European countries in the Schengen Zone. This change is part of the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).

While not technically a visa (it is actually a visa-waiver program quite like America’s Esta program), it has garnered the nickname ETIAS American Visa and is reportedly designed to upgrade international security.

This new requirement is a significant change in the travel relationship between Europe and the United States (and Britain). Here’s what we know so far:


When Will It Take Effect?

The European Commission says the new ETIAS Visa for Americans will be required for those traveling to the Schengen Zone after Jan. 1, 2021.

Why the Change?

Currently, Americans do not need a visa when traveling to Europe for less than 90 days. However, as Brexit looms ever closer, things are changing all over Europe.

Americans aren’t the only ones requiring an ETIAS visa for travel. On the same date, British travelers will also need to apply for an ETIAS visa to enter the Schengen area. According to the ETIAS website, this change in policy to require Visas for travelling Americans is a move to “improve [Europe’s] security level to avoid any further problems with illegal migration and terrorism.”

According to the Independent, this move by the European Union will reduce the number of people turned away at the borders of the European Union (at present around 1,200 a day) by gathering more information about their “health, employment and criminal convictions.”

It is also important to note that a ETIAS Visa does not guarantee entry into an EU country. At the border, travelers will be photographed, fingerprinted and be asked a series of questions before they are allowed to enter.

How Do I Apply?

In order to apply for the ETIAS Visa, you’ll need a valid passport, email address and valid credit or debit card. The cost of the ETIAS Visa for Americans has yet to be disclosed, but the British version costs €7 (those under 18 and over 70 are exempt from this cost) and lasts for 3 years. Once the date draws closer, there will be an online application that will collect applicant’s passport information, contact details and the answers to a few “basic” security questions. Applicants who are denied will be able to contest that decision.



To learn more about the ETIAS visa, head to the ETIAS website here.

View Comments (32)


  1. zarkov505

    March 7, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    OK, so let’s drop the other shoe.

    I’ve had to transit Frankfurt once and London Heathrow once, because of irregular operations from weather, that forced me to fly East instead of West to go to Bangkok, Thailand. At the time I transited Frankfurt, the Frankfurt Admirals Club was groundside, meaning that I now have official entry and exit stamps for Germany in my passport.

    How will this situation be handled? Or should I plan on getting and maintaining an ETIAS, “just in case”?

  2. CPH-Flyer

    March 7, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    If this is a visa, the the ESTA that all visa waiverr travellers to the US has to go through is a visa as well. The US has been subjecting travellers to this for years in the name of visa free travel. About time someone subjected US travellers to the same.

  3. CPH-Flyer

    March 7, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    And maybe you would want to link to a European Union official source, and not a 3rd party website.

  4. AlwaysFlyStar

    March 7, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    @zarkov, it is valid for 3 years and is expected to cost 7 EUR, so if you think there is a reasonable chance you might be travelling there, I don’t see why you wouldn’t get one. Alternatively, assuming no problems, it is expected to be approved within minutes, so if you have a last minute change in plans, shouldn’t be too difficult to get at the last minute.

  5. rtpflyer

    March 7, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Without ETIAS, no Admirals Club for you.

  6. travelinmanS

    March 7, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    You’ll either need to have the ETIAS or you’ll not be able to visit the Admiral’s Club. No big loss.

  7. dvs7310

    March 7, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Depends on how long is required to get it, if like many countries with e-Visas now, they are issued instantaneously so one could get one in the airport upon landing if needed. If it’s like some other countries with a processing time, then depending on the layover time you would probably be smart to have one just in case. I’m not going to stress about it too much, this is still 2 years away and they might have more friendly immigration procedures in place by then, think automated kiosks like Australia and Britain. While it’d still require the silly ETIAS, at least you could avoid the questioning.

  8. HkCaGu

    March 7, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    ETIAS is not a visa. ESTA is not a visa.

  9. HMO

    March 8, 2019 at 5:09 am

    If the rules turn to be similar to USA’s, even to stay airside in transit you will need a visa.

  10. downinit

    March 8, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Dishonest Don was right, I really am tired of all this winning!!!

  11. pokeable

    March 8, 2019 at 7:29 am

    Given the US seems to have the same type of program for Visa Waiver Program countries, not really much to complain about as a US citizen.

  12. Ghentleman

    March 8, 2019 at 7:30 am

    So many things wrong with this article:
    – ETIAS is not a visa (so the headline of the article is wrong) but a visa-waiver (just like the US ESTA).
    – The link to is not the official ETIAS Website (there currently is none) but a commercial agency trying to monetize off the introduction of ETIAS.
    – “Currently, Americans do not need a visa when traveling to Europe for less than 90 days. However, now that the reality of Brexit looms ever closer, things are changing all over Europe”. The introduction of ETIAS has nothing to do with Brexit.

  13. gkbiiii

    March 8, 2019 at 7:45 am

    Then move to France, and you can see “all this loosing”.

  14. PapaJack

    March 8, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Well said Pokeable. I remember when a South American country (I think it was Brazil) brought in the camera/fingerprints post 9/11 and when America (no one else) complained the answer was, “well you started it”.

    I think there will be transit waivers for the cross continent hoppers. I know China allows that, or used to. I have me China Visa now so I never check.

  15. phrasuthon


    March 8, 2019 at 7:59 am


  16. Silver Fox

    March 8, 2019 at 8:34 am

    About time too. And if the UK had politicians that could manage a social event in a brewery, I would hope they will insist on the same from the EU countries.

    But the net is that this article does not seem well researched.

  17. steviebaby

    March 8, 2019 at 9:50 am

    I could answer from left field and ask why the EU is only now shutting the stable doors? Is it perhaps because the ‘animals’ are already inside and comfortable!

  18. JDiver


    March 8, 2019 at 10:31 am

    For Pete’s sake, this is NOT a visa, it’s just another “electronic travel authority”, quite in line with the US ESTA requirement. Better security, and reciprocity – the EU was willing to not go there if the US visa waiver program did away with ESTA, iirc. And it’ll apparently be minimal cost, available online, and allows multiple entry over three years to all 22 Schengen nations.

    Contrary to popular opinion, the sky is not falling.

  19. alangore


    March 8, 2019 at 11:20 am

    What good is a visa if getting one does not guarantee entry to the EU when I arrive? If there is any reason why I would be denied entry, I want to know before I go.

  20. ChinaShrek

    March 8, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Far fewer Americans will travel to Europe because of this onerous requirement. Maybe that’s what they want?

  21. RealityBites

    March 8, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    The ESTA “not a visa” requires basically the same information from the applicant that a “visa” application does. The only real difference is the shortish limit on entry time….. so in fact it functions pretty much like a “visa” in every aspect that matters! Same for the Canadian ETA.

    The EU is instigating the same arrangements but at less cost than a ESTA, which seems fair to me.

  22. Yachtman

    March 8, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    So if an ESTA or an ETIAS is not a visa, what is it? Basically an instantly issued visa vs one that requires you to go to the embassy for a full blown interview.

    “Visa noun [ C ] US ​ /ˈvi·zə, -sə/ : an official document or mark made in a passport that allows you to enter or leave a particular country”.

  23. OFFlyer

    March 9, 2019 at 12:45 am

    YES. Next step should be to have special lanes at EU/Schengen passport control for US passports holders. Lanes that typically takes 90-120 minuttes to get through, with no access to water on bathrooms (unless of course you want to give up your place in the line) – and with no mercy for missed connections, the disabled, elderlies or families.

  24. tamnun

    March 9, 2019 at 12:54 am

    It’s about time for a couple of reasons:
    1. security entering this vast area that is composed of totally independent countries ( not l;ike the USA at all!)
    2. the USa has not accepted four EU countries for stupid non based reasons and therefore the EU commission has finally found a good reason to enforce USA passport holders to pay for a quasi-visa and maybe finally convince the immigration and homeland security authorities that the way they mis-handle certain EU citizens will eventually hurt USA citizens as well.

  25. alphaod

    March 9, 2019 at 6:38 am

    They just want American is pay that’s all. Same as the US does to every one else…

  26. Lampsaw

    March 9, 2019 at 9:52 am

    Sounds to me like it’s just another shakedown to grift more $$..

  27. tanja

    March 9, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Why not ! When USA did that to other countries it was accepted by a lot of people. It was not very liked by other countries. Now when the do the same to USA there is a lot of “WHY’. I say again “why not”. It is not more inconvenient for USA to do that then other countries to do that.Seems like USA thinks they are above other countries.

  28. tenn_ace

    March 9, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    ChinaShrek, and your point?

  29. emvchip

    March 9, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    Based on the information available, I disagree that “the ESTA “not a visa” requires basically the same information from the applicant that a “visa” application does.”

    Having spent hours waiting in embassies/consulates to get actual visas, plus needing to have the proper fee in money orders (some consulates require certain money formats ONLY), plus needing to have complete itinerary information, including reservation/confirmation numbers for flights, hotels, family member addresses where staying, etc. before you can apply for the visa, the ESTA appears to be a breeze. The ESTA will not require you to leave your passport at the consulate for a few weeks until they process you, with a return trip to pick it up. You will be able to do everything online and the fee is modest.

    Yes the 7€ fee is a nuisance, and no doubt it will continue to climb regularly, but that’s still pretty low compared to most real visas.

  30. minhaoxue

    March 9, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    First of all, this is not a Visa but an authorization. Second, as aUS Citizen, I travel to Germany and Spain upwards of three times per year. This is no big deal and I have no problem satisfying this requirement.

  31. BRU2m10

    March 11, 2019 at 1:32 am

    Weak move by the EU, by splitting up Schengen and non-Schengen.

    They should have gone for full reciprocity.

    (There are still EU countries for which the US demands a visa.)

  32. Ghentleman

    March 12, 2019 at 10:49 am

    It’s foolish to believe this was done to “punish” the US, out of the principle of reciprocity or to get $$. Main reason is to be able to run background checks before arriving at the border, so this process is smoother and more reliable. It’s not just Americans, also Australians, Brazilians, Canadians, Mexicans, Israelians, … basically, all nationalities that currently don’t need a visa for tourism/business up to 90 days. The little extra effort/cost that is needed after booking flights, hotels, rental cars, … is not going to stop people from traveling to Schengen countries

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