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.