Traveling to Europe is about to get a little bit more complicated for Americans citizens. Currently, Americans do not need a visa when traveling to Europe for less than 90 days. However, with Brexit on the horizon, things are changing all over Europe. As a result, in a little less than 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).
Technically, this isn’t really a visa; it’s actually a visa-waiver program like the ESTA program in the US. However, everyone’s calling it the ETIAS American Visa, which has some people freaking out a little bit. “Wait? You mean I need a visa? Just to go to Europe?!?”
Don’t sweat it. Although this new requirement is a significant change in the travel relationship between Europe and the United States (and Britain), it’s not going to make things all that more difficult. Here’s what we know so far:
When Will This Happen?
The European Commission says the new ETIAS “Visa ‘ for Americans will be required for those traveling to the Schengen Zone after Jan. 1, 2021.
What’s the Reason for the Change?
Ostensibly, the change is to tighten immigration controls for purposes of enhancing security. According to the ETIAS website, the change is to “improve [Europe’s] security level to avoid any further problems with illegal migration and terrorism.”
What’s the Practical Impact on Travel?
It’s not entirely clear, at this point, but it doesn’t seem to be onerous. For one thing, Americans aren’t the only ones requiring an ETIAS visa for travel. British travelers will also need to apply for an ETIAS visa to enter the Schengen area.
Based on what we’re hearing, the application process will gather information from travelers about their health, employment and any criminal convictions. Travelers will be photographed, fingerprinted, and will be asked a series of questions before they are allowed to enter.
How Do I Get Authorization to Travel?
In order to apply for the ETIAS Visa, you’ll need a valid passport, an email address and a credit card. We don’t know, at this point, how much the visa will be for Americans, but for UK citizens, the cost is €7 (but free for children and seniors). Eventually, there will be an online application to collect passport information, contact details and the answers to a few “basic” security questions. And, if you’re denied a visa for some reason, you’ll be able to contest the decision. Once you’ve got your authorization, you’ll be good to travel for another 3 years.
Of course, as the day draws closer, we’ll be monitoring any developments. And, of course, we’ll stand ready to assist our clients in obtaining the necessary authorization to travel, just as we do for clients who travel to areas where visas are currently required. If you’re a frequent traveler to Europe and you’d like to join our mailing list, we’ll happily keep you updated on what we’re hearing. Just let us know!