Will Americans Need a Visa to Enter Europe Starting in 2021?

Some news outlets such as CNN reported that the European Union will be requiring Americans to apply for a visa to enter any European country.

No, US citizens will not need a visa as the media initially reported. It’s not a visa in the traditional sense. People instead need to register to travel to Europe.

The program is called European Travel Information and Authorization System or ETIAS.

This is similar to ESTA which  Europeans have to get coming here but much cheaper – supposedly $8 (versus $100+ for ESTA) and we’ll see but perhaps easier and less restricting.

This may be something Travel Agents  and tour operators can do on their clients behalf (perhaps ETIAS will offer an agent portal or Schengensomething).

Currently U.S. citizens with a valid U.S. passport can visit Schengen countries and stay for up to 90 days without a visa. The Schengen Area is an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. FYI: the UK is not a Schengen country.

So the ETIAS authorisation is not a visa. Nationals of ‘visa liberalisation’ countries will continue to travel the EU without a visa but will simply be required to obtain a travel authorisation via ETIAS prior to their travel. ETIAS will be a simple, fast and visitor-friendly system, which will, in more than 95% of cases, result in a positive answer within a few minutes.

An ETIAS travel authorisation does not reintroduce visa-like obligations. There is no need to go to a consulate to make an application, no biometric data is collected and significantly less information is gathered than during a visa application procedure. Whereas, as a general rule, a Schengen visa procedure can take up to 15 days, and can in some cases be extended up to 30 or 60 days, the online ETIAS application only takes a few minutes to fill in.

The validity will be for a period of three years, significantly longer than the validity of a Schengen visa. An ETIAS authorisation will be valid for an unlimited number of entries.

Further clarification on the visa thing can be obtained from the Washington Post.

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