It Just Got Tougher for Americans to Visit Europe

Lisbon, Portugal

Americans wanting to travel to Europe can currently pack their bags and go without any sort of travel clearance, but all that’s about to change. Effective January 1, 2021, U.S. citizens will have to register through the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) before entering the Schengen Area, no matter the duration of their trip. This zone includes 26 countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

But before you cross off Europe entirely, hear us out. The process is simple: Every traveler must fill out an online application, which includes personal questions (name, date of birth, heath information, and the like), passport details, employment history, criminal record, and immigration background. All you need to apply is a valid passport, a credit or debit card, and an email account. It will cost about seven euros ($8) for folks over the age of 18 (free for those under), remain valid for three consecutive years, and allow for multiple entries. Still, travelers can only stay for up to 90 days. The verdict should come within minutes (those who are denied will be offered a reason why, though European Union officials say that at least 95 percent of applicants are expected to be approved).

“Similar to other countries and regions in the world, Europe has recently decided to improve its security level to avoid any further problems with illegal immigration and terrorism,” the ETIAS website states. This new policy will help to “identify any security or irregular migratory risks posed by visa-exempt visitors traveling to the Schengen area,” according to the European Commission. The U.S. Department of State and European Union have also made it clear that this is not a visa -- meaning you need not visit a consulate to file an application and fingerprinting is not necessary.

It’s also worth noting that the U.S. already has something similar in place -- the U.S. ESTA requires much of the same information from European travelers visiting North America (authorization is applicable for two years, though). Plus, Americans aren’t the only ones being singled out; citizens from 60 countries -- Brazil, Canada, Israel, Singapore, and more -- will be required to apply through the ETIAS before visiting the Schengen zone in two years, so mark your calendars.

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