New 'Visa' Process for Americans Traveling to Europe

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What Need to Know:

The freedom of hopping on a plane and arriving in Europe at any time with just a passport and a ticket is coming to an end. With the world as it is and security becoming more and more of an issue, many European countries are heightening their security system.

Don’t panic, however. All they’re requiring as of 2021 is a little extra paperwork and a small fee before you travel. The European Travel Information and Authorisation System will charge €7 (about $8) potential travelers from “visa-free” countries to complete the required application online, and once you are approved, it lasts for three years.

The application is expected to only take up to 10 minutes, and 95 percent of the applicants should be approved within minutes, according to the European Commission.

Which Countries?

The countries adopting this new security regulation are those in the Schengen Area, named such after a treaty made in 1985 allowing for easier travel between countries.

The area contains the following countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

If you’ll notice, Britain is not included in this list, so traveling to and from the U.K. should stay much the same as it has been.

Over 60 countries including the U.S. have not needed a visa to visit the EU, but once the ETIAS is set in place, they will need to apply before traveling anywhere in the Schengen Area. However, ETIAS has been very clear that this is not a visa.

While there has been some confusion, the European Commission states firmly in a fact sheet on its website that “the ETIAS authorization is not a visa” (emphasis theirs). Americans will still not need to apply for visas to go to Europe.

There has been one site, so far, that has become misleading ― This so-called travel agency refers to the process as a “visa” application, but again, it is not.

The ETIAS does not require biometric data or any of the complex information required to apply for a Visa. The whole process was approved in 2018.

All-in-all, the change is not so drastic. The EU only hopes to set in place a new security measure to conduct “pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travelers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area,” as two European Commission leaders said in a statement last year about the proposed change.

This process is much like an existing U.S. system called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, which requires people from any of 38 other countries to seek approval prior to arrival in the U.S. and to pay a $14 fee.