While it’s not a visa, U.S. travelers will need to begin pre-registering for travel to 26 countries in Europe starting in 2021. Travel Agent Magazine spoke with Ryan Amizi, editor for etias.com, a website dedicated to spreading awareness regarding the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), to learn more on what to expect.
Travel throughout parts of Europe for American citizens just became slightly more difficult. Starting in 2021, the European Union (E.U.) will require U.S. citizens to register to visit upwards of 26 European countries.
Last July, the E.U. established the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which would require “pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travelers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area.” Upon arrival at E.U. borders, travelers will need to provide both a valid travel document and ETIAS authorization.
The authorization is distinct from a visa, the E.U. adds. The New York Times reports that “Americans will not be required to visit a consulate to file any kind of application, fingerprinting is not required, and less information will be asked than is expected of visa applicants.”
According to CNN, the Schengen Area is a zone of 26 European countries that do not have internal borders and allow people to move between them freely. The full list of countries includes: 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.
Currently, U.S. residents may travel for up to 90 days throughout Europe without any sort of travel authorization. Even visa-free travelers will need to register for ETIAS authorization, CNN reports.
There is a service fee of 7 euros (approximately $7.87) to register and the authorization is valid for three years—or until your passport expires, if that is less than three years. If your passport does expire prior to your ETIAS authorization, you will need to reapply for approval with the new passport. Within the three-year period, however, travelers will be able to visit Europe any number of times.
In addition to the U.S., roughly 60 countries will be required to apply for ETIAS authorization, including Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Israel.
“To enter European member countries right now, [U.S.] travelers can just hop on a plane and go through customs,” says Amizi. “With ETIAS they need to be cleared to travel by applying at least 72 hours prior to boarding.”
The new rules apply to European Union (EU) countries that are part of the Schengen area, for travelers from the United States and other countries offering visa-free travel to Schengen members. There will be a 7 Euro per person processing fee, although processing will be free for travelers under 18.
While the minimum requirement for an ETIAS application is 72 hours in advance, Amizi advises travelers apply at least a week beforehand. “Processing should be instant, but if someone has a hit – say, their name matches someone on an Italian criminal database – it’s likely there will be some additional processing to see if this person is ok,” Amizi says.
Importantly, third parties – including travel advisors – will be able to fill out an ETIAS application on behalf of their clients. “They will need to disclose on the form,” Amizi says.
The new ETIAS was established last July to improve security following the introduction of similar programs in the United States and Canada.
“After the terrorist attacks in France and Germany over the past two years, they just want a better understanding of who’s entering their borders, and one area they looked at is visa-free travel,” Amizi says. “It’s reciprocating American and Canadian programs that are already in place.”
Finally, Amizi recommends those traveling in early 2021 apply well in advance. “There will be some hiccups as there always are when deploying systems like these.”