A number of recent media articles and Internet postings about new policies on European travel have been inaccurate and misleading. Here’s what Americans need to know about these changes:
1) Until the end of 2020, U.S. citizens traveling to the 26 countries in the Schengen Area in Europe, which function as a single jurisdiction for the purpose of international travel, only need a valid passport for short-term (less than 90-day) tourism or business. No visa or additional security clearance is required.
The Schengen Area currently includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Issued by the European Commission, The Schegen Borders Agreement also allows U.S. citizens (as well as citizens from a number of other countries) to travel freely across borders between these countries.
2) As of January 1, 2021, policies will change: U.S. citizens (including children and infants) traveling to these European countries will require another layer of clearance: European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) approval.
This additional clearance is not a visa. It is easier to obtain and less expensive.
3) Application for the ETIAS clearance will take place electronically and cost 7 Euros. The fee will be waived for individuals under the ages of 18. The form should take less than 10 minutes to complete.
The start date for making application is currently uncertain. To apply, travelers will need to have a valid passport (that doesn’t expire until at least three months after the end of the journey); a credit card and an email address.
The application needs to be made at least four days before travel is initiated. An email approval (or denial) will come, via email, within 96 hours. Once approved, the clearance will be good for a period of three years after the date of issuance and allow for multiple entries during that period.
4) There are two stated purposes for the new clearance procedure: 1) To help reduce terrorism and improve security (the names of ETIAS applicants will be checked across a number of watchlists and databases), and 2) to generate additional income for the EU.
5) These new policies are not associated with a threatened so-called “visa war” and aren’t limited to Americans. Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and dozens of other countries will also be required to obtain ETIAS approval starting in 2021.
About ETIAS on YouTube
FOR UPDATES AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, SEE:
- Information about the ETIAS approval process and application form from the European Commission
- State Department Information About Schengen Travel
- My article on Forbes about ETIAS
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