If you love to travel to Europe, you are going to want to pay extra close attention to the VISA exemption changes that are being made for Americans who travel to the European Union starting in 2021. No longer will you be able to enter the EU without preauthorization, so you will want to make sure you are prepared before you visit. In this article, I outline the changes that are being made to the VISA requirements for Americans, what you will need to travel to the EU starting in 2021, and the process for getting authorization.
The Current Visa Requirements for Americans
Currently, Americans are not required to obtain a VISA to visit Europe if they will be staying in Europe for 90-days or less. However, a valid passport that is good at least 3 to 6 months after departure from Europe (depending on the country) is currently required. If travelers from America are currently planning on traveling to Europe and staying for longer than 90-days, a VISA is required in addition to a valid passport.
New Visa Requirements
Starting in 2021, Americans will be required to obtain a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) authorization prior to visiting Europe. This authorization is not a full-blown VISA, but it is more than Americans are currently required to obtain before visiting Europe for 90-days or less.
This short online application will be rather quick to request and will be good for 3 years once obtained. It will cost an estimated $8 USD to apply for an ETIAS authorization. When it expires, a new authorization will be required before visiting Europe. In order to obtain an ETIAS authorization, travelers must have the following:
- A valid US passport
- An email address
- A valid credit card
The following information will be required at the time of application:
- First name(s)
- Surname or family name
- Maiden name (if applicable)
- Usual name(s)
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Country of birth
The Areas of Europe Where This Will Apply
The new ETIAS authorization will be required to visit any country that is located within the Schengen Area of Europe. If you are unfamiliar with the Schengen Area, I have included a map below that you can reference.
Reasons for the Changes
The EU has decided to make this change for a number of reasons, which I have listed below. However, most believe that the main impetus for making this change is to respond to the United State’s refusal to remove VISA requirements for certain EU member states. This culminated with the EU releasing a report officially requesting that all EU member states be granted a VISA waiver to visit the United States.
Currently, citizens from the countries of Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Cyprus are required to obtain a VISA before entering the United States. Some other reasons listed for implementing the ETIAS authorization process include the following:
- To improve security
- To prevent illegal immigration
- To prevent terrorism efforts
Who Will Be Affected
The European Union estimates that 95% of Americans will have no problem obtaining an ETIAS authorization to visit the EU. However, this does mean that an estimated 5% of Americans who apply for the authorization will be rejected.