Visa-Free Travel To Europe Won’t Be A Thing For US Citizens In 2021

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US citizens are now required to secure EU visa before traveling
Photo By: Megan Eaves/Flickr

Traveling visa-free is a breeze; booking all your travels easily without the need for filing and lining up to get Visas to places you like to visit. But, that is about to change for US citizens who wish to travel to Europe. Visa-free is about to be a thing in the past.

The European Union just announced Friday that United States citizens could not travel to the Schengen area without a visa starting January 1, 2021.

American travelers will need to secure a new type of visa if they wish to travel to any country within the Schengen area. They will need a European Travel Information and Authorization System or ETIAS.

Currently, US citizens can travel to Europe for up to 90 days without a visa for tourism and business.

The Schengen Area comprises all of the European countries that do not have internal borders, which allows people to move between countries freely. But, the Schengen Area is quite big, practically, it includes 26 of the 28 European Union countries including 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.

The ETIAS works the same way as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA of the United States.

Once accomplished, it allows the holder multiple entries over a three-year travel period. The ETIAS allows US travelers to visit any country within the Schengen Area without applying for multiple visas. It’s a one-stop visa for the entirety of Europe.

The ETIAS will be issued electronically and should be relatively fas and easy.

To apply for ETIAS, US citizens will only need a valid passport, an email account, and a credit or debit card, the EU said. For minors, the website said, will need their regular passports to travel after the visas go into effect.

The new EU visa system for US travelers do not include standing in line or handing your passport over. It is easily accomplished through an online application, and as long as your passport number stays the same, you’ll be in the system.

Moreover, there will be no in-person appointments, need to get stamped pre-departure, and surrendering your passport before your trip.

The ETIAS visa would most likely require a fee equivalent to the ESTA that’s worth about $14, but the ETIAS provide up to 3 years of validity so it may cost a little higher.

Once the online application is accomplished, the ETIAS visa should be approved within hours to a couple of days.

If you have any plans of traveling to Europe before January 1, 2021, then you have nothing to worry about. But if your intentions are after, make sure to at least allow a week before traveling or until your visa is approved.

Just make sure to fill out the out the forms carefully (travelers are not new to ESTA technical errors, anyway). People have spent thousands of dollars on canceled flights and rescheduled trips just because they forgot to check their documents.

According to the ETIAS website, the European Union decided to implement improved security measures with relation to foreigners traveling in and out of the country. Moreover, it aims to reduce problems regarding illegal migration and terrorism.

On the other hand, critics suggest that this is a result between the US not allowing five of the European countries to travel without securing a visa first. The five countries in the EU that require a US visa are Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Cyprus.

This move follows after the 2016 European Commission report calling for the US to grant the same visa-free status to those five countries as the other 23 EU nations in exchange for US citizens maintaining the same visa-free status in the Schengen Area. EU rules require equal treatment for all member states.

However, others say that this is just a revenue ploy by the EU. With more than 75 million international travelers visiting the USA each year, $14 per traveler sums quite nicely. Meanwhile, more than 670 million people visit Europe every year. 

Currently, the United States holds the third place for having the most potent passport in the world with 165 visa-free scores, along with Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, Finland, Italy, Singapore, Netherlands, France, Singapore, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland, and North Korea. Germany and the United Arab Emirates are at second and first, respectively.

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