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In light of this week’s announcement regarding Europe’s new visa waiver program, ETIAS, which goes into effect in 2021, one question is top of mind: are Americans going to need visas to travel to Europe? The short answer is no. But there will be some changes for travelers from the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Below, a quick primer on ETIAS and all of its implications.
WHAT IS IT?
ETIAS, which stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System, is a protective measure taken by the 26 member countries of Europe’s Schengen Area to strengthen their borders, tighten security, and curb terrorism. Starting in 2021, previously visa-free travelers will need to have an ETIAS authorization in order to board any Schengen Area-bound form of transport. (Countries in this designation include France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, and Spain, among others.)
It’s also important to note that Schengen Area countries are not the same as those in the European Union. Non-EU members such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Monaco belong to the Schengen Area, and thus require an ETIAS. But traveling to Croatia, for instance, which is an EU member but not in the Schengen zone, does not. If you hold a citizenship from any EU member country, an ETIAS is not required. If you’re not sure whether your citizenship will require an ETIAS, check here.
HOW DO YOU APPLY FOR ONE?
The process is simple and completely electronic. You will have to fill out an online application which will collect personal data and passport information, and require you to answer a series of background questions regarding health, any criminal history, or travel to conflict zones. To be notified when the application is available, submit your name and email address here.
IS THERE A FEE?
Yes, it costs 7 euros to submit the application for travelers between the ages of 18 and 70. A majority of travelers will get their application approved within minutes of payment. The ETIAS travel authorization is valid for three years and covers any trips to the Schengen Area within that time frame. Keep in mind that if you plan on staying in Europe for more than 90 days, typical visa rules still apply—an ETIAS is not a substitute.