Will Travel to Europe Require a Visa in 2021? Not Exactly.
Posted April 24, 2019
Recently, news broke that Americans traveling to Europe in 2021 (and beyond) will have to go through a pre-travel security screening process. Originally, many outlets reported that this new process meant that Americans would need to obtain a visa to travel to Europe. This is not the case. The pre-travel screening process is much shorter, can be done online, will take about 10 minutes, and costs less than $10. Read on for more information.
If this new measure is not a visa, then what is it?
Technically, it’s a “travel authorization,” and it’s part of the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, that the EU will be implementing on January 1, 2021. According to a European Commission press release:
“The ETIAS authorization is not a visa. Nationals of visa liberalization countries will continue to travel the EU without a visa but will simply be required to obtain a travel authorization via ETIAS prior to their travel… An ETIAS travel authorization does not reintroduce visa-like obligations. There is no need to go to a consulate to make an application, no biometric data is collected, and significantly less information is gathered than during a visa application procedure.”
Which European countries does the ETIAS travel authorization affect?
The ETIAS pre-screening will be required for all travelers visiting Europe’s Schengen Area, a region of 26 European states that have abolished passport and border control at mutual borders. The list of countries can be found here, and includes nearly every western European nation except the U.K. and Ireland.
How do I obtain an ETIAS travel authorization?
You’ll need a few documents and an internet connection in order to obtain your travel authorization. This European Commission press release explains the details of the process, but here’s a quick breakdown:
First, you’ll complete an online application via a dedicated website or mobile app. This application won’t take more than 10 minutes to complete, and will only require the information on your passport.
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 70, you will need to submit an electronic payment of 7 Euros with your application.
The automated assessment process will start immediately after the application is submitted, and the vast majority of applicants (expected to be more than 95%) will be approved within minutes.
After approval, you’ll be receive an email response with your travel authorization, which is valid for three years (or until your passport expires).
You must then print this authorization out and bring it along on your trip, as you will need to present it to airline personnel before boarding a flight to the Schengen Area, or to border security in the event that you’re crossing into the Schengen Area via land or water.
How far ahead should I apply?
As the measure doesn’t go into effect until 2021, the application website has not been made public yet. Once it has, we recommend you apply at least several weeks before your trip as a precaution, although to reiterate, some 95% of authorizations will be approved and available to print within minutes.
The United States already requires something similar to this for folks who travel here from other countries. It’s called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA. Now, with the ETIAS, Europe will strive to ensure the safety of travelers within its borders and make your European vacation more secure.