The ETIAS visa application form has similar objectives to the American ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, part of the Visa Waiver program).

ETIAS is designed to pre-screen visa-exempt travelers who wish to enter the Schengen Area, while ESTA pre-screens those who travel to the US. Other similarities might include resemblance in the travel authorization forms such as the personal, passport and past visa information, currently required when completing an ESTA form. Questions regarding criminal, educational and employment history might also be asked.

When the U.S. ESTA came into practice, there were complaints from EU members about the new travel authorization scheme which would affect many Europeans who frequently travel to the US.

With the ETIAS travel authorization for Europe coming into play in late 2022, many of these European Parliament Members have had to eat their words as a European travel authorization will now be a requirement for those citizens who previously did not require a visa to visit the EU. This will include US citizens who will be eligible to apply for an ETIAS for Americans from 2021 via an online platform.

The U.S. ESTA is a visa waiver scheme that permits travelers from countries whose citizens do not need a traditional embassy or consulate visa to enter the US, do so with just a travel authorization granted through an online application.

The ETIAS Travel Authorization will be a similar program to the U.S. ESTA allowing travelers from ETIAS-eligible countries to visit the E.U. Schengen Zone with just one approved ETIAS for Europe that will be available from late 2022.

ETIAS; the New Travel Tax?

Much the same as the statements made by the EU when the U.S. ESTA travel authorization was introduced, the implementation of ETIAS Europe has seen similar reactions calling it the new travel tax for Europe, as was the original purpose of the ESTA.

The ETIAS Europe proposal was made by the EU in 2016 as part of several new measures to increase security and safety for the Schengen Zone countries. It will see a new system put in place for travelers who currently do not require a visa to enter Europe.

Those who may feel most afflicted by the ETIAS EU system are citizens of the UK once the Brexit negotiation is complete. If there is no special legislation set for UK citizens to continue enjoying border-free travel throughout Europe, British nationals wishing to visit the Schengen zone will also need to apply online for an ETIAS travel authorization and pay the corresponding travel visa waiver fee.


Apart from the simple difference of the price tag and the fact that the ESTA is for travelers to the U.S. and ETIAS for travelers to the EU, the systems are relatively similar and will both use an online application system for potential travelers to register before departing.

Both travel authorization schemes will process applicants based on their contact and passport information as well as the individual responses given to certain health and security questions.

The differences between the ESTA and ETIAS have more to do with the conditions of each visa waiver. Both travel authorizations are multiple-entry travel authorizations but the ETIAS for Europe will be valid for 3 years once confirmed, paid and approved via the electronic European visa waiver system, whereas the ESTA is only valid for two years until a renewal is required.

The other major difference between the ESTA and ETIAS travel authorizations is that when traveling to Europe from an ETIAS-eligible country, citizens will not need to pay the ETIAS travel tax if they are under the age of 18, whereas the ESTA is necessary for travelers of all ages.

For more information on the ETIAS visa waiver which will come into effect from 2021 onwards, check out these questions about ETIAS to get to grips with the new travel authorization necessary for Europe.