In 2016 the EU began a process to develop a new European travel visa waiver which all American tourists will have to obtain before leaving the US to visit Europe. To do so, US citizens will be required to pay an EU visa waiver fee after completing an online application form.
This new European travel authorization will beknown as ETIAS: the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. ETIAS is due to be implemented in full from 2021. From this date, all travelers from the States will need an ETIAS for US citizens which will be granted after applying online.
The new ETIAS visa waiver will be a requirement for all American citizens traveling to the EU’s border-free Schengen zone, which does not include the UK or Republic of Ireland among other continental European countries.
ESTA-inspired European visa waiver for Americans
The ETIAS was introduced as a European version of the US ESTA visa waiver for eligible travelers to America. When the ESTA visa waiver was announced, several EU members were not in agreement with the new travel authorization and corresponding fee that citizens from Europe would have to pay. However after the success of the ESTA and due to several terrorist attacks on European soil that have shown a lack of border security, the EU decided that to decrease health and security risks in the European zone a new travel authorization practise would have to be introduced; thus was born ETIAS for Europe.
Similar to the ESTA in other ways, the ETIAS application will be 100% online using an application form system where eligible US travelers along with other non-EU tourists will introduce their personal information, passport details and answer some basic security questions. There will be certain Europe visa waiver requirements for all eligible citizens. The application will take approximately 10 minutes and will be sent to be screened against various worldwide security databases including the ETIAS Watchlist, Interpol and more.
Frans Timmermans from the European Commission stated that the European visa waiver scheme would be “easy, quick, cheap and effective” and that the the new security measure is a priority for Europe at the moment in order to protect European citizens.
For the time being there are no visa requirements nor visa fees for American tourists in Europe. However, once the EU visa waiver for US citizens is imposed from 2021, all eligible American citizens traveling to the European Schengen Zone will have to complete the online application form, pay the corresponding EU visa waiver fee and await their valid ETIAS authorization via email before traveling.