Recent news reports erroneously stated that starting in 2021, U.S. citizens traveling to Europe will need visas. In fact, pre-travel automated screening and authorization, but not visas, will be required to check for “security and migration risks” for those benefiting from visa-free access to Schengen area countries, according to the European Commission (EC). The “European Travel Information and Authorisation System” (ETIAS) will cross-check visa-exempt travelers, including those from the United States, against European information systems for borders, security, and migration. The automated check is expected to take “minutes” in most cases. The application fee is expected to be about $8.
An EC fact sheet states that 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 are collected, and significantly less information is gathered than during a visa application procedure. As a general rule, a Schengen visa procedure can take up to 15 days, and can in some cases be extended up to 30 or 60 days, but the online ETIAS application “only takes a few minutes to fill in. The validity will be for a period of three years, significantly longer than the validity of a Schengen visa. An ETIAS authorisation will be valid for an unlimited number of entries,” the EC states. U.S. travelers staying in Europe for more than 90 days must have a visa. Schengen area includes 26 of the 28 European Union (EU) countries, and a few non-EU countries.