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Everything You Need to Know About the New Visa Rules for Americans Traveling to Europe

Written by Lauren Saccone

If you’re planning to travel from America to Europe this year, be prepared: the European Union’s rules on international travel are about to change. EU members have opted to back a proposal that would strengthen security throughout the region. This new change impacts Europe’s Schengen Area, which is made up of 26 countries throughout the region. While all these changes may have you rethinking your Euro-trip, you should know there’s no need to panic!

We’ve got the rundown on what you need to know about the new visa rules for Americans traveling to Europe. Read on to learn the facts before your next European vacation!

What Has Changed?

traveling to europe

The EU will be implementing a system it calls European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS for short. This will be mandatory for American passport holders (among 60 nationalities to date) traveling to any Schengen Area commencing at the end of 2021.

Officials hope ETIAS will improve tourism and trade throughout the union, but it’s also designed to identify security threats to ensure travel safety for tourists coming in and out of the EU. And luckily, ETIAS is entirely electronic, making it relatively simple, fast, and easy to use. This means you can spend less time worrying about your application and more time planning for your European journey and booking flights to Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, etc.

What Does ETIAS Mean for American Passport Holders?

traveling to europe - visa

While American passport holders have had the luxury of traveling visa-free to the Schengen Area, this will change once ETIAS is implemented in 2021; all US passport holders will have to apply for ETIAS.

Once approved, the ETIAS visa waiver will be valid for 3 years and will give US travelers permission to travel freely between Schengen Area countries for stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

If you are a non-citizen residing in the US and come from a country that does not have an established visa-free policy with the EU, you’ll still need to apply for a Schengen visa in the US in order to visit the 26 countries in the Schengen Area.

How and When Can I Appy for ETIAS Clearance?

 New Visa Rules for Americans Traveling to Europe: Happy traveller woman sits in front of the traditional gondolas of St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy

We know you’re at the edge of your seat to know how to get this visa waiver (ETIAS clearance can make traveling to Europe a much smoother, stress-free endeavor for you!). While the ETIAS application process is yet to go live, you can get more information on the system from this memo on the EU’s website. We can definitely say that the only paperwork you’ll need on hand is a digital photograph for verification purposes and a valid passport.

As we mentioned earlier, this process will be made mandatory for US passport holders sometime in 2021, and must be done at least 72 hours before your trip. Even senior citizens and infants will need to have their applications approved beforehand (although they do get to waive the small fee that comes with the application process). The good news is that it only takes about 10 minutes to fill out the application.

Keep in mind that when applying for ETIAS clearance, you must enter through the country you list on the form. For example, if you say you’re entering the Schengen region through Austria, you can’t just show up in Belgium and expect to gain entry. However, once you’re in the Schengen region, things become far less complicated: your ETIAS clearance allows you to travel anywhere in the area for up to 90 days without having to worry about a visa.

Regardless of the implementation of ETIAS, remember that international travel hasn’t changed completely; it’s important to keep all your vital paperwork safe and secure, no matter where your journeys take you through the Schengen region. Be smart, be aware, follow the new procedures, and you’ll be ready to see the EU in serious style!

Questions about ETIAS clearance? Ask away in the comments below!


About the author

Lauren Saccone