a tower with trees in front of it

Let’s go to Paris tonight will soon become let’s go to Paris in a few days…

Visa free travel is the best travel. You close your eyes, press search on your favourite online travel booking website, take a quick peek at the price, hit book, grab your passport and go. No need to fill out lengthy forms, pay any fees or wait in digital or real life lines. For all the most popular European Union countries, that’s changing. The EU has decided to require visas for all visiting US citizens, and that means your next spontaneous Euro trip just got a bit more complicated. At least, come 2021…

a tower with trees in front of itWhat’s Happening

Effective for travel starting January 1st, 2021, all US citizens will need to apply for an ETIAS visa before travel to any European Union country in the Schengen zone. Think: most European country you’ve heard of, with the exception of Ireland or the United Kingdom. The visas are designed to work like an ESTA, allowing multiple entries over a three year travel period without hassle. Well, after the initial hassle.

You’ll be able to visit any Schengen area country, and won’t need to apply for multiple visas for each place. Visas will be issued electronically and should be relatively fast and easy. Think of it as a one stop visa for most of Europe, but just a short hurdle you’ll need to climb before you visit…

What’s Not Happening

This new visa process doesn’t mean you’ll be standing in line or handing your passport over. You’ll simply apply online, and as long as your passport number stays the same, you’ll be in the system. There 100% will not be any…

  • In person appointments.
  • Need to get stamped before departure.
  • Handing over of your passport before your trip.

a stack of passport and coinsWhat It Means

This is not the end of the world, just a minor set back. The USA requires travellers to obtain an ESTA prior to arrival in the US, which costs a nominal $14 fee and allows multiple entries over two years of travel. With more than 75 million international travellers visiting the USA each year, $14 per traveller really adds up. Obviously, that’s the goal for this new EU measure as well.

How It Will Work

ETIAS visas should be approved in hours or just a couple days, and will likely require a fee similar to the USA ESTA visa, though with three years of validity instead of two it may be slightly higher. If your travel to Europe is completed before the end of 2020, you’ve got nothing to think about. But if you’re planning a Europe trip from January 1st, 2021 and after, you can expect to add a small fee and a little extra paperwork to your plans. Be sure to always allow at least one week for your visa to be approved.

Want your mind blown? More than 670 million people visit Europe every year. Imagine how much revenue would be generated from even a €10 visa…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Two comments:

    First, this is what the USA already requires for all Europeans, whether Schengen or not.

    Second, “every European country you’ve heard of” is not true it only applies to Schengen countries. So the United Kingdom (assuming it’s still in the EU) and Ireland, which you might have heard of, are excluded from the visa requirement.

  2. @Trevor

    Yes, because the checks with APIS are essentially the same as with ESTA or EITAS. But APIS doesn’t keep thousands of bureaucrats gainfully(!) employed, or increase the tax take.

  3. What does this mean for dual US/EU citizens? If I leave the US on my US Passport but arrive in, say Paris, showing my EU passport, will everyone’s head explode? Airlines ask for API and they may not let a US Passport holder with dual citizenship fly to Europe if they don’t pay for the new ESTIA, even though we don’t need it. It’s confusing.

  4. This is NOT a visa. This is a pre-authorization for travel, a sort of pre-clearance. Most Europeans, Japanese, ANZ’ers do the same (ESTA) for travel to the US, but they are NOT visas!!!!

  5. I am an EU citizen (non – Schengen) and I just paid 160 USD for an US visa.
    As long as you do not understand to have the same policy to all EU countries I guess it is right to impose visa for US citizen too.

  6. Well I’d be laughing now and feeling smug – given that this is what the USA has imposed on we Europeans for many years – If I wasn’t, as a UK citizen likely to face a similar situation.

  7. Do the internet a favour and stop mixing up the EU and Europe. They’re not the same, and the laziness of the writer is no excuse.

    Also, the “every European country you’ve heard of” comment was bad, and you should feel bad.

  8. Hah, good move. We ought to require a full blown visa for US citizens. They are a dangerous group.

  9. As said it’s not a visa. It’s only the EU equivalent of esta. All foreigners visiting the EU ( Schengen States as we call them….including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and tiny Lichtenstein) will be required to register online. EU citizens not in Schengen will not need any estias. UK subjects will certainly need to apply just like anyone else. Ireland is in a tricky position because of its status of half in half out in EU but Irish EU citizens won’t certainly need an estias. In the mid term all EU States will be in Schengen as well.some States like Romania or Bulgaria need more time to update their external EU borders.

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