Dear European Union,

I saw your tweet stating…

Thank you for taking the time to clarify that the new measures you’ll be adding in 2021, which require foreign travellers to fill out a form, send an application and pay a mandatory fee are not in fact “visas”. It’s really important that you took the time to clarify this to try and make us all feel stupid, because every travel visa I’ve ever previously obtained required filling out a form, sending an application and paying a mandatory fee before traveling. You can see where the confusion began, at least for me.

Actually, yesterday one of your own employees shared the same confusion when they were quoted in a major media brief stating…

“The ETIAS visa for Americans is a multiple-entry visa with few restrictions in order to promote tourism while maintaining a high level of international security,”

Dear EU, thanks for the technicalities.

Like people who feel the need to say  “Apple” after I say “Mac”, you’ve now proven that you are the cool kids who know better than everyone and that your ability to quote technicalities makes you far superior to those who opt for common slang. Even worse, you already called it a visa. You can say this is about preventing terrorism, or pre travel screening, but isn’t that exactly what a visa is designed to do? Just call it a visa. I’m fine with the money, the effort and all that – heck, the US already did it via the ESTA program – just don’t pretend its not a visa.

Your new thingy is said to go like this, from your own website: Travellers will have to complete an online applicationvia a dedicated website or an application for mobile devices.All non-EU nationals who do not need a visa to travel to the Schengen area will have to apply for a travel authorisation through the ETIAS system prior to their trip. The validity will be for a period of three years. An ETIAS authorisation will be valid for an unlimited number of entries.

The definition of a visa, as found on Wikipedia is: A visa s a conditional authorization granted by a country to a foreigner, allowing them to enter, remain within, or to leave that country. Visas typically include limits on the duration of the foreigner’s stay, territory within the country they may enter, the dates they may enter, the number of permitted visits or an individual’s right to work in the country in question.

Holy cow, they sound an awful lot alike.

I covered the news because US travellers, like UK and other non EU travellers who frequent the European Union really need to know that times will be changing. Today, I can find a flight to Europe and travel… today. Once you open up your new visa, whoops, I mean ETIAS, I can’t.

You’ve chosen to line your pockets with tourist dollars the way the United States has with its own “non visa” known as the ESTA and that’s absolutely fine. Anyone who can pay $300 plus hotels, plus food, plus transfers can probably pay your fee which will be between $10-$20, but you couldn’t just be happy with that.

You just had to to make the world feel dumb, by saying that your system is just going to be a special electronic authorization for travel and not a visa. To 99.9999% of the world, the only thing other than money holding them back from visiting another country at a moments notice is a visa. You can get as technical as you want, it’s not doing you any favours.

The word visa makes the world feel more fractured and closed off than ever before, and every tourism board is aiming to remove visa restrictions to increase visitors. To stave off bad press, the UAE added agreements to become the world’s “most powerful passport”, allowing visa free travel to more nations than any other. This clarification of yours is just a little trick to get around slipping in the rankings.

That’s the sole and entire reason you felt the need to clarify. Adding visa requirements is bad press. Pretending a visa isn’t a visa, and is just an online form which actually does the exact same thing is like pretending that a “bribe” was in fact just a little “gift”. Potato, potaaato it’s the same damn thing.

I’ll look forward to filling out your electronic VISA on January 1st, 2021.

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