OAs European countries drop their pre-arrival Covid-19 testing requirements, that doesn’t mean a long-term return to spontaneous travel. American travelers engrossed in adhering to ever-changing Covid-19 rules in European countries may have missed another piece of travel bureaucracy looming on the Atlantic horizon. There will soon be an additional step to take before leaving for Europe.
Currently, a US passport is sufficient to enter European countries for periods of less than 90 days. But that will change next year. Beginning in the spring of 2023, U.S. citizens, as well as travelers from 58 other countrieswill require a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) visa waiver to travel to one of the countries of the Schengen zone for short stays.
Last month, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, announcement an expansion of ETIAS staff. Authorizations will begin in May 2023, according to the press release.
What is ETIAS?
At the end of 2016, the European Commission approved the development of ETIAS as a screening tool to help thwart terrorism and illegal immigration. The automated electronic screening measure is “created to identify high security, irregular migration or epidemic risks posed by visa-exempt visitors,” according to the ETIAS website.
Although American travelers still do not need a Schengen visa, they will be pre-screened before arriving in European Union countries. No biometric data will be collected; Americans will need to provide their passport information and answer “a series of security questions regarding the traveler’s health and whether they have ever been to conflict zones,” according to ETIAS.com.
This new system must not upset the American nose. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has operated a similar visa waiver program since 2008, called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The US Visa Waiver Program requires citizens of 40 countries in Europe and beyond to apply online for a visa waiver and pay $14 to enter the United States for short stays of less than 90 days.
European countries requiring ETIAS authorization
The new travel authorization will be required for each member country of the European Schengen area. Currently, this includes 22 EU member countries, four non-EU countries and four European microstates.
ETIAS registration will be required to enter Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The same goes for trips to the microstates of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.
Four countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania – are not yet Schengen countries but are in the process of joining. Once admitted to the zone, they will also require travelers to have an ETIAS authorization.
European countries that do not require ETIAS authorization
Although Ireland is a member of the European Union, it is not part of the Schengen area. Since Brexit, the United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — is no longer part of the European Union.
Travelers will also not need ETIAS authorization to enter Eastern European countries outside of the Schengen zone, i.e. Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.
ETIAS Application for US Travelers
Completing the ETIAS application online should only take around 10 minutes and “in the vast majority of cases” travelers will receive travel authorization “within minutes”, according to the ETIAS website, which recommends applying at least 96 hours before departure. Once approved, an ETIAS travel authorization will be valid for three years and may cover multiple trips to EU countries.
Travelers between the ages of 18 and 70 will need a valid passport, email address and debit or credit card to pay the non-refundable application fee of €7 (approximately $8). Children and adolescents under 18 and seniors over 70 will need to complete an ETIAS application but will not be charged.
Once ETIAS goes live, airlines flying to Europe will be required by law to check passengers’ ETIAS authorizations before allowing them to board.