Last week, it was widely reported by media outlets (ahem, including this one) that things were going to get a bit more difficult for American travelers bound for Europe in 2021. Namely, that the E.U. would start requiring Visas, regardless of trip length, from visitors planning that big vacation to Europe.
As it turns out, that’s not exactly true. There is a new system going into place: The European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, will require non-E.U. nationals to fill out an online form and pay a small fee for a one-time, three-year permit, which will cover Americans taking any number of Euro trips during that time. It is expected to go into effect in early 2021.
But as the Washington Post notes, ETIAS is not a Visa. Rather, it is a simple travel authorization for Visa-exempt visitors (like those from the United States) that comes with a quick background check for security purposes. It applies to the Schengen Area, which comprises 26 European countries—excluding the U.K.—where border checks are largely abolished for ease of travel within.
Seeing the confusion online, the Delegation of the European Union to the United States put out a FAQ and a series of tweets to clarify what, exactly, ETIAS does:
As this press release adds, “After filling in an online application form, the system will conduct checks against EU information systems for borders and security and, in the vast majority of cases, issue a travel authorisation within minutes.”
Minutes! Easy. Applicants who don’t breeze through the initial authorization can still be approved by way of furnishing additional documents or appealing the process altogether.
So basically, if you have your passport, approximately $7-8 bucks, and no reason for the European Union to think you’re a massive security risk, you’re probably in the clear for three years of travel. E.U. or bust.