Americans Still Waiting for European Visa, but ETIAS Is on the Horizon

International travel may rank high on your list of aspirations, whether it involves embarking on a gap year adventure or exploring different countries with friends. In addition to packing your bags, it is crucial to have all the necessary travel documents in order, such as your ID, passport, and visa. However, if you plan on visiting a European Union (EU) country, there’s another requirement you need to fulfill. Enter the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).

Initially announced in 2019, the implementation of the ETIAS program has faced several delays and postponements. It is now scheduled to take effect in the first half of 2024. Some travelers have mistaken this new “travel authorization” for a visa, but that’s not the case. It is a straightforward process that involves an online application and a small fee.

So, what exactly is ETIAS? The European Travel Information and Authorization System mandates individuals from 60 visa-exempt countries who are traveling to Europe to apply for authorization. However, those under 18 and over 70 years old are exempt from this requirement. Think of it as similar to the TSA line at the airport, where everyone except young children and older individuals has to remove their shoes. It’s just another step you’ll need to take.

Once approved, an ETIAS authorization is valid for up to three years and allows multiple entries for a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period. The ETIAS applies to 30 EU nations, including but not limited to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Iceland, Poland, Romania, and Switzerland. So whether you have a summer vacation or a spring break trip planned, this may apply to you. (It’s worth noting that Ireland is not implementing the ETIAS system, so you don’t have to worry if you’re planning a trip there.)

While an exact launch date for ETIAS has not been confirmed, a report from the Council of the European Union suggests that travelers can expect it to be in effect from May 2024. In the not-too-distant future, before you embark on your Italian getaway, there will be one more step to navigate. But how do you obtain an ETIAS authorization, and when should you apply?

The process will resemble the Electronic System for Travel Authorization in the United States. Visitors from countries like the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the U.K. will need to register online and pay a fee of $7.80. However, certain travelers may be exempt from this fee.

Other individuals who may require an ETIAS travel authorization include civilian air or crew members on duty, crew members of an emergency or rescue mission, and civilian crew members of ships navigating in international inland waters. The application, which will be available on the ETIAS website and app, is expected to be processed within minutes and should take no longer than 96 hours in most cases. However, in situations where additional documentation is necessary, the process could take up to 30 days. To ensure you have all your documents in order prior to your trip, it is recommended to apply over a month in advance (the EU suggests doing this even before booking accommodations and flights). Furthermore, the travel documents you use to apply, such as your passport, should have an expiration date of at least three months and should not be older than 10 years.

In addition to ETIAS, there is also the upcoming Entry/Exit System (EES). This automated system is specifically designed for non-EU nationals traveling for a short period to the countries mentioned earlier (excluding Ireland). U.S. citizens will need to use both programs but only need to apply for ETIAS in advance. EES sign-ups will occur at the borders of the 30 countries listed.

Essentially, individuals from visa-exempt countries, like the U.S., will need to provide their biometric information, including their name, date of birth, passport details, and dates and places of entry and exit. This information, along with fingerprints and facial images, will be recorded as travelers pass through electronic gates. The program aims to reduce the need for passport stamps and automate border control procedures. The collected data will be deleted from the system three years after a person’s last trip to an EES-participating country, ensuring data protection. It is important to note that frequent fliers will need to update their information regularly as the system is not a one-time process. Those who overstay their permitted time in the region may face fines, deportation, or banishment from re-entry.

While the exact timeline for the introduction of EES is yet to be confirmed, it is likely to occur after the Paris Olympics in the summer of next year. This approach will allow any potential glitches in the implementation of these two new systems to be resolved following the departure of a large number of people from the EU.


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