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Wait, do you need a visa to go to Europe now? The new ETIAS requirements, explained
St. Mark's basilica in Venice is one place U.S. passport holders may not be able to get to without approval under the new ETIAS requirements Andrea Pattaro/AFP via Getty Images hide caption
St. Mark's basilica in Venice is one place U.S. passport holders may not be able to get to without approval under the new ETIAS requirements
Already thinking about next summer's vacation plans? If Europe is on your short list, there could be one extra step to take before boarding that plane.
Starting in 2024, American passport holders traveling to 30 European countries will need authorization via the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
Though it may sound complicated, the ETIAS and the reasoning behind it are quite similar to existing travel requirements and reflect increasing fear of terrorism in the U.S., Europe and around the world.
Here's what you need to know.
What is ETIAS? Is it a visa?
While some media outlets are taking a cue from the European Union's travel site and calling this a visa, in truth, ETIAS is more like a travel authorization form.
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"It's definitely not a visa," said Dan Hamilton, a senior non-resident fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. "It's an electronic entry-point, an authorization for countries that are currently visa-free."
Even the European Commission has said as much (and in bold letters) , writing this is "not a visa" but rather an "automated IT system" in a press release on the discussions around it back in 2018.
Whatever you want to call it, the ETIAS form is not what you'd seek if you're trying to work or live in Europe, but rather what you'll need for short-term trips — up to 90 days within any 180-day period.
Why is it being implemented?
These new requirements have been years in the making, stemming back to a rise in terrorism fears following 9/11. It's very similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization — or ESTA — program that the U.S. implemented in 2008 .
At the heart of ETIAS is an electronic database system to better track who's coming and going. According to the EU's latest report on terrorism data , EU law enforcement authorities arrested about 388 suspects for terror-related offenses in 2021, more than half of whom were accused of being associated with Jihadist groups based abroad.
The European Commission says ETIAS may have the added impact of cutting down on "irregular migration" (i.e. illegal immigration), but one thing the form is definitely not aimed to do is deter tourism in general.
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Crowded cities, inflated airfare and extreme heat disasters may all be making headlines this summer, but many of these European countries are still depending on tourism revenue to help them bounce back from pandemic slumps, Hamilton said.
And the pandemic is another one of the many reasons this new requirement has been delayed by decades — there was no need for ETIAS when countries closed their borders to all travel amid fears of spreading COVID-19.
"Another part of it is simply the pace of the way this parliament and European commission works," Hamilton explained in an interview with NPR. "They're ending their term and pushing through a lot of these directives because parliamentary elections happen next June."
"And getting 30 countries to agree on anything takes a long time," he added.
When does it take effect?
The European Union's website says the new authorization will start in 2024 but hasn't clarified a specific date. A press spokesperson for the union's travel arm did not respond to NPR's request for information.
And, similarly, a spokesperson for the State Department told NPR that the U.S. government website for international travel (travel.state.gov) would be updated "once the regulation goes into effect," but didn't specify when that would be.
"Frankly, I'd be surprised if this starts on time," Hamilton said. The rollout of ETIAS has already been delayed at least once.
But it couldn't hurt to plan ahead for any 2024 travel just to be safe.
Who needs to apply for ETIAS approval?
Basically, all passport holders from 60 countries who can currently travel to most European destinations without a visa — and that includes American passport holders — will now need to get ETIAS authorization for the same trip. That's about 1.4 billion people, by the European Union's estimation.
There are 30 European countries in total on the impacted destination list , including those in the "Schengen Area" — 27 European countries, many that are part of the European Union, that agreed to ease border restrictions to facilitate the movement of people within Europe.
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Those Schengen countries include top vacation spots like France, Italy and Spain.
The other three countries on the list are Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus, which are all trying to become a part of the Schengen Area soon.
You can check the full list of both impacted passport holders and affected European destinations here.
How can you apply for ETIAS approval (and does it cost money)?
The application isn't open yet, but the European Union says that when it is, all necessary forms can be filled out via a web portal or mobile phone application.
You'll be asked to share personal information such as your date of birth, parents' names and details about your current occupation and previous criminal convictions. You'll also need to share a passport that is not set to expire in less than three months.
Oh, and you'll have to pay a fee of 7 euros (about $8).
When is the right time to apply?
If you want to play it safe, apply well in advance of your trip — no later than a month out.
ETIAS says most applications "are processed within minutes" and decisions are delivered within four days. But that wait could take up to 14 days if you are requested to supply additional information and up to 30 days if you're invited to interview.
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Those denied an application can appeal, but that process could be even lengthier.
The European Union says ETIAS approval will stay valid for three years or until the passport you used in your application expires.
Naturally, you'll also need to follow the ETIAS rules to stay in good standing.
Those with ETIAS approval can stay in the European countries on the list for up to 90 days within any 180-day period. So you can leave and come back, but you can't stay in the confines of the countries on the list for 91 days or more non-stop.
What happens if I don't apply for this and try to travel to Europe?
Your ETIAS approval will be linked to your passport. So without it, airport security (or cruise, bus or train line staff) won't let you board.
In other words, you can kiss that dream vacation goodbye.
- European Commission
- Europe travel
- European Union
- About ETIAS
- ETIAS Fundamental Rights Guidance Board
- ETIAS Central Unit
Since mid-2025, people from more than 60 visa-free countries will need to get a travel authorisation before coming to Europe for a brief stay. The authorisation will be processed through the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
ETIAS will further strengthen Europe’s internal security by carrying pre-travel screening of visa-free travellers to determine whether they pose a security, illegal immigration, or public health risk.
The entire ETIAS ecosystem is complex and consists of the ETIAS Central Unit hosted by Frontex, ETIAS National Units located in 30 European countries, and the large-scale information system developed and maintained by eu-LISA.
How it will work
Citizens of over 60 visa-free countries will need to apply for an ETIAS travel authorisation before heading to any of the 30 European countries shown below.
The ETIAS system will check the information provided by the applicant with data already stored in other EU systems such as the Schengen Information System (SIS), Visa Information System (VIS) and Entry/Exit System (EES). If the application raises any concerns, it will be reviewed by the ETIAS Central Unit and sent to the relevant ETIAS National Unit for final decision.
It is expected that most applications (about 97%) will be approved automatically within minutes. The remaining 3% will be reviewed manually by the ETIAS Central Unit and the National Units.
Travellers who do not have a valid travel authorisation will be refused boarding by the carrier (for example, an airline, bus or ferry company).
At the border
When a visa-free traveller arrives at a border of one of the 30 European countries requiring ETIAS, border guards will scan their travel document data electronically and register them in the EES, triggering a query to ETIAS. If the traveller has a valid travel authorisation, they will be able to cross the border if all other entry conditions are also fulfilled.
More information about what ETIAS means for travellers from visa-free countries can be found on the official ETIAS website .
The role of Frontex in ETIAS
Frontex plays an important role in establishing and managing ETIAS by hosting the ETIAS Central Unit, which will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to handle ETIAS applications and help travellers and carriers.
The ETIAS Central Unit is also responsible for identifying risks, risk indicators and screening rules. These will be used to assess travellers in terms of illegal immigration, security and high epidemic risks. The Unit’s responsibilities also include managing the content of the official ETIAS website, as well as ensuring that the information stored in the system is accurate and up to date.
Fundamental rights and ETIAS
The protection of fundamental rights is at the core of all ETIAS operations.
The ETIAS Fundamental Rights Guidance Board has been set up to assess the impact of processing applications and the screening rules on fundamental rights.
The Guidance Board is composed of representatives of the Frontex Fundamental Rights Office, the Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights of Frontex, the European Data Protection Supervisor, the European Data Protection Board, and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.
As an independent advisory body, the Fundamental Rights Guidance Board will regularly carry out evaluations and make recommendations to the ETIAS Screening Board regarding its work, particularly regarding privacy, data protection and non-discrimination. The ETIAS Central Unit will consult the opinion of the ETIAS Screening Board to ensure that risk screening is carried out in full respect for fundamental rights.
Going to Europe next year? You may have to pay a new entry fee.
Starting in 2024, an $8 etias application will be required for u.s. travelers to enter e.u. countries.
Starting in 2024, some travelers to countries in the European Union will have a new hoop to jump through before they embark on their journey.
Following new travel authorization rules announced by the E.U. under the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), prospective visitors from more than 60 “visa-exempt” countries, including the United States, will have to fill out an online application and pay a small fee before traveling to any of 30 European countries.
“It’ll be a minor hassle, but it’s not unusual for countries to have entry requirements like this one,” said Cameron Hewitt, content and editorial director at Rick Steves’ Europe. “It certainly shouldn’t cause anyone to rethink a trip to Europe. From what we know, ETIAS looks like it’ll simply be a manageable bit of red tape.”
Here’s what travelers need to know:
System for registering non-EU nationals travelling for a short stay in Europe (starting in the second half of 2024)
Travel authorisation for visa-exempt travellers to enter Europe (starting in mid-2025)
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