New Travel Requirements for U.S. Travelers to Europe

Starting in 2021, there will be new travel requirements for U.S. travelers to Europe. While it’s nothing too intimidating or complex, the new travel requirements for U.S. travelers are going complicate entry into Europe—“complicate” here being a relative term. As U.S. citizens, we’re currently pretty lucky. Beyond the 90-day limit within the European Schengen zone, we face no visa requirements or terms for visiting Europe. Let’s break down exactly what the new policy is, and what you can expect.

What are the new travel requirements for U.S. travelers to Europe?

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Starting on January 1, 2021, all U.S. citizens who want to travel to the 26 members of Europe’s Schengen Zone will need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). If you don’t, you risk being turned away at the border.

The new policy is mostly for security, as Europe has seen a lot of terrorist threats in the recent years. Their goal with these new authorizations is to be able to keep an “open borders” policy while still knowing who is entering the region and what their backgrounds might be.

How complicated is the registration process?

We can probably liken it to the ESTA process European nationals face when visiting the U.S. It’s pretty straight-forward—simply registering your visit’s purpose, your key personal details (passport), and running through a background check.

Like the ESTA, the ETIAS will be available online, and should only take about 10-15 minutes to complete. The application requirements are simple. All you’ll need is

  • valid passport
  • an email address
  • and a debit or credit card to pay the nonrefundable €7 application fee (there are no other fees associated with the program).

The online application will request the personal information on your passport, and ask you to answer a series of security and health-related questions. The application is then checked against international security databases like Interpol and Europol. Rest easy—your application should be approved and sent to your email address within a few hours after those checks. Children under the age of 18 will be required to have an ETIAS, but they will not be charged the application fee.

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How long is the ETIAS valid for?

Once you have your ETIAS, it is valid for three years. That means you will not need multiple ETIAS authorizations for multiple trips, as long as your travels fall within the three year window. When the validity has expired, you will need a new ETIAS authorization.

Will U.S. citizens need a visa to travel to Europe?

No. The ETIAS isn’t a visa, but a travel authorization. You will not need to go to a consulate to make your application, and they will not gather biometric data.

What countries will require travel authorization for U.S. travelers?

As of January 1, 2021, you will need to register to enter 

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco (micro-state)
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino (micro-state)
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Vatican City (micro-state)

Important to note that though Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus aren’t currently Schengen countries, they are in the process of joining. Once they become Schengen countries, they would be added to this list.

Any countries not in the Schengen region (for example, Turkey, Albania, Serbia, etc) will not be subject to the new travel requirements.

The verdict?

The overall process sounds like it was developed with convenience for the modern traveler in mind. While it presents what some might view as a minor hurdle, the new authorizations are meant to offer more safety and security during your travels. Certainly can’t complain about that!