Travelers from the U.S. and other countries who previously enjoyed visa-free travel to most of the European Union will not need a visa—electronic or otherwise—in the near future.
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is planned to be implemented in 2024, according to a European Union website about the system. However, the website SchengenVisaInfo.com claims that ETIAS won’t be implemented until May 2025, according to unnamed European officials. No delay has been officially announced by the EU, and Fodor’s has not been able to independently verify the information.
ETIAS is a program that will require many foreign nationals who enter the E.U. without a visa to receive electronic “travel authorization” prior to travel. The authorization is valid for three years, or until the passport it’s linked to expires. Travelers will have to pay a fee of €7 to use the system.
SchengenVisaInfo.com points out that the E.U.’s Entry/Exit System (EES) which is a requirement for ETIAS to operate, is also delayed beyond the originally planned 2024 start.
The website for the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs also claims that the ETIAS system will not be operational until 2025. The website notes that the ETIAS is distinct from a visa—it is instead a travel authorization, which gives visitors leave to enter the Schengen Area, the single border control area for participating E.U. member states, but does not afford other benefits like a visa.
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The Swiss Secretariat for Migration takes a similar line, noting that ETIAS is not expected to be operational before 2025. (Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but is part of the Schengen Area.)
Prior the implementation of ETIAS, American citizens and permanent residents will not need documentation beyond a valid passport to enter the Schengen Area for up to 90 days. The upcoming requirement could gum up last-minute travelers who have not previously entered the E.U., as processing times for new ETIAS applications are unclear. There could also be additional difficulties during airline check-in processes. Countries that currently use ETIAS-like systems, like Australia, place the onus on airlines to verify whether travelers have an electronic travel authorization before allowing them to board.
ETIAS was first introduced by the European Commission in the spring of 2016, and passed by the European Parliament in 2018. The ETIAS program is meant to “achieve the objectives of the European Agenda on Security and the European Agenda on Migration, in particular regarding border management and preventing cross-border crime and terrorism.”
The European Commission’s Office of Migration and Home Affairs notes that: “The date of entry into operation of ETIAS is not yet known. It is expected to be announced at the end of 2023.”
The Office of Migration and Home Affairs also explains that, “The ETIAS travel authorization will be a mandatory pre-condition for entry to the Schengen States. It will be checked together with the travel documents by the border guards when crossing the E.U. border. This prior verification of visa exempt non-E.U. citizens will facilitate border checks; avoid bureaucracy and delays for travelers when presenting themselves at the borders; ensure a coordinated and harmonized risk assessment of third-country nationals; and substantially reduce the number of refusals of entry at border crossing points.”
How the European Commission plans to “avoid bureaucracy” by introducing a pre-travel application and approval process without a clear implementation date isn’t explained.
Citizens of European nations have some of the world’s most powerful passports. Holders of German, Italian, and Spanish passports can travel visa-free to 190 countries, while nationals of Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, and Sweden can travel visa-free to 189 countries. Danish, Irish, and Dutch passports afford their holders visa-free travel to 188 countries.
U.S. passport holders are tied for eighth place, with 184 visa-free nations on the list.