US citizens visiting parts of Europe will need authorization from the European Union come 2021.
The EU announced last year it was creating a European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, that will require “pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travellers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area.”
The Schengen Area is a zone of 26 European countries that do not have internal borders and allow people to move between them freely, including countries such as Spain, France, Greece, Germany, Italy and Poland.
Currently, US citizens can travel to Europe for up to 90 days without any sort of travel authorization. ETIAS will change that.
Visa-free travelers, including US citizens, will need to request ETIAS authorization before visiting the Schengen Area. They can complete an application and pay a service fee of 7 euros (about $8) online. The authorization is valid for three years.
“Completing the online application should not take more than 10 minutes with automatic approval being given in over 95% of cases,” the European Commission said in a statement.
The United States has a similar system called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.
“We are aware of the European Union’s plan to implement its own travel information and authorization system, similar to the U.S. ESTA, to contribute to a more efficient management of the EU’s external borders and improve internal security,” a US State Department official said in a statement. “Each country has the right to determine its standards for entry.”
The official added that the “ETIAS authorization is not a visa.”
The United States won’t be the only country affected by the changes. From 2021, citizens from 60 countries will be required to apply for the ETIAS before entering the Schengen Area. Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Israel and Mauritius are among those countries.
The European Parliament agreed to establish ETIAS in July. At the time, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, indicated that the requirement was put in place for security reasons.
“The new ETIAS will ensure that we no longer have an information gap on visa-free travelers,” he said in a statement. “Anyone who poses a migratory or security risk will be identified before they even travel to EU borders.”