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ETIAS: Visa for Europe?

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** Effective September 25, 2023, the European Travel Information and System (ETIAS) has been delayed to at least May 2025. **

I’ve had a number of questions about the need for a visa to visit Europe, so that inspires this week’s article…

ETIAS: Visa for Europe?

There have been various TV news reports and print articles proclaiming that in 2024 travelers will need a visa to travel to Europe, which has created concern about future travels. Applying for a visa can be an involved process for some countries, so it’s reasonable to wonder what it all means.

First off – it’s not a visa.

The name of the program is ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System).

The news has used the phrase ‘visa for Europe’, but it is not a visa, but a travel authorization requirement. US citizens do not need a visa for Europe, so this is method of prescreening travelers who don’t have to get a visa.

ETIAS applies to the 27 member countries of Schengen Area of the European Union (EU) and is designed to strengthen the borders of Europe by requiring visitors to register.

You’ve probably heard the word Schengen before in relation to Europe, but you may not know what it is. Schengen is an area within the European Union where they have no internal border controls, so that they do NOT do checks between their internal borders.
It’s designed to create free movement for the EU citizens, and for those visiting the EU as tourists.

Most of the European countries you would want to visit are Schengen countries, such as Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Greece, Austria, Netherlands, and Iceland. Interestingly, Ireland is not part of Schengen.

So ETIAS will be part of our travel future, but it is still a bit nebulous. It was initially planned to launch January 1, 2021, and then pushed out to 2023, and then delayed again to 2024.

At this point there is no specific release date for the system.

Once they finally establish a date, applying for ETIAS will be relatively quick and easy. There will be an online form that takes about 10 minutes to complete. You’ll need your passport, and you will pay a 7 Euro application fee with a credit or debit card. Within 96 hours of submitting your application, you will receive an email confirming the approval.

The ETIAS authorization will be valid for 3 years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. As long as your stay doesn’t exceed 90 days within a 180-day period, you won’t need to submit any other forms.

You might wonder how the ‘travel authorization’ is different from a visa. At least I did.

For folks that are not from the US and from one of the countries that require a Schengen visa, the person would need to apply for Schengen visa for the specific country they are visiting, or the country they will spend the most if visiting multiple countries. The visa has to be applied for at the embassy or consulate of that country. A visa is definitely a more involved process.

As you are planning your 2024 travels, there is no action needed in regard to ETIAS right now.

Once they finally announce a specific date for ETIAS, there will be a transitional period, so you will have plenty of notice regarding the requirement to apply for ETIAS.

The implementation of the ETIAS will just add a 10-minute application task to your list of travel preparation, but otherwise won’t impact you much, so it’s really not much of a concern.