In recent weeks, we’ve seen a huge furor on the internet after Europe announced tourists will be charged an entry fee from 2023. Millions of U.S. citizens, who had been allowed to travel to the continent for years requirement-free, were not exactly thrilled at the prospect… Except they should be. On this article, we will explain why this is good news.
And while you read it, you may find out things about your own country that may surprise you…
For years, Europe has been mulling over the introduction of a travel authorization system, which would require non-European travelers to apply online for a permit to visit ahead of flying to the region. After dealing with several delays resulting from Covid and other internal issues, it seems like European lawmakers’ new priority is introducing this scheme.
Trust us, although it feels like being picked on by the cold-hearted politicians in Brussels, Americans will in fact benefit from this:
What Exactly Is Europe’s New Entry Fee?
The ETIAS, an acronym for European Travel Information Authorization, is a system the European Union and its Schengen Area-associates will put in place starting in 2023, aimed at increasing security at their external borders and cutting down irregular migration. On top of that, it aims making the screening process easier for foreigners.
Once it launches, the ETIAs will have an official website, as well as a mobile app, where visitors will be able to apply. Americans (as well as Canadians and Brits) who were allowed to travel to the Schengen Area with only their passports, as of now, will not be allowed to board their flights unless they hold a valid travel authorization.
It will cost €7 (or roughly $8) and it will be valid for up to 3 years. This means that, once you have obtained your first ETIAS in January 2023, you will be able to travel to Europe as many times as you want until January 2026, provided that you respect other Schengen Area rules, such as not staying for longer than 90 days out of every 180-day period.
So Why Should Americans Europe Is Charging Them?
Europe is overhauling its whole immigration policy. Besides bringing in the ETIAS, it may also be moving its cumbersome visa application process online, in a move that would make it easier for visa-requiring nationals (like Indians, the Chinese, Turkish) to submit applications via the internet. Americans have, luckily, been exempt from the latter.
Many U.S. passport holders do not know, but the travel freedom they enjoy is not shared by all other nationalities. Americans can visit up to 186 countries either visa-free, or by paying for a visa on arrival – Iran citizens are not so privileged, being welcome in only 42 other countries without visa restrictions.
Applying for one is not the easiest task either. Unless they are traveling to an obscure African or Asian nation that demands visas, Americans will never have to fill out an application form, schedule a visa appointment at a Consulate, fly thousands of miles all the way to D.C. to attend a scrutinizing interview, surrender their passport, and then still risk getting a hard ‘no’.
That is the reality for many travelers, usually those coming from low-income countries when they seek entry into the Western World, namely the U.S., Canada and Europe. It is not as straightforward or simple as it is for Americans. In order to enter the Schengen Area, those subject to this regime currently need to apply for a new visa every single time they travel.
Even if they have a layover in Europe, or a short four-day vacation in Barcelona or Athens, certain categories of travelers are subject to the grueling procedure we have detailed above. Not once, but on every individual trip they take, and refusal rates are getting higher. Fortunately, Americans are not among them.
Instead, they can simply pack their passport, other travel essentials and hop on a plane the day after booking a ticket. Doesn’t freedom feel awesome? Well, believe it or not, Europe is in truth extending that freedom through its ETIAS scheme. Once the new border regulations are rolled in, all nationalities who will not require a visa will need instead an ETIAS.
By being subject to a Travel Authorization, Americans are being granted the privilege to continue visiting Europe visa-free. Unlike other media news outlets have wrongly pointed out lately, the ETIAS is far, very far from being equivalent to tourist visas. As you have learnt today, those are much harder to obtain.
Main Differences Between Schengen Visas And ETIAS
Here’s a quick comparison between both:
- Face-to-face interviews are usually required
- A visa sticker is glued to the passport page every time an applicant seeks entry into Europe, making they run out of pages faster
- Visa nationals are granted the right to travel for the exact amount of dates they inform the Consulate, whether it’s 7 days, 14 days, etc
- It costs $81 to apply
- Refusal rates are high and a majority of fees are non-reimbursable
- It is a simple online form that can be filled out in a matter of minutes
- You can use a single ETIAS for travel up to the 3 years
- The fee is only $8
- If your 7-day vacation plans change, you can still stay in Europe for up to 90 days without being penalized
- 95% of ETIAS will be automatically granted, while the remaining 5% will be processed within a few days, and an even smaller percentage denied
The ETIAS will facilitate screening once arriving to Europe. Were you ever welcomed by one of those grumpy border guards that grilled you about the purpose of your trip? Those holding a Travel Authorization will still need to go through customs, but they will have an ‘approved traveler’ status, dramatically reducing wait times.
You get it now? As strange as it may seem, Americans are not being punished by Europe’s new entry conditions: they are being included on the ‘fast-track’ group. ETIAS in hand, they will be allowed to keep country-hopping across a restriction-free Europe – as will Canadians, Brits (now that they are out of the EU), Australians and New Zealanders.
The U.S. Has A Travel Authorization Scheme Of Its Own
Europe is not the only destination that has a travel authorization scheme in place. Many Americans will not be aware of this, but the U.S. has its own, called the ESTA, which Europeans themselves have had to apply for years. Of course, U.S. passport holders (as well as Canadians) do not need an ESTA for travel, but it still applies to all of these countries.
America’s ESTA has been in place since 2009, much earlier than Europe’s, and has proved a powerful tool in stopping ‘undesirable’ foreigners, such as criminals, from visa-waiver countries from entering. Europe is merely ‘returning the favor’, and that is not necessarily a bad thing for travelers on both sides of the pond.
Countries like Australia and New Zealand also demand a travel authorization of visa-exempt nationals, and they are not necessarily a bad thing. They are a pact of mutual trust between countries, seeing that, beyond the Western World bubble, most of the world still requires traditional visas.
Earlier this year, the U.K. was the latest to announce its own ‘ETA‘, signalling this online pre-approval form is the future of travel. So Americans, rejoice: Europe has not identified you as risky travelers who might overstay their time as tourists and will, thus, need visas starting in 2023. All that’s needed is a quick, easy-to-fill online form, a negligible $8 fee, and that’s you.
For more information on ETIAS, including its implementation date, please visit this page.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories