Entry to the European Union is changing for people from the United States starting next year. What are the new ETIAS rules, when do they come into force, and how will they affect you and where you can travel?
New European travel rules being implemented next year will affect visitors from 60 countries, including the US. There are currently 1.4 billion people in those 60 countries that can visit the 30 European nations to which the new rules will apply, so this regulation will add an extra step for a significant number of incoming travelers. But what are they, and what do you have to know? We answer all your questions.
What’s the new system called?
The new entry system is called the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS for short. It’s basically a version of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization — or ESTA — program that the US brought in in 2008.
Is the ETIAS a visa?
No. The European Commission was very clear on this when the system was announced back in 2018, stating it was “not a visa” but rather an “automated IT system”. It’s essentially an electronic checkpoint — one last piece of authorization before travelers can enter a part of the world that’s currently visa-free.
Why do I need ETIAS?
Travelers will need to complete an ETIAS form if they want to visit Europe. It’s not for work or permanent relocation purposes, but rather what you’ll need for short-term trips — up to 90 days within any 180-day period.
Which countries in Europe will require ETIAS?
The countries affected include big tourist destinations such as Italy, France, and Spain. In total, there are 30 countries — 27 that are part of the Schengen free movement area, and Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus, which hope to become part of Schengen soon. You can see the full list of affected countries and impacted passport holders here.
How do I apply for ETIAS approval? Does it cost money?
As mentioned above, it’s similar to the US system. You’ll need to provide details about yourself (passport number, address, occupation etc.), pay a nominal fee of €7, and you’re good for up to three years of coming and going — or until your passport expires, if that’s sooner. It’ll be available either through a dedicated web portal or on an app.
When should I apply?
Our advice is not to leave it later than a month before your trip. Although ETIAS says most applications “are processed within minutes” and decisions are delivered within four days, if you’re required to provide additional information, that period could increase to 14 days, and if you need to interview, be prepared to wait for up to a month for the decision. When you’re approved, you can visit the area for up to 90 days within any 180-day period. So you can leave and come back, but you can’t overstay your welcome.
What happens if I don’t have ETIAS approval?
You won’t be able to travel. Your ETIAS approval will be linked to your passport, so if you have one without the other, you’ll be denied entry to the area.
Why is the ETIAS being implemented?
It’s an electronic database to track movements in and out of the continent. Similar to the US system, the intention was to track people suspected of planning terror attacks; the reason it’s been so long in the making is that, according to Dan Hamilton, a senior non-resident fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in an interview with NPR, “it is simply the pace of the way this parliament and European Commission works. It was delayed by the pandemic as well when countries closed their borders anyway, and simply getting 30 countries to agree on anything takes a long time.”
A by-product of the implementation of the system may be less “irregular migration” (what the European Commission calls illegal immigration), but what it’s absolutely not intended to do is deter tourists. Many countries are still dependent on tourism to alleviate any lingering effects of the pandemic-affected years, and are happily welcoming travelers back as such.
In short, ETIAS is simply a mildly inconvenient hoop to jump through while traveling. UK and EU citizens have been doing something similar since 2008 and it hasn’t affected or deterred tourism to the US. Just make sure you read up on the rules before traveling, and you can happily start making plans for your next trip with Kiwi.com.
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