In recent weeks, mainstream media has reported extensively on the tightening of Europe’s entry rules, more specifically, the looming introduction of the controversial ETIAS, which stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System.
It will apply to all foreigners visiting Europe as short-term visitors, including Americans. It may seem like an additional hurdle, but unlike what has been reported extensively across mainstream media in recent weeks, this does not mean travel is getting any harder.
In this article, we will give you the lowdown on Europe’s new entry requirements and explain why exactly you shouldn’t believe mainstream media:
Understanding Europe’s New Travel Permit
For years now, numerous rumors – most of them untrue – regarding ETIAS have circulated on the web. From fake websites claiming to process applications to misconceptions regarding its very nature, there is still a lot the general public does not understand about the entry permit.
Originally set to be implemented in 2020, it has been delayed a number of times due to the health crisis, giving rise to much speculation, including whether it was being introduced or not. The pandemic has now subsided, and it is finally set to launch in 2024.
Once operational, it is set to change Europe-bound travel forever, but unlike what the mainstream media has reported, it will not make travel any harder for Americans. Believe it or not, it may even help smooth the immigration process.
An Electronic Travel Authorization, usually shortened to ETA or other variations, is an online permit applying to visa-exempt nationals seeking entry into a foreign country. The media may be calling it a ‘visa’, but it is nothing like one.
In fact, it is the exact opposite of a visa.
How Does The ESTA Work?
They can easily be obtained by filling out an online form, answering a select few security questions, and paying a symbolic fee. Once obtained, ETAs are valid for a number of years – usually between two or five – and can be used multiple times until their expiration date.
In Europe’s case, it will allow eligible foreigners to visit Europe for 90 days out of any 180-day period during the three years it remains valid.
Commonly used to pre-screen travelers ahead of arrival, they have been available in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and several others for years now, though they were never a requirement in Europe.
Europe’s ETIAS is merely a response to the States’, Canada’s, Australia’s, and most of the Western World’s own travel authorization system and concerns travelers who currently enjoy visa-free travel in the continent.
Once ETIAS is operational, however, Americans who do not hold a valid permit will not be permitted to enter Europe’s Schengen Area, where it is valid. Contrary to popular belief, they will still be exempt from visas, as ETIAS are something else.
It Costs Only €7 To Apply
An ETIA application, which is completely online, will take only a few minutes to complete, and upon payment of a €7 fee, applicable to travelers aged 18-70, the vast majority will be issued automatically within minutes, delivered straight to an applicant’s email.
Only those who may pose a danger to Europe, based on cross-database references and personal information, or who have broken short-term stay rules before will have their applications processed manually and potentially denied.
The average American who’s not a terrorist, an illegal migrant seeking entry to Europe, or a criminal blacklisted by international organizations has nothing to worry about. They will almost certainly be issued an ETIAS instantly upon submission.
The same applies to all foreign nationals who are currently allowed to travel in Europe without a tourist visa, including Canadians, Brits, Australians, New Zealand nationals, Mexicans, and others.
Other non-visa-exempt travelers will continue to be subject to visa rules, and that’s where sensationalism has arisen from. Americans are visa exempt and thus eligible for the simplified ETIAS procedure.
The tourist visa application in Europe is a lot more burdensome and applies only to foreign nationals facing visa restrictions, such as those from Turkiye, Morocco, Vietnam, and numerous others.
What Is The Difference Between An ETIAS And A Visa?
Applying for a visa to enter the Schengen Area entails booking an appointment at a visa center, usually in an applicant’s country of residence, where they will be required to present an extensive list of documentation proving the following:
- Their planned itinerary in the Schengen Area
- They have purchased a return ticket or onward ticket out of the Schengen Area upon fulfillment of the itinerary
- Financial resources, proving they have enough money to support themselves, and other dependants, during their leisure trip
- Proof of accommodation, usually satisfied through hotel bookings, or invitation letters dated, signed, and registered by a host who’s a habitual resident in Europe
- Any other documentation that proves they have solid ties to their country of origin, or country of residence, such as property they own and/or proof of employment
Other than the documentation, applying for a visa can take several months in certain places, as appointment dates are limited, and the wait time can be long.
There is also no guarantee a visa will be issued, as the decision lies in an immigration officer’s hands, and should they ever suspect an applicant’s actual goals are to overstay or illegally migrate into the Schengen Zone, either due to a lack of financial resources, or incomplete documentation, the tourist visa will be unceremoniously denied.
Visa fees can be hefty also, at €80 per adult, and Schengen visas are normally issued individually for each trip. This means every time a non-visa-exempt foreigner wants to visit Europe; they must undergo the same procedure, irrespective of how short their intended stay is.
As you might have guessed, an ETIAS is way easier to obtain, as you are not required to disclose any of this private information nor submit any document whatsoever other than your passport number, it costs only €7, and it lasts for three years, or until the expiry of an ETIAS holder’s passport, whichever comes first.
Most definitely, Americans and other Westerners who are not EU citizens will not need visas to enter Europe, as an ETIAS is a different category. If anything, Americans are being spared the worst of Brussels’ infamous bureaucracy.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com