Europe’s plan to launch an Electronic Travel Authorization, which will require Americans to pay a fee every three years in order to travel, has just been pushed back until 2024 as Brussels continues to grapple with operational issues and the complexities of the system’s implementation. The ETIAS, as it’s been dubbed, was initially set to come into force at some point this year.
As things stand, Americans are not required to apply for a permit in order to enter Europe. In fact, authorities have made border crossings an incredibly smooth experience for U.S. citizens, allowing them to cross freely via several e-Gate entry points, with no other requirement other than carrying a valid biometric passport.
Once ETIAS come into force, however, they will need more than simply providing ID:
What Is A Travel Authorization System?
Europe is preparing for a major overhaul of its existing border rules, and Americans will be among those affected. Soon enough, tourists who are currently exempt from applying for a short-term visa traveling to Europe will be expected to obtain a travel permit in advance or an Electronic Travel Authorization – but what exactly does that mean?
ETAs, in their short form, have become widely popular since the United States introduced its ESTA in 2008 as part of an array of measures aimed at increasing national security. Other countries like Australia and New Zealand have also implemented their own, with Australia being a pioneer in launching the Electronic Travel Authority as early as 1996.
Even though it’s not a visa, and it’s normally issued online in a matter of minutes, ETAs have been a stone in the shoe of travelers who are growing wary of border formalities, especially in a post-pandemic context. After all, unless they hold a valid permit for an ETA-requiring country, they risk being barred from boarding or even refused entry into that territory.
Interestingly, Europe – more specifically, the European Union (EU) – never introduced an ETA, despite talks that it would be enforced circulating in the media for years. Confirming the rumors, the European Commission finally set an introductory date for the permit in 2020 – and then, of course, the pandemic hit. Ever since, several postponements have taken place.
When Will Europe Launch Its ETIAS?
The most recent date, announced in August 2022, had been set for the May-November 2023 period, but the launch will no longer be going ahead as planned. Apparently, the EU Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs silently kicked the can down road further by removing any mentions of a November 2023 launch from the official website.
Now, it simply reads 2024, though more details were not given, such as an exact month or reason behind the latest postponement. While this is merely guesswork at this point, we suspect it may be due to the ongoing challenges of enforcing a complex, cross-national border strategy when there are 26 countries involved.
Based on the information provided, the ETIAs will apply to visa-exempt travelers seeking entry into the Schengen Area, a customs union and border-free zone within Europe that comprises not only a majority of EU member states but also the nations of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Other than improving security, the main goal is to track every tourists’ move into and out of Schengen.
Americans can visit Europe hassle-free, but they must observe one simple rule: never staying longer than 90 days out of any 180-day period. This means that, when using up an entire three months inside Schengen, including any time spent in any of the participating countries, they must immediately leave the territory of all member states and wait three additional months to be readmitted.
Over the years, the enforcement of this rule has led to some confusion, especially when newcomers are unsure whether their date of entry counts as day 1, or if the date of exit counts towards the 90-day limit, and ended up overstaying, amid other uncertainties. Luckily, the Commission developed a calculator that helps Americans verify the legality of their stay.
How Expensive Is The Fee?
ETIAS applicants must pay a €7 fee through the official ETIAS website or app. The EU has reminded tourists the system is not yet operational and that any third parties offering travel permits are scammers. For now, and until 2024 at the latest, Americans are not subject to EES or ETIAS rules, being allowed to enter Europe requirement-free.
Besides the Travel Authorization, Europe is also introducing a new Entry-Exit System (or EES), already being trialed in a number of external borders ahead of a wider rollout. This means that, from late 2023/early 2024, all foreigners entering the bloc will be expected to register fingerprints for stricter border checks on top of presenting their ETIAS at the check-in desk.
For a complete list of all the countries Americans must pay to enter in 2023, please read our accompanying article.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com