United States passport holders enjoyed the convenience of visa-free access to numerous destinations worldwide in the past, making travel hassle-free for American tourists. According to this year’s Henley Passport Index, the U.S. passport ranked as the eighth most powerful globally, granting visa-free access to 184 destinations.
However, starting in early 2024, American travelers will face a change in their European travel plans as the European Union (E.U.) is set to implement the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
This new regulation will require all visitors, including citizens from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, who currently enter Europe visa-free, to apply for travel authorization and receive approval before their departure.
Unlike a traditional visa, ETIAS only requires a quick online application, and travelers can expect to receive approval via email. The application process will require providing travel documentation including a passport, personal information, education level, current occupation, anticipated trip details, and any criminal convictions.
While most applications are expected to be processed within minutes, some may take longer, prompting the European Union to advise travelers to apply well in advance of their intended departure date. Responses are promised within four days, but certain circumstances may extend the waiting period by 14 to 30 days.
The ETIAS application fee is €7 (approximately $8), except for applicants under 18 or over 70, who can apply at no charge. Once approved, the ETIAS authorization will remain valid for up to three years or until the traveler’s passport expires.
According to the E.U. website, “With a valid ETIAS travel authorization, you can enter the territory of these European countries as often as you want for short-term stays — normally for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.”
The website continues, “However, it does not guarantee entry. When you arrive, a border guard will ask to see your passport and other documents and verify that you meet the entry conditions.”
Any stays exceeding this limit will necessitate a separate visa application.
The system aims to tighten border security and digitally screen and monitor travelers entering and leaving E.U. countries.
ETIAS will be mandatory for travel to all member countries, including full Schengen members like Spain, France, and Italy, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries like Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, future Schengen members such as Bulgaria and Cyprus, and European microstates like Andorra and Monaco.