Will Americans need a visa to travel to Europe? What to know about ETIAS authorization

Americans heading to much of Europe will soon need to add a step to their pre-travel preparations before heading across the pond.

Beginning in 2021, Americans and visitors from dozens of other countries will need to obtain a new travel authorization from the European Union before they're able to enter most of the countries in the bloc. It's all part of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), a travel framework that's been in the works for several years.

ETIAS approval is expected to take just minutes for most travelers and cost a mere 7 euro, approximately $8, according to the European Union. It could, though, take up to a month to get an answer for the estimated 2 percent of travelers who will require manual screening.

Visitors will need a passport or other equivalent travel document in order to fill out the online application. Each ETIAS authorization is valid for three years or until the passport or other travel document used to apply expires.

Despite reports claiming otherwise, the ETIAS authorization is not a visa in the traditional sense, according to the EU. Unlike a visa application, ETIAS does not require applicants to visit an embassy or consulate, and the EU collects less information and takes less time to return an answer.

The authorization is only required for travelers visiting the 26 European states that make up the Schengen area, which includes all but a handful of EU member states. Americans will need to obtain a visa if they plan to remain within the Schengen area for more than 90 days.

"The ETIAS travel authorization will be a necessary and small procedural step for all visa-exempt travelers which will allow them to avoid bureaucracy and delays when presenting themselves at the borders," the EU explained in a press release last year.
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