While it’s not a visa, U.S. travelers will need to begin pre-registering for travel to 26 countries in Europe starting in 2021. Travel Agent spoke with Ryan Amizi, editor for etias.com, a website dedicated to spreading awareness regarding the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), to learn more on what to expect.
“To enter European member countries right now, [U.S.] travelers can just hop on a plane and go through customs,” says Amizi. “With ETIAS they need to be cleared to travel by applying at least 72 hours prior to boarding.”
The new rules apply to European Union (EU) countries that are part of the Schengen area, for travelers from the United States and other countries offering visa-free travel to Schengen members. There will be a 7 Euro per person processing fee, although processing will be free for travelers under 18.
While the minimum requirement for an ETIAS application is 72 hours in advance, Amizi advises travelers apply at least a week beforehand. “Processing should be instant, but if someone has a hit – say, their name matches someone on an Italian criminal database – it’s likely there will be some additional processing to see if this person is ok,” Amizi says.
Importantly, third parties – including travel advisors – will be able to fill out an ETIAS application on behalf of their clients. “They will need to disclose on the form,” Amizi says.
The new ETIAS was established last July to improve security following the introduction of similar programs in the United States and Canada.
“After the terrorist attacks in France and Germany over the past two years, they just want a better understanding of who’s entering their borders, and one area they looked at is visa-free travel,” Amizi says. “It’s reciprocating American and Canadian programs that are already in place.”
Finally, Amizi recommends those traveling in early 2021 apply well in advance. “There will be some hiccups as there always are when deploying systems like these.”