As an American, traveling to Europe has always been a breeze. Just buy the ticket, fly there, pass through immigration, and I’m in! Easy.
Well, starting January 01, 2021, Americans and travelers from about 60 other countries who currently enjoy visa-free travels to all Schengen countries in Europe, will have to take an extra step to visit said region.
This extra step is called the EU Travel Information & Authorization System (ETIAS) and on this post I’ll give you all the necessary information to know whether you need to apply for one on your visit to Europe during 2021 and beyond, how to apply for it, how much it costs, among other information.
1. What exactly is the ETIAS?
It is NOT a visa, even though it is often described as a visa. In fact, it is just a travel permit, or visa-waiver, similar to the ESTA travel permit already established by the USA.
When applying to this permit, the ETIAS system will check all the security credentials of travelers visiting EU member countries with the purpose of tourism, business, medical treatment, and transit.
2. What is it for?
The ETIAS was created to allow for safer, easier short-term travel to Europe’s Schengen Area. Schengen is comprised of 26 countries who have agreed upon a set of rules regarding who can visit and how long they can stay.
The ETIAS is a way to centralize Schengen’s visitor data and enhance its border security.
Travelers who currently visit Europe visa-free and are able to apply for the ETIAS will just undergo additional security checks prior to being permitted to enter into the EU. These checks are done online during the application.
3. Which European countries require the ETIAS?
Basically, every EU member country requires either the ETIAS or a Schengen Visa. The following is a list of the countries that are EU members:
4. Who needs to apply for the ETIAS?
Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among 57 other nationalities need to apply for the ETIAS. Those other nationalities not mentioned here or listed on the link above need to apply for an appropriate Schengen Visa, also known as a Europe Visa.
If you’re not sure whether you’ll need an ETIAS starting 2021, use this handy tool to check if your citizenship is eligible.
An important note regarding the UK. Since they just left the EU, it is still unclear whether the ETIAS will apply to them or not. This is still being ironed out, so stay tuned as this post will be updated and new information comes out.
5. What’s the difference between the ETIAS and the Schengen Visa?
The ETIAS is just a new travel authorization for short-term travel – applicable to tourist or business travelers who are currently exempt from needing a visa.
This short term travel allows you to stay in Europe for up to 90 days every 180 days. A Schengen visa is required for long term travel (more than 90 days) or for nationalities not accepted in the ETIAS program.
6. How much does the ETIAS cost?
The ETIAS only costs 7 euros. Travelers under the age of 18, or over the age of 70, will not need to pay the fee – but still have to apply.
7. How can you apply?
You can only apply online. Applications will start closer to 2021. One ETIAS application is valid for all ETIAS member countries, so you can move freely within them.
In other words, You can arrive in Barcelona to enjoy Gaudi’s architecture, travel overland to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, continue to Austria to ski in the Alps, and end in Rome, surrounded by all its ancient history. The same free travel you have today.
8. When should you apply?
The short answer is the sooner the better, but you should apply at least 5 days before your trip.
9. How do you know if you are approved?
Once submitted, you will receive an email within minutes informing you of approval status. Should there be any issue on your application, the approval could take up to four days to be resolved.
10. How long does it last?
Once approved, your ETIAS will last for three years, or up to the expiration date of your passport, if it expires before those three years.
This overview should have given you all the necessary information to stay up to date with the new ETIAS.
Seriously, it’s no big deal and most probably it will not affect your travels at all or make any difference from the way you travel Europe today. It costs less than a fast food meal and is done online in minutes, pain-free!
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