Schengen Travel Area changes are coming for American citizens January 1st 2021.

By dev_ln on Tue, 02/11/2020 - 12:24


In the face of the growing immigration crisis of the European Union, including an increasing number of immigrants from third world countries, the ETIAS Visa system (European Travel Information and Authorization System) will be introduced January 1, 2021.

The European Council adopted the policy in September 2018. The new European system will help to increase security in the Schengen countries and catch potential criminals and terrorists. ETIAS will apply to citizens from 61 countries who can stay in the Schengen countries without a visa for up to 90 days. Click here to see eligible countries.

What Does ETIAS Mean For Americans?

Under the new regulations, U.S. citizens who plan a visit in Europe for up to 90 days within a 180-day period, will have to register in the ETIAS system. Visits include tourism, short-term business reasons, short-term education such as an internship, and medical procedures.

So what is the process for American Citizens?

This process can be completed through a dedicated ETIAS website. In order to apply, it will be necessary to pay a fee.

ETIAS is to be issued for 3 years and will allow an entry for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. Your current passport must be valid for at least 90 days from the day of arrival abroad. However, your ETIAS expires when your passport does.

What ETIAS countries can U.S. citizens visit without an European Visa?

Most of the countries are part of the European Union, however some are not including Iceland, Liechtenstein Norway, and Switzerland.

The new regulations will apply to tourists from America who want to visit one of the 26 countries in the Schengen area. These countries are:
Austria, Hungary, Slovenia Belgium, Latvia, Spain, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, * Estonia, Malta, Iceland, * Finland, Netherlands, Liechtenstein, * France, Poland, Switzerland, * Germany, Portugal, Greece, Slovakia.

* Non-EU Members but ETIAS EU Members.

ETIAS is not and will not be valid for travel to Ireland or the United Kingdom. Arrangements for these countries are currently unchanged but may change in the near future depending on the outcome of Brexit.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Cyprus are in the process of joining the EU. A visa will not be required to enter these countries if you do not plan to stay there for more than three months.

How to apply as a U.S. citizen?

To successfully complete the registration process, you’ll need a valid passport, debit or credit card and a carefully completed application form. Remember to check your details before you submit your application, as even a misspelling can cause delays in approval or denial of your entry into a participating ETIAS country.

In order to fill in the application form, you should go to a Etias website. It’s also advisable to register well in advance of your planned trip. At the very latest, you should apply for ETIAS 5 days before your trip. The sooner, the better.

Once submitted, you’ll receive an email informing you of approval status. Applications are usually accepted within 24 hours, but in some cases, the process could take up to 4 days.

Don’t forget that ETIAS is not a visa. It’s a visa waiver. If the purpose of your trip does not fall under the scope of ETIAS, you’ll need to apply for a traditional visa with each country on your itinerary. The authors of the project clearly state that ETIAS is a system for monitoring people traveling to the European Union and to facilitate the entry of third-country citizens.

If the purpose of your trip does not fall under the scope of ETIAS, you’ll need to apply for a traditional visa with each country on your itinerary

ETIAS vs Schengen Visa

There are significant differences between ETIAS and a traditional visa. If you are traveling for 90 days or less within a 180-day period, an ETIAS visa waiver is an easier, faster and overall simpler option.

ETIAS approval allows you to bypass time-consuming and potentially costly visits to embassies and consulates.

First of all, the entire process to obtain a visa requires a lot more effort on the part of the applicant - that includes US applicants.

To register with ETIAS, you only need a valid passport and an email address and the whole procedure is done online. This way you don't waste time completing a number of required documents. Plus, you don't have to take part in an in-person interview.

Find out here if you’ll be eligible to travel to Europe using an ETIAS Travel Waiver

In the case of ETIAS, the approval time is also much shorter. It usually takes a couple of minutes, in some cases it can take up to several days. If you’re applying for a visa, the waiting time can be up to two weeks. With ETIAS, you can stay abroad for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. In the case of visa, the length of stay depends upon the type of visa and embassy/consulate approval

ETIAS allows only a tourist stay, qualifying medical procedures or short-term business visit. If you’re planning on staying longer to work or study in the Schengen area, you will need to apply for a visa.

What is changing?

Until now, the American citizens needed neither a visa nor travel authorization to travel for less than 90 days to 26 countries in the Schengen Visa area.

However, the European Commission is ensuring that these changes are necessary to gain a better insight into the people who come to Europe. The new requirements will improve the detection and prevention of crime and terrorism. The visa requirement for citizens of these countries who wish to travel to the USA has become one of the reasons for the restriction of the freedom of US citizens to travel to the European Union.

It’s worth pointing out that visa approval for Americans do not undergo such a complicated procedure as some Europeans undergo before travelling to the United States.

As a U.S. citizen, will I still need a visa?

The ETIAS system, which will come into effect on 1st January 2021, was approved by the European Parliament in September 2018 in order to increase security in the Schengen visa area, preceded by closer monitoring of visitors to 26 member states.

It’s important to add that their area is the largest in the world, where you can freely travel between national borders. But don't forget that in order to work, study or simply stay in one of these countries for more than 90 days, you WILL still need to apply for a visa.


So, if you’re planning a holiday in Europe, check if the countries you want to visit are covered by the ETIAS system. If they are, be aware that you should register early enough to avoid unpleasant surprises.

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