The European Union may do away with the current visa waiver program applicable to US and Canadian citizens as a retaliatory move for restrictions imposed by the U.S. and Canada on some EU countries.
Currently visitors to the U.S. from Croatia, Poland, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania need a visa. Bulgarians and Romanians also need a visa to visit Canada.
Meanwhile, Americans and Canadians can generally travel to Europe visa free for pleasure.
The EU is insisting that the US add more European countries to the list of those whose citizens can travel without a visa. However, according to the US government, the countries in question have not met the requirements for its Visa Waiver Program.
Visa waiver reciprocity is a principle of the EU’s common visa policy and, under EU rules adopted by the European Parliament and Council in 2001, if, within 24 months, non-reciprocity by third countries is not corrected then this can be cause for suspending the visa waiver for citizens of those third countries.
On Tuesday, April 12, the European Commission set a July 12 deadline for the European Parliament and the bloc’s 28 member governments to offer advice on next steps. After that deadline, the commission could lift start the process of imposing visa requirements for Americans and Canadians.
The travel industry now fears that two of Europe’s major markets may not be coming back.
The European Travel Commission (ETC) has called on EU authorities to reconsider and take into account the political, economic and administrative consequences of such a decision.
According to reports, scrapping the 15-year-old visa scheme, that allows US and Canadian travelers 90 days of visa-free access to EU states, is unlikely to be ratified by European national parliaments, particularly in view of the contribution of US tourism to local economies.
American and Canadian visitors account for the largest percentage of EU arrivals. Last year, the number of incoming travelers boomed thanks in great part to the strong US dollar with arrivals from the two markets reaching 30.3 million. US tourists spent more than $54 billion during their stay in 2014.