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EU Clarifies: Americans Can Still Visit Visa-free but Need Pre-Travel Screening

As of 2021, US travelers wishing to visit an EU country will be required to spend 10 minutes online applying for authorization under the EU’s security policy.

EU officials clarified this week that American travelers will not need to apply for a visa.

European Commission officials were quick to respond this week, to erroneous media reports that US holidaymakers would be required to get a visa for travel to EU territories.

The regulations, announced last year and set to take effect in 2021, will require travelers to enter personal information – no consulate visit or biometric data required – online with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which will then be cross-checked by Interpol and other security databases.

Once the background check is complete, travelers will receive an approval – effective for three years and multiple entries to Schengen Area EU countries – or rejection in their e-mail.

This screening procedure will apply to nationals from some 60 countries that do not currently need a visa, including the United States.

The application will cost approximately 8 US dollars and authorization will be automatic in “95 percent of the cases” but may take up to four weeks in some instances.

Under the current system applicable in 26 EU countries part of the Schengen Area, US travelers can enter for 90 days using their passport.

“The ETIAS authorization is not a visa. Once operational, it will carry out pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travelers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen Area. When arriving at the EU borders travelers will need to have both a valid travel document and an ETIAS authorization,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Meanwhile, on its part explains that ETIAS “is a completely electronic system which allows and keeps track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone. In a way, it resembles the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which serves a similar purpose … Since citizens of countries who do not need a visa for travel purposes of up to 90 days in the EU do not need to go through a long process of applying for the visa, the ETIAS will make sure that these people are not a security threat”.

Starting 2021, all US nationals planning to visit Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland must register with ETIAS before travel.

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