The European Union and Schengen Zone have undergone some major changes in the last few years, with new countries qualifying for the agreement and with countries like the United Kingdom backing out of the union. It can be a little concerning for American citizens who regularly travel to Europe, but the good news is that there are still some streamlined and simple processes in place to make life easier for tourists, students, and business travelers.
One such process is known as the ETIAS visa waiver, which comes into effect at the end of 2022. All US citizens traveling to Europe need to know about the ETIAS visa waiver as they will be required to complete the application and receive travel authorization before they travel to Schengen countries.
What is the ETIAS Visa Waiver?
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) applies to all Schengen countries and must be completed by anyone seeking to visit these countries from the United States and 60+ other nations.
As part of the Schengen agreement, all countries within the Schengen Area agree to operate with the same border controls, which means that if you receive authorization to visit one country in the Schengen Area then you will be able to visit all of them.
The ETIAS was designed to strengthen the external borders of all Schengen countries and it does this by automatically checking travelers against international security databases, looking for warning signs that will allow them to prevent terrorists, drug smugglers, and other serious criminals from entering the region.
Which Countries are in the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Area spans 26 countries, including some of the most popular European tourist destinations for American citizens:
- Czech Republic
What are the ETIAS Visa Waiver Requirements for US Citizens?
All US citizens must have a valid passport with at least 3 months of validity remaining. The ETIAS visa waiver will then be tied to the passport used during the application process. It is valid for 3 years from the point of approval, but if the passport expires before that point, then the ETIAS authorization will expire as well.
A successful ETIAS application will allow you to access all countries within the Schengen Zone for no more than 90 days within a 180-day period.
How to Apply for an ETIAS Visa Waiver?
To apply for an ETIAS visa waiver, you need to go through the official website and complete the online ETIAS application form. It will ask you for a valid passport with at least 3 months validity remaining, and it will also ask some basic questions about your travel plans and your personal details.
At the end of the application, you will be asked to pay a small fee with a credit or debit card.
The entire application process should take less than 10 minutes and if there are no issues, you will be sent the travel authorization via email. If there is a red flag during the ETIAS application, it may trigger a manual review, but unless there are some serious discrepancies or some major crimes on your record, you should be okay.
The Most Popular Tourist Destinations for Americans
Mexico is by far the most popular travel destination for US citizens, and it is closely followed by Canada, which comes as no surprise. When they venture away from North America, many Americans make a beeline for the United Kingdom, which is not part of the European Union or the Schengen Area.
The most popular destinations within the European Union include Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.