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Currently, American passport holders along with other visa-free countries that wish to travel to Europe only require a valid passport. However, staring in 2021, these countries citizens will be required to apply for a pre-travel authorization called ETIAS before entering certain European countries.
|Römer in Frankfurt, Germany|
Why this change?
Following some tragic events that involve terrorism in European cities in 2016 prompted the need to strengthen entry security checks on travelers that enter Europe without a visa.
When does the change take affect?
Is ETIAS a visa?
No, ETIAS is a not a visa. It is more of a system that each traveler is required to complete online, answer some security questions, and receive an answer back within minutes whether he or she is approved for traveling to Europe. Therefore starting 2021, it is advisable that one should obtain this travel authorization prior to finalizing plane tickets and hotels reservations.
What countries in Europe does this impact?
Any European country that falls under the Schengen area countries such as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Do I need to apply for multiple EITAS to visit each country above?
No. Your single EITAS approval will allow you to travel to each mentioned European country without needing to apply for multiple EITAS for each country.
How much does it cost?
The ETIAS will not cost a lot. It is currently suggested that the cost will be only 7 Euro (~$8USD) and can be paid online with a valid debit/credit card.
How long is it good for?
Once approved, your EITAS will be good for 3 years before you need to apply again. Each visit, you are allowed to travel to those European Schengen area countries for a short-term stay of up to 90 days.
Does this affect travelers that have criminal record?
Simply put, if you don’t have any background/criminal record, you are good to go! EITAS website has put together a nice article on Travel to Europe With A Criminal Record With ETIAS that you can read up. The gist of it is, this EITAS system will have some security questions and it is mainly designed to identify terrorist threats and therefore you are unlikely denied if you have a criminal record with minor offenses. Compared to North America, Europe is more forgiving when it comes to admitting travelers with a criminal background. But if you are unsure, it is advisable that one should obtain this travel authorization prior to finalizing plane tickets and hotels reservations.