(This post has been updated to clarify that the ETIAS authorization is not a “visa.” Rather, the application process is for travel “authorization.”)

As American citizens, we’re spoiled. We’ve got an incredibly strong passport and traveling to Europe has always been easy; just book and go. As long as you’re going for fewer than 90 days, there’s no paperwork and no hassle. Well, that’s about to change. In 2021, less than two years from now, US citizens will need a three-year, ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) authorization. The ETIAS authorization is technically not a visa, but rather it is a travel authorization to enter most European countries, including Greece, France, and Italy (full list of the 26 countries below).

Apparently, it’ll be a simple online process to be done, and paid for, in advance through secure online payment. To get an authorization to enter these countries, you’ll have to apply online at the ETIAS website. To enroll, you’ll need a valid US Passport (valid for at least three months beyond your intended stay return date), a credit or debit card and a valid email address (to be able to receive the ETIAS confirmation). You’ll also have to enter a valid street address for your permanent residence and valid phone number during registration. The cost is said to be roughly $8 (eight dollars) per person, so no big deal there.

According to the ETIAS website, the authorization will be multi-entry, meaning you can use it multiple times in the three-year validity period and you’ll be able to use the same authorization to visit more than one country. This authorization will specifically apply to the 26 European countries of the ETIAS Schengen zone. These include:

  • 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
  • Switzerland

The EU countries of Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland are not part of the Schengen Area and have their own regulations regarding visas, if required.

The ETIAS website states there will be few restrictions on the applications to “promote tourism while maintaining a high level of international security.” I’m all for international security, believe me. However, I’m fairly certain this will hurt European tourism, because this isn’t just for US citizens. This impacts travelers from 60 countries to which this new authorization requirement applies.

Now, you’ll tell me that many people around the world are accustomed to having to apply for visas to travel, even Americans traveling to certain places. Then you’ll tell me that having am authorization system in place indicates a higher security level. That may well be true, but I still think this will hurt European tourism – though just a bit. After all, we enter our basic contact information and credit card pretty regularly online to shop on sites like Amazon. Travel however, is a little different. Having to take out your passport and apply for an authorization online will deter some people. We’ll have to see how the traveling public will react.

If I were (still) an international tour operator and yacht cruise line company, I’d be preparing to make this as easy as possible for my clients. I’d immediately start working with every single middle-man vendor and travel partner in the travel booking process, to make sure the application procedure (with links) are mentioned everywhere online and with travel agents. I’d even offer tele-support assistance for the application process, despite it apparently being an easy online form.

For my travel friends, all I have to say is let’s get organized and make a, hopefully, easy application even easier for travelers. For my fellow travelers, a simple online authorization application is but a small, extra step to see some of the most beautiful places on earth and have an experience of a lifetime.

For more and updated information, visit the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) site for updated information.

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