For Americans, Travel to Europe Will Be Slightly More Complicated

United States citizens wishing to visit or travel to the majority of the European Union nations after January 2021 will have to register online and pay a small fee as part of a new security system intended to screen visa-free travelers.

What’s changing?

Starting on Jan. 1, 2021, American citizens will have to register online, through the new European Travel Information and Authorization System, to enter any of the 26 Schengen-area countries, plus four countries currently in the process of joining the area, regardless of the duration of their visit or the number of countries visited. The European Council adopted the policy in September 2018.

What’s the current process?

American citizens traveling to these 26 countries for stays of less than 90 days do not require visas or travel authorization.

Is it a visa?

E.T.I.A.S. registration is not a visa, according to the European Union. Americans will not be required to visit a consulate to file any kind of application, fingerprinting is not required, and less information will be asked than is expected of visa applicants.

Why the change?

The new requirement is part of the European Union’s effort “to identify any security or irregular migratory risks posed by visa-exempt visitors,” according to the European Commission. The system is meant to improve detection of human trafficking, criminal activity and people who may pose security threats, it said.

The commission also said the system would also facilitate border crossings “for the vast majority of travelers who do not pose such risks.”

What other travelers will need to register?

The authorization will be required for citizens of more than 60 countries that currently travel visa-free to the European Union, including the United States, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

How does one apply for the E.T.I.A.S.?

Citizens will need a valid passport, an email address, and a debit or credit card to register. Authorization will not be tied to any travel plans.

How much will it cost?

7 euros, or about $8

When does it expire?

The E.T.I.A.S. authorization will be valid for three years and allows an unlimited number of entries.

Which countries require registration?

While the European Union is composed of 28 countries — with Britain set to exit this month — the Schengen area is made up of 26 European countries without internal borders that allow free movement between nations.

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 are the 26 countries.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Cyprus are currently in the process of joining the Schengen area. Visa requirements do not apply for Americans wishing to travel there and stay less than three months.

Tariro Mzezewa reported from Columbia, S.C., Milan Schreuer from Brussels.

Tariro Mzezewa is a travel reporter at The New York Times.  @tariro

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