This summer, tourists have swarmed Europe in record numbers. Many of these vacationers are enjoying the visa-free travel to Europe afforded by a United States passport—the eighth most powerful passport in the world this year, according to the Henley Passport Index—or one of the more than 60 other passports that offer visa-free entry to the European Union.
However, travelers from those countries will soon face an extra administrative step before they can enjoy Europe’s coasts, castles and more. As long as they’re staying for less than 90 days, visitors still don’t have to go through the complicated visa process—but they will need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
To register, travelers must fill out a short application and pay a 7 euro (about $8) fee, though those under 18 or over 70 can register for free.
“It won’t be complicated, it’s just an annoyance,” Peter Greenberg, a travel editor for CBS News, tells Brandon Truitt of CBS Boston News. “Most Americans, in fact, all Americans, are not used to doing this to go to Europe so there’s going to be lots of surprises at boarding gates with people being denied boarding over the first couple of weeks, if this goes into effect.”
The application will take approximately ten minutes to complete, AFAR’s Lyndsey Matthews and Michelle Baran report. Applicants will have to enter personal information, travel document details and intended travel plans, as well as details about criminal convictions and travel to war or conflict zones, according to the European Union.
Gaining approval should be relatively straightforward: Officials expect 95 percent of applications to receive decisions within minutes of submission, per ETIAS. In some cases, however, if additional documentation is required, the approval process may take as long as four weeks. For applications that are rejected, travelers will need to initiate an appeals process, according to the Washington Post’s Sofia Andrade.
Once approved, ETIAS authorization lasts for three years, unless the applicant’s passport expires before that time. A successful ETIAS authorization is “linked to a person’s travel document—such as a U.S. passport—and both documents will be needed to board a flight, bus or ship to enter any of the European countries that require ETIAS,” reports Kelly McCarthy of “Good Morning America.”
The program was originally scheduled to launch at the beginning of 2021, and was then pushed to 2023; now, it’s set to go into effect in 2024, per AFAR. When it does, travelers should expect initial hiccups.
“Especially at first, I could imagine it might cause slower passport processing and longer delays,” Cameron Hewitt, content and editorial director at Rick Steves’ Europe, tells the Washington Post. “In 2024, I’ll be careful not to cut it too close on those layovers, until it’s clear whether this is an issue.”
Even so, “it certainly shouldn’t cause anyone to rethink a trip to Europe,” he adds. “From what we know, ETIAS looks like it’ll simply be a manageable bit of red tape.”