When I first heard this morning that visa-free travel to Europe would end for US citizens in 2021, I was dismayed. I remember how time-consuming it was to get a visa before the visa-waiver program started in the late 1980s. And I figured that the US would retaliate, requiring visas from Europeans, which would essentially destroy tourism between the two regions.
The reality isn't really anything like that. In fact, it merely brings the EU in line with what the US has required of visa-free travelers for years.
Starting in 2021, Americans will simply need to register with the EU equivalent of our Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA:
Currently, US citizens can travel to Europe for up to 90 days without any sort of travel authorization. ETIAS will change that.
Visa-free travelers, including US citizens, will need to request ETIAS authorization before visiting the Schengen Area. They can complete an application and pay a service fee of 7 euros (about $8) online. The authorization is valid for three years.
"Completing the online application should not take more than 10 minutes with automatic approval being given in over 95% of cases," the European Commission said in a statement.
The United States won't be the only country affected by the changes. From 2021, citizens from 60 countries will be required to apply for the ETIAS before entering the Schengen Area. Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Israel and Mauritius are among those countries.
So this should not affect taking a last-minute trip on the Eurostar, or crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic. And it's fair; we've required ESTA registration from all overseas visitors for many years. I'm annoyed particularly at NPR for getting the details totally wrong in their newscast this morning.