You may have seen the news recently.
“U.S. Passport Holders Will Need a Visa to Travel to Europe in 2024.”
“European Union to require U.S. travelers with passports to fill out visa application.”
“Europe Will Roll Out an Entry Fee and Visa Requirement Next Year.”
These headlines are not technically correct. The European Union is not imposing a visa requirement on Americans; however, the EU is moving to launch a new electronic travel authorization program that will make business travel and tourism slightly more complicated for nationals of 60 visa-exempt countries, including the United States.
The European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, is expected to take effect sometime in 2024 (no exact date has been provided). It will operate similarly to Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which the United States implemented for visa-waived travelers in 2007 as part of a group of post-9/11 reforms. ETIAS is designed to work as a “digital watchdog” for Europe and will be required for 30 EU/Schengen Area countries.
The good news is the process for obtaining travel authorization will be fairly simple. Applicants will log on to the ETIAS website or app; provide personal and travel information, including passport details; and pay a €7 fee (for travelers between 18 and 70; others can apply for free). In most cases, applicants will often receive travel authorization within minutes — though it could take longer, as discussed below. Travel authorization will remain valid for three years, or until an individual’s passport expires, whichever comes first.
Assuming the system works as intended, travelers will likely only face headaches if they forget to apply for ETIAS — or wait until the last minute.
Our advice? Start planning now.
ETIAS will take effect for 60 visa-waived countries, representing 1.4 billion people on six continents, all at once. Travelers should expect delays, and even a possible system crash.
On the business front, we predict that companies’ policies will vary. Some companies may apply for ETIAS on behalf of business travelers (ETIAS does allow third-party applications with a bit of additional legwork); others may have employees apply on their own, similar to how the U.S. ESTA program is handled.
What’s important is that employers communicate with employees about the upcoming requirement, update internal resources, speak with travel desk and/or business travel vendors, and ensure their employees apply well ahead of time. While most applications will be resolved in minutes, some could take up to 14 days if flagged for additional information — or up to 30 days if flagged for an interview.
ETIAS also does not do away with other travel and immigration rules. It only permits for stays of up to 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, and allows for the same activities as visitors are used to — business activities and tourism — but not work. Individuals traveling with an ETIAS must ensure the passport details on their ETIAS match their actual passport. Discrepancies may lead to boarding refusals or complications at the border. Non-exempt nationals must still apply for a visa.
Those visiting Ireland or the United Kingdom will not apply for travel authorization through ETIAS, though the U.K. is phasing in an Electronic Travel Authorization program of its own.
New travel requirements often catch people off guard. The end of free movement between the EU and U.K. took some by surprise even after Brexit had been in the news for years. With ETIAS, neither travelers nor companies should be intimidated. When it comes to business travel, however, the sooner companies can develop plans and identify who will own the ETIAS process, the better they, and their workforce, will be prepared for the upcoming change
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