Europe requiring Americans to get visas? Well, no

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Photo Credit: Pia Harris Photography/Shutterstock

Several news organizations have erroneously reported that Americans will need a visa to travel to Europe starting in 2021. 

In fact, the European Union last year decided that all visitors from visa-free countries, including the United States, will have to apply for travel authorization through the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) system prior to their trip. 

According to a fact sheet on the European Commission (EC)'s website, the information gathered through ETIAS will be used to screen travelers for potential security or migration risks.

"ETIAS will be a simple, fast and visitor-friendly system, which will, in more than 95% of cases, result in a positive answer within a few minutes," the EC explains, adding that ETIAS travel authorization does not introduce "visa-like obligations" such as needing to visit a consulate or collect biometric data. 

The EC said the application process should not take more than 10 minutes and will cost about $8 (7 euros) for each applicant between ages 18-70. Authorization will last three years for an unlimited number of entries. ETIAS is expected to be operational starting in 2021. 

The authorization applies to people traveling in Europe's Schengen Zone, which is comprised of 26 countries, including France, Italy, Germany and Spain, but not the U.K. 

The authorization is similar to what the U.S. requires of Visa Waiver Program travelers, who must receive Electronic System Travel Authorization approval to determine that they do not pose any law enforcement or security risk. An ESTA application costs $14 per person. 

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