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.