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In two years, Americans will need to apply for something called ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) in order to visit the U.S. The European Commission says the new system will be enforced as an effort to upgrade international security, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will apply only to 22 countries in the Schengen Zone, including France, Germany and Italy. If you’re visiting the U.K., you will not need to apply for this authorization.
At the moment, Americans traveling to Europe for less than 90 days don’t need any sort of authorization or visa. ETIAS is not a visa, but will be a change to the current system.
The authorization will be valid for three years and Americans won’t have to apply every time they want to visit. It will be valid for multiple entries.
In early 2017, the European Union went back and forth over whether or not to pass new visa laws for Americans. In May 2017, the European Commission decided against reinstating visas for Americans, but stated that the decision was contingent upon the U.S. reciprocating visa-free travel for Europeans. At the time, then-secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) John Kelly said that the U.S. needed to reexamine its visa-waiver agreement with Europe, citing potential terrorism risks.
The current agreement between Europe and the U.S. allows citizens of 38 countries to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. Changes to the program were passed at the end of 2017.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the authorization is not a visa, but an authorization.