Americans are used to being able to travel to Europe with minimal planning in advance as far as comes to gaining entry. However, all that is changing come 2021. Americans will need to register starting in 2021 to travel to the European Union. Not only will Americans need to register online but they will also have to pay a fee before they enter Europe. The fee is minimal (likely about 7 Euros). Previously, this type of process was not a requirement for Americans when traveling to the EU. This new process will be considered a pre-screening and registration process.
Currently and until 2021, Americans are able to travel for up to 90 days in the 26 European Countries (Schengen area) that allow border-free travel without any sort of visa or permit. However, that will be changing.
Starting in 2021, Americans will need to apply for a European Travel Information and Authorization (ETIAS) permit in addition to having a passport and credit or debit card. Once you have received a travel authorization to enter the European Union, you will be able to enter an unlimited amount of times for 3 years. This process is similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which the U.S. uses for countries that are part of the Visa waiver program.
The ETIAS permit will require American travelers to apply online which will include filling out basic information (name, date of birth, etc.), passport information as well information about the applicant’s health, criminal record and any previous European immigration history. The application will be checked across databases and travelers’ can likely find out within minutes if their application is approved. If it is denied, there will be a reason why.
The ETIAS process will not be nearly as in-depth as a Visa process that involves consular interview and background checks. This new process that goes in to effect in 2021 was first approved in 2016 by the European Commission. However, the European Parliament did not approve it until 2018.