This month, the European Union announced that U.S. citizens will no longer have visa-free travel to Europe, starting 2021.
Currently, U.S. citizens have 90 days of visa-free travel within the Schengen Area of the European Union.
Visa-Free Travel in the Schengen Area
Like other Americans, I cannot spend more than 90 days out of 180 days in the Schengen Area. Only 22 member countries have participated in the Schengen Agreement except Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
It would be nice to stay in Spain for three months and then in Italy for the next three months. Unfortunately, the Schengen Agreement rules don’t allow it.
A common option is to wait three months after your Schengen Area visit before you enter the area again. You can wait out those three months in a nearby country like Ireland or Romania, where the Schengen Agreement rules don’t apply.
The reality is that the Schengen agreement rules complicate flexible travel to the EU countries.
If you wanted to stay in the European region for a year, you would need to include Ireland, Romania, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, or the UK in your travel itinerary to avoid violating the Schengen Agreement rules. Otherwise, you could stay in Europe for a year if your itinerary includes countries that aren’t in the Schengen Area.
So, if U.S. citizens will lose visa-free travel to Europe in 2021, what requirements will U.S. citizens need to get a visa to the European Union and how long will the visa last?
The Future of Visa-Free Travel to Europe
First, U.S. citizens aren’t the exception. In 2021, there are dozens of other countries that will lose visa-free travel to Europe, including (but not limited to) Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, and Mexico.
Instead, the European Union will require all non-EU permitted countries to get a ETIAS authorization. All non-EU nationals will need to apply for a ETIAS authorization before their trip. The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is an automated IT system that conducts security checks.
The good news is that applications are processed and completed within minutes. Moreoever, non-EU nationals will no longer be limited to the “90 days out of 180 days in the Schengen Area” rule. Instead, their ETIAS authorization will be valid for three years with an unlimited entries.
The ETIAS authorization costs only $8 (USD). Yes! You read that right! And the European Commission expects that more than 95% of applications will be approved.
This change allows me to stay three months in Spain and stay the next three months in Italy. With this travel authorization, I could stay three months in a different European country for a period of three years.