Countries across Europe are open and dropping entry requirements – plus you no longer need a COVID-19 test to fly back to the U.S. Yes, transatlantic travel is back on the menu. But it's about to get a bit more involved and expensive to get in.
Starting in November 2023, U.S. citizens and other foreign visitors will be required to apply through ETIAS – the European Travel Information and Authorization System. It's not quite a visa, but a fairly painless pre-travel registration form required for entry to nearly every country in Europe. Europe recently delayed the looming requirement by six months: It had been previously set to go live in May 2023.
Once it goes live, ETIAS is expected to take just 20 minutes or so to fill out online with some basic personal and travel information – with approval in five minutes or less. The cost? Just 7 euro ($7.35) for travelers ages 18 to 70, according to CNN. It's unclear whether minors or senior citizens will pay a reduced rate or be exempt from fees and registration altogether.
Aside from the United Kingdom (which left the European Union) and a handful of Balkan countries like Serbia and Montenegro, ETIAS authorization will be mandatory to visit almost any country in Europe. That includes EU members from Austria to Poland as well as non-EU countries like Iceland and Switzerland.
While it's much cheaper and quicker than traditional visas, this new system will bring the end of hassle-free travel to Europe for Americans who are accustomed to boarding a plane with only their passports in hand. On the bright side, ETIAS authorization will be good for three years – and for multiple entries. So if you plan multiple European trips over a three-year period, your first form should hold up.
And once you land within the European Union, it should be easy to dash around much of Europe thanks to the Schengen Area. This is the agreement between 26 different European countries that allows international travelers to move around visa-free.
This new ETIAS setup has been in the works for many years – in fact, it had been set to launch in 2021, though the pandemic derailed those plans and it's been delayed several times. The U.S. has had a similar electronic entry system for foreign visitors in place for years called ESTA.
The entire process is handled online, and ETIAS authorization is tied to a traveler's so there will be no need to print out additional documentation. Travelers will simply fill out a digital form with some basic information like their name, nationality, contact information, passport number and expiration, and more along with a brief questionnaire.
Travel to Europe is changing soon.
Barring yet another delay, you'll need to fill out one of these ETIAS pre-travel authorizations for a trip to almost any European country starting in May 2023. While relatively hassle-free and cheap at just over $7, it adds an important step in the transatlantic travel process.