The long-standing privilege of visa-free travel for Americans and British citizens to several countries may be facing a significant change next year. According to the recently released Henley Passport Index 2023, both US and UK passports are ranked among the world’s strongest, with the UK securing the fourth spot and the US ranking eighth. However, this status could be at risk with the European Union’s decision to introduce ‘visa’ requirements for travellers from the US, UK, and other visa-free countries.
In 2024, the European Union plans to implement the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which will mandate all travellers from visa-free countries to obtain travel authorisation documents before their arrival to EU member states. So, what exactly is ETIAS?
ETIAS is not a traditional visa but rather a travel authorisation document that travellers from the US and UK will have to acquire before their journey. The application process is entirely online, and the EU recommends that travellers apply for ETIAS authorisation well in advance of their travel plans.
Applicants need to provide their bio, itinerary, travel history, and answer some security-related questions through an online portal. Unlike a visa application, ETIAS approval is expected within an hour, though in some cases, it might take up to four days, and additional documentation could be requested. US applicants over 18 years old are required to pay an $8 fee, while 18+ UK applicants need to pay £6.
Once travellers receive their ETIAS document, it remains valid for multiple entries within a period of three years or until the expiry of the traveller’s passport, whichever comes first. Visitors with ETIAS approval can stay up to 90 days at a time within a 180-day period and are required to carry their ETIAS documents and passports at all times during their stay.
The introduction of ETIAS aims to assess potential security risks posed by travellers before their arrival in the EU, thereby enhancing border security and preventing cross-border crime and terrorism. As the implementation of ETIAS approaches, Americans and British citizens planning to travel to Europe must familiarize themselves with the process and comply with the new requirements to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey.