A European vacation is an unforgettable experience and something that is on most people’s bucket lists — especially if you live outside the continent. However, traveling to the 26 countries that make up Europe’s Schengen Area is set to change from 2022.
If you want to climb the Eiffel Tower, visit Rome, explore the Swiss Alps, or enjoy sun, sea, and sangría in Spain, you will need to know about the new travel authorization for Europe.
The biggest upcoming change to European travel is the introduction of the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS.
This electronic system is designed to improve security for the Schengen Area by screening travelers who can enter the region without a visa and identify risks before they even reach a European border. In this way, ETIAS will make traveling to Europe safer than ever.
So, what does this mean in practice for international travelers?
Basically, if you are currently able to enter Schengen countries without a visa, you will need to complete an ETIAS application online before setting off to Europe, starting in 2022.
Traveling to the Schengen Area
Starting with the basics, what is the Schengen Area?
The 26 Schengen countries form an open borders region within Europe. This means that once you are in one of these states, you can travel freely between all of them with no border stops or passport checks. You simply have to show your passport and, if necessary, your visa, when you first arrive in the Schengen Area.
The Schengen Area includes 22 of the 27 European Union (EU) member countries, including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Greece, and Sweden. It also includes the 4 members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA): Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.
While each country has its own immigration rules for foreign citizens who plan to move and/or work there, all 26 Schengen member states share a visa policy for visitors.
Currently, the EU and Schengen Area have a list of over 60 countries (known as “Annex II”) whose citizens may enter without a visa, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and many others.
If you hold a passport issued by one of these countries, you can visit any part of the Schengen Area without a visa for up to 90 days. You simply need to present your passport when entering the first Schengen country you arrive in.
From 2022, however, you will also need to register your details online with ETIAS before traveling to Europe.
Will I Need a Visa to Travel to Europe?
If you currently need a visa to enter a European country, this will probably be the case in 2022, unless the Schengen Area alters its visa policy to include your nationality.
Citizens of countries not included on “Annex II” must obtain a visa to visit the Schengen zone. There is one shared Schengen visa that covers entry into all member states.
If you are planning to move to Europe, you will probably need a visa and work permit for the country you intend to live in. Visas and permits for residence, work, and study are issued by each individual state. However, if you are a citizen of an EU or EFTA country, you have the right to live and work in any other member state without a visa.
You should also bear in mind that not all European countries are in the Schengen Area. The UK, the Republic of Ireland, Russia, and a number of eastern European and Balkan countries all have their own independent visa policies. Make sure you check if you need a visa for your destination before booking a flight!
When Will ETIAS Be Implemented?
ETIAS is set to be launched at the end of 2022. However, the system has already been delayed once — it was initially planned for 2021 and it is possible that the disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may lead to the date being pushed back even further.
Once the system is up and running, you may not have to register immediately. According to European Commission sources, the first 6 months of 2023 will be a trial period for ETIAS and registration for travelers will be optional.
After this, however, ETIAS will be a requirement for visa-free travelers coming to France, Spain, Iceland, and any other Schengen country.
Advantages of ETIAS
The good news is that the online registration process will be quick and easy. The ETIAS system is based on the US ESTA, which features a streamlined and user-friendly form that takes a matter of minutes to complete and submit.
Authorization will be granted quickly — usually within a few hours and certainly within 3 business days.
Traveling to the Schengen Area from 2022 may involve an extra step, but it will be more secure than ever. With this added security to European travel, the pros more than outweigh the cons.
With your ETIAS authorization in hand, you will be free to explore the countries of Europe and visit iconic landmarks from Notre Dame to the Colosseum. The only thing left to do is book your flight!
Daniel Moore is an experienced content writer. He is associated with many renowned travel blogs as a guest author where he shares his valuable travel tips with the audience.