Q – We are scheduled to travel to Italy in July of 2021 and we are hearing rumors that we may need a Visa to enter the country. Are the European countries seriously going to start requiring Visas for visitors from the United States?

A – The travel community has been slow to embrace this as many of us have been thinking that the policy could change overnight. But it now looks as though it won’t. The days of just strolling into Europe visa-free are over. 

This new requirement applies to all Americans visiting the so-called “Schengen Zone” which is composed of 22 EU member countries as well as four that are not members, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. 

You will need an ETIAS Visa. You can apply online at ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. It goes into effect on January 1st 2021. All US citizens going to Europe will need one. 

For General Information go to

Visa may be too strong a term. Think of it as a European Hall Pass. It will be required because the European nations feel it will tighten security and have a positive impact on illegal immigration and the threat of terrorism. The Visa will be good for travel of less than 90 days.

By the end of 2021, and going forward, there will be a waiver for US citizens visiting European countries for a total of less than 90 days. This so-called “visa waiver” will enable holders to enter any of the Schengen Zone European countries as many times as they wish. The total stay limitation in any one country will become 90 days.

These are the Schengen countries requiring the Visa:

The online application takes an estimated 20 minutes and 95% of all applications will be approved online within 5 minutes using Interpol and other international security databases. You will need information from the photo page of your passport to complete the online form.

There will be a fee. Children will be required to have an individually approved ETIAS. Proof of return ticket within 90 days will be required. The date when online registration will be available has not, as of November 11, 2019, been announced. 

What the Schengen signatories are attempting to accomplish is the registration of visitors from the US without the usual hassles and paperwork associated with applying for in-person visas. Once perfected, the experience should not be onerous at all. 

And here is how the word reads:

The European authorities announced that the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be live and into full effect by 2021.

The ETIAS program will allow citizens from over 60 countries around the world to travel to the Schengen area visa-free. However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t need to notify the European authorities and make arrangements before traveling.

The ETIAS travel authorization is a visa waiver that must be obtained by international travelers before entering the Schengen area. Once granted, it lets the holder visit as many Schengen countries as they like for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

The ETIAS application is designed to be quick and straightforward and entirely online.

ETIAS Requirements for American Citizens

US citizens are eligible to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver for Europe. Applicants will need to comply with the general ETIAS requirements for non-EU citizens. These includes:

  • Providing a valid passport issued by an ETIAS-eligible country (in this case, the United States). The passport will need to remain valid for at least 3 months upon entering the Schengen area.
  • Using a credit or debit card to pay for the ETIAS for US citizens application fee.
  • Providing a current email address to receive information and updates on the application. The approved ETIAS travel authorization will be also sent to this address.
  • Filling out the ETIAS application form in all its parts as accurately as possible.

The ETIAS Application Process for US Citizens

The ETIAS application will be completed and reviewed entirely online. This means that travelers will be able to apply for their ETIAS visa waiver from anywhere in the world (including the US) without having to visit an European embassy or consulate.

Although the application form is designed to be completed in minutes, it’s paramount that all fields are filled and that all information is correct. Inaccurate or incomplete information may result in the ETIAS application being delayed or even rejected.

The ETIAS application form for US nationals will require the applicant to provide:

  • Personal information like their full name, place of birth, gender, etc.
  • Contact details including address, telephone number, email address, etc.
  • Passport details pertaining to the passport the traveler will use to enter the Schengen zone
  • Travel plans and most importantly, the expected first point of entry to the Schengen area
  • Other information such as criminal record and health-related questions.

Why Is ETIAS Being Implemented?

Nationals of most countries eligible for ETIAS are now able to travel to Europe without applying for a visa. It’s natural that they wonder why ETIAS is being implemented.

ETIAS is designed to benefit both the Schengen area and international tourists. On one hand, it will help European authorities strengthen border control with a streamlined digital system. The Schengen nations will have better control over foreigners crossing their borders and better cooperation within the area.

On the other hand, travelers will enjoy a fast, automated system that will give them the authorization to travel in minutes without delays and long queues at the consulate and airport. The ETIAS visa waiver will allow its holder to travel freely within the Schengen area, which presents no hard internal borders.

It’s important to remember that the ETIAS visa waiver does not guarantee entry. Once granted, it must be printed out and presented to the European border control officers upon arrival. They will ultimately make a decision about the traveler’s eligibility to cross the border.