The US and EU member states have visa-free travel agreements in place. This means that US citizens do not normally have to apply for a visa for Europe.
However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made international movement harder to predict due to several travel restrictions in place around the world.
Moreover, American nationals will soon have to apply for a specific electronic authorization called ETIAS for Europe before crossing the ocean.
This article includes useful information for US passport holders who wish to travel to the EU and would like to learn more about restrictions and regulations.
Do Americans need a visa for the EU?
US citizens do not need a visa for short-term, leisure trips. This means, for example, that tourists and those going to Europe to visit friends and family for a short trip can travel visa-free.
Depending on their specific circumstances, however, some travelers may need to obtain a visa. That is the case, for example, of those who intend to work in the EU or explore Europe for long periods of time.
European travel authorization for US travelers: ETIAS
Starting from late 2022, however, US citizens will need to apply for a valid ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) authorization before they can reach Europe.
The ETIAS must be shown to the European authorities upon reaching the Schengen external border. Failure to do so may result in the traveler being refused entry into Europe.
ETIAS is a new electronic registration system that intends to keep better track of visa-free third-country nationals entering the Schengen Area. It is also expected to shorten queues and waiting times at the airport and other European points of entry.
It is not a visa, meaning that the visa-free status of American citizens will not change in 2022. However, ETIAS will become mandatory.
Nationals of all those countries that can now visit Europe without a visa will need to start applying for ETIAS at the end of 2022. For now, visa-free travel continues without further documents needed.
How to get an ETIAS from the US
US nationals will be able to easily apply online for ETIAS in minutes. The process is very easy since this is not a traditional visa but rather a simple travel authorization.
As long as they have a valid US passport, email address, and can pay the application fee online, American citizens should have no issues applying and will be done in just a few minutes. Once they fill out the application form, submit digital copies of supporting documents (if applicable), and pay the ETIAS fee, applicants will receive their approved authorization within a few working days or even hours.
Can US citizens travel to Europe during the COVID pandemic?
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to many international travel routes in an effort to curb the spread of the disease. After locking their internal borders for several weeks during the peak of infections in the area, Europe has started allowing travel within the Schengen Zone in early June 2020.
In July, the European authorities released a list of non-EU countries whose citizens can reach the Union. Due to its high number of COVID-19 cases, the US is not on the list for now.
Until the disease is under control, US nationals cannot travel to the EU (but they can travel to Britain and Ireland, provided that they self-isolate for 14 days.)
However, exceptions apply. Health and humanitarian workers, diplomats, and asylum seekers (among others), for example, are exempt.