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Understanding the new 2021 Schengen Visa Requirements for Americans (ETIAS)

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Americans are set to face new Schengen visa requirements beginning in 2021. Historically, American passport holders have enjoyed free entry into the Schengen Region (26 European states that have essentially abolished borders within the region) and the ability to stay for 90 continuous days before being required to leave the Schengen region for 90 days. There is a lot of information going around regarding the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) after notifications earlier this year that Americans will be required to obtain a visa to travel to Europe after 2021. We felt it necessary to set the record straight: the ETIAS is NOT a visa. It is simply en electronic system that allows European authorities to keep track of visitors who aren’t required to obtain a visa. It is very similar to the United States Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Both systems are predicated upon security and visibility. 

Here is a general idea of the ETIAS online system:

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The process to obtain an ETIAS requires nothing more than completing a quick online form and paying a fee of €7. Essentially it seems that we as Americans are finally being taxed for flooding the cities of Europe with tourism. This will certainly give the EU better visibility into tourism, immigration, etc. Americans are still part of the visa-free entry program for the Schengen Region. 

Don’t worry, the ETIAS is valid for 3 years!

After obtaining the ETIAS it is valid for 3 years and the respective traveler can visit the Schengen region as many times as he or she desires during that 3 year period (of course, assuming the permitted stay rules are not violated). Even if you have your ETIAS, you cannot stay in the Schengen Region for more than 90 days. 

The ETIAS requirement for Americans will take effect starting January 1, 2021 and Americans traveling to the Schengen after 1/1/2021 will be required to apply to enter the region. If you’re trying to figure out how to plan your first international trip, don’t let this worry you at all. The process will be easy, cheap, and fast. ETIAS suggests it will take no more than 10 minutes.

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