Written by special contributor, Gary Gallon.
Europe is a popular destination for American tourists because of its world-famous historic and cultural attractions. A record number of 13.6 million Americans visited Europe in 2016, and the number is only growing. This isn’t that surprising when you consider the number of exciting metropolitan areas to explore. Cities like Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, and Amsterdam offer a wealth of historical sites and monuments.
Currently, American citizens are able to visit, visa-free, the 26 European countries that make up the Schengen Area and can stay up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However, changes are on the horizon. Soon, U.S. citizens will be required to pre-register an ETIAS for Americans before traveling to Schengen Area European countries.
The European Commission proposed the ETIAS concept in 2016 with the aim of increasing border security within the Schengen Area. For travelers already familiar with the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), ETIAS will not seem very different.
How Will ETIAS Authorization Work for United States Citizens?
Starting in 2021, all American citizens traveling to and within Schengen Area member states, for short-term leisure or business trips, will be required to complete the ETIAS online authorization. There are 26 total Schengen Area countries but not all are part of the European Union. The Schengen Area countries are:
Non-EU Schengen States
EU Member Schengen States
- Czech Republic
The ETIAS for United States citizens will allow for a stay of 90 days within a 180-day period in any of the above-listed countries. The authorization will also be valid for travel within the Schengen Area for 3 years.
The main aim of the new ETIAS authorization is to combat the rise of terrorism and other security threats in Europe. U.S. citizens will complete the quick and easy ETIAS online application, providing personal and passport information. U.S. passports must be valid for at least 3 months upon entry to the Schengen Area. Applicants must answer a series of health and security questions before the visa can be approved.
The information provided will be scanned against various security databases of the information agency eu-LISA, including SIS, VIS, Europol and Interpol. If the ETIAS authorization is approved, then the applicant will quickly receive the ETIAS for Americans via email to a provided address, and can then print a copy to present at European border control along with their passport.
Travel to Europe with ETIAS for Americans
Once the ETIAS authorization is approved, travelers can begin to plan their European holiday itinerary. The ETIAS for United States citizens is valid for a total of 3 years, so that gives Americans plenty of time for return visits. Take in all the countries and tourist attractions that your heart desires!
One of the first destinations for eager American travelers should be France. France boasts the highest number of UNESCO world heritage sites in the world, and perhaps not surprisingly, is also the most visited country on the globe. It’s essential to experience world-famous landmarks in Paris such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palace of Versailles, and the Eiffel Tower, as well as indulge in the luxurious cuisine of the City of Lights and Love.
Perhaps due to the lack of medieval structures in the United States, Americans love exploring a good historic building, and there are plenty of jaw-dropping castles you can visit in Europe with ETIAS for United States citizens. From the numerous well-preserved military fortresses of the United Kingdom to the fairytale chateaux of the Loire Valley in France, to the gothic behemoths of southern Germany, there are castles for every taste!
Amsterdam and London are considered among the very best cities to visit in Western Europe, as both exult an international, multi-cultural vibe as well as popular attractions such as Buckingham Place, Big Ben, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank house. Must visit cities in Eastern Europe include Prague and Budapest, both offering heaps of gothic atmosphere and historical sites.
There is also no shortage of places to visit in Europe with family when traveling with the ETIAS for United States citizens. Some of the best zoos in Europe are within the Schengen Area, as well as huge amusement parks such as Disneyland Paris or Alton Towers in the UK. If traveling to Europe in December, families will want to visit Germany to experience magical Christmas markets in cities like Cologne, Dresden, Leipzig, and Nuremberg.