Visas to enter Europe? U.S. citizens don’t have to worry quite yet

March 9, 2017 Amanda Johnson

U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to visit Europe…yet. On March 2, members of the European Parliament passed a non-binding vote to require U.S. citizens to acquire a visa before visiting the European Union.

This vote requires the EU Commission to suspend a current “visa waiver” for U.S. citizens within two months from the vote. However, travelers this summer may not need to fear. This vote does not necessarily mean that come May you’ll need a visa for European travel. As it was a non-binding resolution, the EU Commission may choose not to act upon the European Parliament’s resolution, in which case, the European Parliament has warned it would take the European Commission to court, further dragging out the process. As of now, there’s no clear estimate for when visas may be required.

Margaritis Schinas, the chief spokesman for the European Commission, expressed that they would continue “patient diplomatic contact” with Washington, D.C. and that they would provide a progress report, but not before the end of June.

The U.S. requires visas for visitors from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, but U.S. citizens can visit all of those countries visa-free. The lack of reciprocity has long been a source of tension, lending the illusion of second-class treatment to citizens of those five EU countries. The European Parliament may drop their resolution entirely provided the U.S. promises visa reciprocity, as has happened with Canada, which has vowed full reciprocity by December 2017.

The stakes are high as the EU and the U.S. battle over this issue. Requiring visas for U.S. travel to the EU could hurt tourist revenue—and accompanying jobs in the tourism industry—in popular vacation spots, such as France, Italy and Spain. It appears likely that the U.S. would respond by requiring visas for visitors from all EU countries. Both the U.S. and EU stand to lose economically by enforcing visa requirements.

Do you have European travel planned for May? I do, and for now I’m not worrying too much about acquiring a visa on short notice. Implementation of the visa requirements would likely take time, even years. Once implemented, it’s possible the EU will implement a simple electronic travel authorization, whereby a U.S. visitor to the EU would fill out a form online ahead of time with personal information. Similar systems now cost about $15 per person and can be approved quickly—in less than a week.

The U.S. Department of State publishes visa requirements for all countries on its website. This is a good resource to check before planning international travel. 

Whether or not the EU follows through with visa requirements, you can be sure that your travel advisor will work with you to make your European trip flawless.

Questions about how potential visas to visit Europe may affect you? Tweet us @tandtnews, and our travel experts will answer your questions.

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