In a world in which most western liberal democracies are slamming Trump for demanding a wall be built on the US southern border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the US, Europe is about to erect a metaphorical wall targeting legal US travelers, because starting in 2021, U.S. citizens will need a visa to visit most European countries.
"Similar to other countries and regions in the world Europe has recently decided to improve their security level to avoid any further problems with illegal migration and terrorism," the EU said.
U.S. citizens traveling to Europe for less than 90 days currently only need a passport, but the European Union announced Friday that starting in 2021 they will need a visa to visit most European countries. The decision follows an EU announcement in June of 2018 that it was in favor of imposing visas on U.S. citizens in the five countries, and the creation of a European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, that will require "pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travelers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area", i.e. Americans. At the time, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, indicated that the requirement was put in place for security reasons.
"The new ETIAS will ensure that we no longer have an information gap on visa-free travelers," he said in a statement. "Anyone who poses a migratory or security risk will be identified before they even travel to EU borders."
The new policy requires U.S. citizens to apply for a European Travel Information and Authorization System visa, and applies to the Schengen zone of Europe, which is a group of 26 European countries that do not have internal borders and allow people to move between them freely, including countries such as Spain, France, Greece, Germany, Italy and Poland.
To obtain the visas in 2021, U.S. citizens will need to have a passport, which is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Europe, a credit or debit card and an email account, the EU said. There is an exception to the new rule for minors, who will still only need their normal passport.
Visa-free travelers, including US citizens, will need to request ETIAS authorization before visiting the Schengen Area. They can complete an application and pay a service fee of 7 euros (about $8) online. The ETIAS visa is valid for three years.
"Completing the online application should not take more than 10 minutes with automatic approval being given in over 95% of cases," the European Commission said in a statement.
The United States has previously been in a dispute with the EU over requiring visas for Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Cyprus when they were not required for 23 other EU nations. In June 2018, the European Commission voted in favor of imposing visas on U.S. citizens in the five countries.
The United States has a similar system called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.
"We are aware of the European Union's plan to implement its own travel information and authorization system, similar to the U.S. ESTA, to contribute to a more efficient management of the EU's external borders and improve internal security," a US State Department official said in a statement. "Each country has the right to determine its standards for entry."
The official added that the "ETIAS authorization is not a visa" and while that may be correct, without the authorization Americans won't be allowed in so it's effectively the same.
As CNN adds, the United States won't be the only country affected by the changes. From 2021, citizens from 60 countries will be required to apply for the ETIAS before entering the Schengen Area. Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Israel and Mauritius are among those countries.
The European Parliament agreed to establish ETIAS in July. At the time, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, indicated that the requirement was put in place for security reasons.