(NEXSTAR) – Starting in 2024, all Americans heading to Europe will have an extra step – and an extra fee – other than booking a flight and hotel. The European Union will soon require incoming foreigners to fill out an online application before they enter popular tourist destinations like France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
It’s not just Americans – the EU says travelers from 60 visa-exempt countries will need to apply through the ETIAS process. (ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System.) The EU says the new requirement will affect 1.4 billion people from around the world.
It’s not exactly a visa, but it is an extra bit of work you’ll need to complete before heading out on vacation. Authorization involves an online process and a 7-euro fee (about $7.70 at the current exchange rate).
As of July 2023, the ETIAS application portal was not open, so Americans are not currently able to get their authorization this far in advance. An exact start date hasn’t yet been announced.
“It is expected that the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will be operational in 2024,” the official site explains.
If you have a trip planned for next year, here’s what you need to know.
How do I apply for ETIAS authorization?
The application portal isn’t live yet, but once it is you can do the whole thing online.
First things first, you’ll need a passport that will be valid for at least another three months. You’ll also be required to fill out some information about yourself, like your birthday, address, planned travel destinations, current occupation and criminal history.
Most applications should clear in just a few minutes, the EU says. But some may require a closer look and take up to four days to be approved.
In rarer cases, if additional documents or an interview are required, the process could take 14 to 30 days.
Once the application is approved, you’ll be emailed your ETIAS application number, which you should keep for future reference. The authorization will be linked with your passport, so as long as you use that passport to enter Europe, you should be good to go.
Which countries require it?
The EU lists 30 countries that will start requiring the prior authorization: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
What is the cost of the ETIAS authorization?
The cost of ETIAS authorization is 7 euros, or about $7.70 U.S. dollars at the current exchange rate. Travelers under 18 and older than 70 won’t have to pay the fee.
How long is the authorization valid?
The good news is you won’t have to fill out the application every time you travel to Europe. Once you complete the process, it’s valid for three years or until your passport expires – whichever happens first.
Why is Europe requiring Americans to apply before entering?
The main rationale given for the new system is security.
“ETIAS will further strengthen Europe’s internal security by carrying pre-travel screening of visa-free travellers to determine whether they pose a security, illegal immigration, or public health risk,” the EU says.
If I don’t get an ETIAS authorization, will I be allowed to enter the country?
Not having at ETIAS authorization is grounds for refusal to enter one of the 30 countries that will require it in 2024.
“As your ETIAS travel authorisation is linked to your travel document, make sure to carry the same document which you used in your ETIAS application,” the EU guidance states. “Otherwise, you will not be allowed to board your flight, bus or ship, or to enter any of the European countries requiring ETIAS.”