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Fact Check: Do US Travelers Need a Visa to Visit Europe?

Originally published on: CCN
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March 12, 2019

In the onslaught of fake news allegedly stemming from U.S. media sources, readers can now add another mark to their expanding chalkboard.

Late last week, it was reported that Americans would be required to apply for visas beginning in 2021 if they wanted to visit Europe. U.S. citizens could apply through what’s known as the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). The completion of an online form and an $8 fee gives interested parties a travel permit that once initiated, lasts up to three years until renewal.

False: US Citizens Do Not Need to Acquire a Visa to Travel to Europe

europe, etias, eu

US citizens do not need a visa to visit Europe unless than plan to spend more than 90 days in the EU. | Source: Shutterstock

However, contrary to those reports, no such process is needed for citizens looking to spend less than 90 days in a nation belonging to the European Union.

ETIAS was established through a November 2016 proposal by the European Parliament (LIBE Committee) and the Council (COREPER) as a means of monitoring both migrants and residents of other countries seeking entry into EU-member nations.

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King, and First Vice-President Frans Timmermans explained in an April 2018 statement:

“We need to know who is crossing our borders. This new system, once operational, will carry out pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travelers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area. By cross-checking visa-exempt travelers against our information systems for borders, security and migration, the ETIAS will help us identify anyone who may pose a security or migration risk before he or she even reaches the EU border. The process for travelers… will always be carried out in full respect of fundamental rights and EU data protection rules. The ETIAS will also help us to strengthen and safeguard mobility for visa-free travelers who do not pose risks while identifying those who do.”

EU Visa Confusion: Clearing the Fact from the Fiction

While it’s being touted as one, the ETIAS permit is not a visa as some media sources are reporting and is easier to obtain. For one thing, applicants will not have to visit a consulate to fill out their paperwork. Less information is collected from the applying individual, and biometric registration is not necessary.

Also, a traditional visa usually takes around 15 days to process. In certain instances, anywhere between 30 and 60 days may be required, whereas a permit is often granted in mere minutes. Officials of the European Commission assert that approximately 95 percent of applicants will receive a positive response shortly after filling out the respective questionnaire, while those rejected have the option to either appeal the decisions or upload documents supporting their cases.

ETIAS Scheme is Nothing New

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The ETIAS scheme is a case of simple reciprocity. | Source: Shutterstock

Most European citizens are required to go through a similar process when looking to vacation in the U.S., so this is likely a case of simple reciprocity.

Avramopoulos, King, and Timmermans continued their initial statement by claiming:

“Over the past three years, we have been collectively delivering the building blocks for a genuine and effective Security Union, and the ETIAS is a key part of this work. At the same time, Europe’s openness and mobility cannot and should not come at the price of security. Our work is not yet complete. We all need to continue our efforts to build a safer Europe – a Europe that protects.”

A Little Contradictory?

Critics allege that these are curious words coming from someone like Timmermans, who in November of last year, hailed U.S. Democrats’ overtaking of the House as a rejection of President Donald Trump’s alleged “racism.”

President Trump’s repeated attempts to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border have often been cited as “racist” by his critics, but while an ETIAS permit is not the same thing as a wall, it’s listed as a “protective measure” for Europe; a means of ensuring only the right people get in. President Trump claims his border wall will perform the same task by affirming that those seeking entry to the U.S. can only do so if they follow the proper protocols.

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