The European Union announced Friday that, starting in 2021, U.S. citizens will be required to apply for visas before traveling to Europe. Currently, Americans visiting Europe for less than 90 days aren’t required to seek E.U. approval before their trip.
While it’s an unwelcome extra step in the already hellish air travel experience, the new European protocol won’t be as difficult as the procedures for obtaining regular visas. Americans will have to apply for online for a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) permit, a process that will require the completion of an online form and a payment before travel. The application won’t call for an in-person interview or extensive background checks, and once granted the visa will apply for three years, allowing Americans to make multiple trips across the Atlantic. U.S. citizens still will not need prior authorization to visit the United Kingdom, which is poised to exit the E.U.
While the news rule might seem a bit onerous, Europeans already have to go through a similar screening procedure before embarking on American vacations. Citizens of most E.U. nations and handful of other countries like Chile, Norway, and Japan must apply to visit the U.S. through a similar online form from the Department of Homeland Security, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
European officials promise that the ETIAS procedure with be cheap and easy, costing a fee of €7 (about $ 8) and granting approval to 95% of applicants within minutes. Applicants who aren’t instantly approved will have the chance to furnish supporting documents or appeal the rejection.
If you’re planning any trips, be sure to fill out the out the forms carefully—global travelers have already found their holidays imperiled by ESTA typos. Multiple Europeans, including a cancer patient, a 70-year-old grandfather, and the family of a three-month-old baby, have had to spend thousands of dollars on cancelled or rescheduled vacations after they accidentally identified themselves as terrorists, clicking “yes” rather than “no” on the form’s question reading, “Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?” Yep, that’s part of the American security apparatus—straight-up asking people if they’re terrorists.