Light Wave


Travel To Europe To Get Tougher Under EU’s New Quasi-Visa System

By Jake Beardslee · July 30, 2023

In brief…

  • Travelers from countries with visa-free travel to the EU must obtain a "visa waiver" through the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) beginning in 2024.
  • Visa-free travelers must submit an electronic form and pay a fee of €7.
  • The process has been compared to the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
  • The form requires travelers to disclose personal information - including disclosure of any criminal records - and travel plans.
  • The process can take up to 30 days, although most applicants are expected receive online authorization within minutes.
Travelers must obtain an EU "visa waiver" before they can visit most parts of Europe.  U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The European Union has a set new requirement applicable to all travelers from countries currently with visa-free travel to the EU. The program requires travelers to apply for a “visa waiver” — not itself a visa — through the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). To enter the so-called Schengen Zone, visa-free travelers must submit an electronic form, pay a fee of €7, and wait for official approval. The new requirements will go into effect sometime in 2024.

The program has been widely compared to the United States’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization, which requires a similar process. 

Starting in 2024, before departing to any of EU member state, travelers from visa-exempt nations must complete an electronic authorization form. The form will require information about the traveler’s identity, along with details about travel plans. The form will also ask for information regarding the individual’s education, work experience, and criminal history.

For many applicants, the approval turnaround time will be the most disconcerting part of the process. According to the official European Union website, “Most applicants will receive their ETIAS travel authorization within minutes, but in some cases the process may take up to 30 days.” Longer approval times are expected for individuals with criminal records or inconsistencies in their personal histories.

The ETIAS website states, “The main reason for the approval of the ETIAS authorization is security. With the increased risk of travelers worldwide, the EU wants to ensure safe travel in its countries.” Regarding visa-free travelers coming into the EU, the website says, “The ETIAS will make sure that these people are not a security threat. This travel authorization system will gather, keep track of, and update necessary information regarding visitors to determine whether it is safe for them to enter Schengen countries.”

The Schengen Area, which dates back to 1985, is a zone comprised of 27 European countries that have abolished their internal borders in order to allow for the free and unrestricted movement of people.