If you’re planning on heading to Europe at any time in the near future, we’ve got an important announcement for you: there’s going to be another step in your planning process pretty soon. Here’s the scoop: starting January 1, 2021, all Americans and Canadians will need to apply for an ETIAS Visa Waiver before traveling to a European country in the Schengen Zone.


Wait, say that again?

So, basically, right now, American and Canadian passport-holders can travel visa-free within Europe and the Schengen Zone for 90 days. All you need is a plane ticket and a valid passport. However, that’s changing.

Starting in 2021, you’ll need to apply and be approved for an ETIAS visa waiver before traveling to anywhere in the Schengen Zone. Technically, the ETIAS visa waiver isn’t a visa—it’s a waiver that’ll give you the okay to travel to Europe visa-less (as you do now).


And remind me which European countries are included in the Schengen Zone?

The Schengen Zone is a group of 26 countries in the EU: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

So note that you won’t need an ETIAS visa waiver for the UK, Ireland or some countries in Eastern Europe.

Schengen zone visa
By Rob984 – Derived from File:Schengen Area.svg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42820992

Ok, so how do I get one?

Applying for an ETIAS visa waiver won’t be too difficult, thankfully. To apply, you’ll need to have a valid passport, a credit or debit card, and an email account. (And if you were planning on going to Europe, we assume you probably already have all three of those.)

Also, you’ll need to make sure your passport is valid for at least 3 months beyond the dates of your trip. So, if you’re planning on traveling to Europe from May 2nd to June 28, your passport will need to be valid until at least September 28.

There will be an online application, which is supposed to take no more than 10 minutes to fill out. You’ll be asked to provide basic personal information (such as your address and birthdate), passport and nationality details, and answer some security questions. These may be related to past travel or employment history, criminal history, and other security-related topics. When you’ve finished your application, you’ll pay the processing fee and submit your application.

ETIAS visa requirement europe


How much will it cost?

The application processing fee will be about $8.


How long will it take for my application to be approved?

According to the ETIAS website, most travelers will receive an approval confirmation in just a few minutes. (Score!) In rare cases where the application is denied, you’ll receive an email with the reason why you were denied and you’ll be able to appeal. The manual process following this is supposed to take about two weeks.

Just to be safe, we recommend you apply for your ETIAS travel waiver at least two weeks before your trip.


Anything else I should know?

A few more things: the ETIAS visa waiver will be a multi-entry travel authorization valid for 3 years. In English, please? This means you won’t need to apply for a visa waiver every time you want to go to Europe (🙌). Just apply once, and it’s good for three years. During those three years, you can enter any of the Schengen Zone EU countries as many times as needed, as long as you have not stayed in the Schengen Zone for more than 90 days in a 180 days period.

Another important note: during your application, you’ll be asked about the first EU country you are planning on visiting. If you haven’t decided yet, don’t fill out your visa waiver application, because you must enter the EU via the country you indicated on your application. Once you’re in the EU, of course, you may travel to other countries. However, you must enter through the country you indicated.


TL; DR:

Starting in 2021, you’ll need to apply for a visa waiver before you head to anywhere in the Schengen region. Think of this as similar to a pre-security security check. Europe is doubling-down on security measures and wants to pre-screen international travelers. They’ve estimated that 95% of travelers will be approved pretty much instantly with no problems.

What’s most important is that you don’t forget to register and actually receive your waiver confirmation! If you don’t have one when you show up at customs, you’ll be denied entry to the Schengen region.

Of course, you could make things easy on yourself and just book a ticket to Europe right now. We’ve got the deals you need.