There has been a lot of confusion amongst travelers regarding travel restrictions in Europe recently. Up until recently, Americans were free to travel throughout most of Europe for up to 90 days (within a 6-month span) without anything more than a passport.

So do you need a visa to go to Europe?

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A new permit requirement was recently been put into place by ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System). The resolution, effective January 1, 2021, requires all US citizens traveling within the Schengen Zone to apply for authorization through ETIAS first. So what does that mean for you? We’ve answered all of your questions about what this policy means for your future travel to Europe.

What is this new policy?

The European Parliament enacted a change that will require all US citizens to request authorization to visit parts of Europe. No need to sweat, the registration is easy. You’ll fill out an online form at and pay a small $8 fee. All you need is a valid passport, your e-mail address, and a credit or debit card. Shortly afterward, you’ll be granted approval to visit Europe within a three-year time-frame from the date of your approval.

What is the Schengen Zone

This zone is an area within Europe that does not have border control. It was created in 1985 as part of the Schengen Agreement, and the agreement was signed by 26 different EU countries. Included in this zone are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

When does it come into effect?

You’ll need to request approval before entering the Schengen Area beginning on January 1, 2021. Until then, you are still free to visit Europe in the same way thousands of other U.S. travelers have before you. With an American passport, you can visit any of the 25 countries without applying for a Schengen visa as long as you’re staying less than 90 days.

How is it different from a visa?

This permit is not the same thing as a visa requirement and you will NOT need to request a visa if you’re visiting one of the 26 countries in the Schengen Zone for 3 months or less. You won’t have to visit a consulate, fill out reams of paperwork or wait up to sixty days for approval for your ETIAS authorization like you would if you were applying for a visa.

Why was this policy enacted?

Right now, many travelers have free access across the borders of Schengen Area countries. The European Union was concerned that border management was not as efficient as they’d like and security could be compromised. By requiring a permit, the government will be able to screen and keep tabs on the people visiting the Schengen Zone. Hopefully, this will help mitigate the risk of terrorist attacks and strengthen borders throughout Europe.

Who does this effect?

It’s not just American travelers that will need to request authorization to visit this area of Europea. More than 60 countries including New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and Australia will also be registering by 2021.

What about the rest of Europe?

So what other countries are there that aren’t under the Schengen Zone? Albania, Andora, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, The United Kingdom and Vatican City.