2021 Brings a Range of Changes to Travel Visas to the EU

Travel between countries is not one of the easiest tasks and getting visa approval doesn’t make it any lighter a task for international travelers.

With differing visa requirements across the globe, the rules and regulations governing travel are ever-changing and more complex than ever.

Starting in January 2021, 60 countries including the United States and Australia will need to obtain visa authorization before being allowed to travel in the European Union.

Travelers to the 26 Schengen area countries will need to obtain permission from the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) prior to arrival in a move that is not only bafflingly inconvenient given the prior status of visa-free travel but also an added bureaucratic requirement for foreign travelers and their governments.

In terms of the change’s implementation, the European Travel Information and Authorization System argues that these new regulations are needed in order to protect the border security of Schengen zone countries. ETIAS claims that this screening process will allow it to better locate and identify potential threats to member countries.

Travelers who have watched the news in the European Union in the past year are aware, there is an increased vigilance in member states with regards to issues of immigration and border security.

These new visa restrictions are, in part, a response to member states’ desire for greater control over their borders.

As for whether or not the free travel of the past will return in the future, the press is still out on that, but many countries are trying to bring their electronic visa systems and regulations in line with ETIAS requirements.

Luckily for most travelers, the application can be completed online and will only take a few minutes to finish. Approval, similarly, is within a short amount of time, as long as the applicant has no issues that ETIAS might flag.

Those include previous drug usage as well as any prior travel to conflict areas. Applicants will also have to supply info such as recent employment information and any past travel to the European Union Schengen zone countries.

The information provided will be checked via the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) databases prior to approval.

After approval, the ETIAS visa will be valid for three years after that date or until the applicant’s current passport expires, whichever comes first. This means that the visa holder will be allowed to stay in Schengen zone countries for up to 90 days. Longer stays or more permanent relocations, naturally, will require a different visa and application process but, for most vacation and business travelers, the 90-day visa is all that is needed.

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