Starting in November, your trips to Europe likely will involve an extra step. It’s not super complicated, but if you don’t check it off your list, you might not be allowed in. ETIAS is a visa waiver that will allow Americans to travel freely throughout the Schengen area (currently at 27 member countries throughout Europe) for up to 90 days.
The ETIAS process is easy. There’s an online application to fill out and a fee of 7 euros (about $8). You’ll need a valid passport good for at least three months after your departure from the Schengen zone, and you’ll need to provide an email address for updates about your application. The application asks for personal information (date of birth, place of birth, etc.), contact details, travel plans and health information.
While it takes a few minutes to fill out the application, you’ll save that time when you arrive in a Schengen country from the U.S. and go through customs and immigration. You won’t have to go to a consulate, and lines at the airport will move much faster. Once your ETIAS waiver is approved, it will be valid for three years (unless your passport expires before then), meaning you won’t have to apply for every trip if you’re returning to the Schengen area during that time frame.
It’s important to note that ETIAS approval does not automatically mean you will be allowed entry into the specific Schengen country you’re visiting. Border agents in each country will still have discretion to deny entry as they see fit, but the ETIAS screening process relies on Interpol and Europol databases to screen out unwanted criminals. Just be sure your passport meets the validity requirements and you fill the application out truthfully.
ETIAS is being implemented to beef up security in the Schengen area, but it can make your customs clearance easier. Just be sure to fill out the application before your travel. It will save time in the long run.