How to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization to visit Europe

  • Americans will soon have to apply for a travel permit to visit 30 countries in Europe.
  • The application has a non-refundable fee of 7 euros per person, or about $7.40.
  • Travelers must obtain authorization through the European Travel Authorization and Information System prior to their journey. It is expected to be operational sometime in 2024.
  • The new system is designed as a security measure.

Vernazza, a village in Cinque Terre, Italy.

Mstudioimages | E+ | Getty Images

Americans will soon have to apply for a travel permit to visit Europe, and failing to get one could ruin your next trip.

The requirement, scheduled to begin in 2024, currently applies to 30 European nations, including popular destinations such as France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Travelers must apply for a travel authorization through the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, before their trip.

The online application carries a non-refundable fee of €7 per person, or $7.40 at the prevailing exchange rate as of noon ET on Thursday. Persons under 18 and over 70 are exempt from payment.

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Europe is the top destination region for international travelers from the US, according to travel app Hopper. But Americans will not be allowed to visit without permission.

“If you forget to do it, you won’t get on the plane,” said Sofia Markovic, travel consultant and founder of Sofia’s Travel.

Mstudioimages | E+ | Getty Images

The permit is not a visa and does not guarantee entry. Travelers with a valid visa do not need a permit.

In 2016, the European Commission proposed creating ETIAS to strengthen security checks on Americans and citizens of approximately 60 other nations who can visit Europe’s Schengen area without a visa.

The new European system is similar to the one introduced by the US in 2008.

“After 9/11, things changed in the world,” Markovic said. “It’s really about keeping things safe and knowing who’s in and who’s out.”

A couple walks around the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

Jordi Salas | Moment | Getty Images

The good news: Travelers still don’t have to do anything.

The European Union expects ETIAS to be operational in 2024, but has not set an exact launch date. The program is not yet accepting applications.

“There’s nothing anyone can do or should do right now,” said Sally French, travel expert at NerdWallet. “But it’s something they have to keep an eye on.”

The requirement has already been delayed several times and could be again, French said. It was originally supposed to enter into force in 2021 and then in 2023.

Most applications will be processed within minutes and up to 96 hours at the latest, according to the EU. However, it may take up to an additional 30 days for travelers asked to provide additional information or documentation or to have an interview with national authorities, the EU said.

“As soon as you book, make sure you submit your ETIAS,” Markovic said.

The EU even strongly advises obtaining a travel permit before buying tickets and booking hotels.

“Seven euros is small potatoes in the scheme or your European trip,” French said of the application fee. “You don’t want to have paid for the flights, hotels and tours and realize you can’t take the trip because of that little step.”

The ETIAS authorization is valid for three years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Travelers with a valid ETIAS do not need to apply for a new one each time they visit Europe.

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