Beginning in 2021, Americans will need a visa to travel to Europe, the European Union announced on Friday.
The visa — a European Travel Information and Authorization System or ETIAS — will be required to travel to 26 countries that come under the European Schengen Area. These countries do not have internal borders and allow travelers to move in and out freely, and they include countries like Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, among others.
Earlier Americans could visit these countries for up to 90 days without a visa. The EU, which has sought to tighten its security following some major terrorist incidents over the last few years, said that the move is aimed at improving “their security level to avoid any further problems with illegal migration and terrorism.”
So far, Americans only needed visas to travel to five countries in Europe, namely Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Cyprus. This visa requirement has been a bone of contention between American authorities and EU’s European Parliament and European Commission, with the latter wanting the U.S. to relax its visa laws for these countries. In 2016, the European Commission released a report which called on American authorities to grant the same visa-free status to these countries as the other 23 EU member states in exchange for Americans maintaining the same visa-free status in the Schengen Area, according to CNN.
The European Commission is keen to paint the recent development as the EU not requiring a visa — but what it calls a permit — for Americans traveling to any country in Europe. As reported by Politico, unlike the earlier requirement which didn’t need Americans to get a visa for short-term stays, the length of the trip would be inconsequential now. It means that U.S. citizens will have to get a permit even if they are going to Europe for a brief stay.
The reaction to the decision has been varied. While most Americans have taken the decision by the EU as a sign of the worsening of relations between the United States and the European Union, others have said that it is only fair that Americans also file for visas if they are to travel to Europe. On social media, many people expressed the opinion that the European Union’s decision is a reaction to Donald Trump continually berating America’s NATO and European allies. But the EU insists that the development is only a means for Europe to protect itself from growing incidents of illegal immigration and terrorism.