(Gray News) – If you’re an American, going to Europe is pretty much a breeze: book a plane ticket, show up, get your passport stamped, and go along your merry way.
Starting in 2021, it’ll be a little bit trickier.
On Jan. 1 that year, 22 nations in the European Union – among them popular travel destinations like Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany and France – will begin screening travelers, including Americans, under the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS.
The program was officially adopted in October. The European Commission, the governing body for the EU, says it will “save travelers time and hassle," “prevent irregular migration,” and “reinforce the fight against crime and terrorism,” among other things.
Americans are not being singled out under the program. It is replacing visa-free travel for most countries that currently have such an arrangement with the EU.
The program will require U.S. passport holders to obtain “pre-travel screening” through ETIAS before going to Europe.
Travelers will need to apply online and pay a fee, which is not yet officially set in place but which European Commission materials suggest could be as low as 7 euros ($7.87). You will be asked to provide personal information such as “previous criminal records, presence in conflict zones” and whether you’ve ever been ordered to leave a country before.
The good news is once approved, the ETIAS pre-screening is valid for three years, no matter how many times you travel to Europe over that time frame.