Travelers From Visa-Free Countries Will Face a New Entry Fee in Europe

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After two years of shifting Covid-related entry procedures and border restrictions, US tourists wishing to visit Europe will face some new criteria next year—all of which are unrelated to the pandemic.

By the spring of next year, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will require international tourists to register and charge a fee of €7 (about $7.40) to visit most European nations, Passport-photo.online reports.

Although the price has been dubbed a “visitor tax,” it is essentially an application fee for tourists seeking ETIAS permission, which is required to enter any of the 26 EU and Schengen countries for stays of up to 90 days. The declared goal of mandatory registration, pre-screening, and associated costs are supposed to improve the region’s border security.

The ETIAS system only applies to visitors from one of the 62 countries that now have visa-free access to the European Union and Schengen member states, including the United States. Those who require a visa to travel won’t have to worry about applying for ETIAS.

The system is similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) used by the US Department of Homeland Security to evaluate if non-nationals traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are eligible to enter the US.

ETIAS will also utilize technology to register, pre-screen, and monitor foreign visitors, with software comparing their profiles to government watchlists and databases before authorizing entry. This is meant to provide an extra layer of defense against risks such as crime, terrorism, and irregular migration. The information gathered from visitors will be used for data tracking for commercial and tourism purposes.

While this new pre-travel authorization system has been in the works for years, ETIAS plans to be fully operational by May 2023, despite some setbacks.

Travelers who do not require a visa will be obliged to register their details and answer a few background questions on the ETIAS web portal, then wait for authorization before departing for their destination. Travel approval should take no more than a few minutes for most candidates. However, if an applicant’s registration is declined, it must be evaluated manually. 

Airlines and other transportation providers will be required to verify passengers’ ETIAS authorization status before allowing them to board once the system is operational. Visa-free travelers seeking admission at land crossings will also be able to complete their application at an electronic kiosk.