Europe has reopened completely after nearly three years of severe health inspections related to the pandemic, but this does not mean that the continent is relaxing its laws on immigration or lowering border controls. Three major changes that will effect American tourists and those from other countries that travel to Europe in the coming year will be implemented across the continent.
A majority of Europe is both within the European Union (EU) and Schengen, two entities that promote the free movement of people and goods across internal borders. On the downside, the fact that passport control has been mostly abolished within the area has raised security concerns in recent years, especially after the 2015 migrant crisis.
Now, lawmakers in Brussels are tightening checks and ‘improving’ surveillance on intra-EU travel – and Americans are not exempt:
Visitors Will Be Fingerprinted From May
Perhaps the most crucial change set to come into effect, the EU and its closely associated Schengen will start fingerprinting foreign visitors, as well as taking their biometric data, as part of the new Entry-Exit System as soon as May 2023. This is aimed at reinforcing the 90/180-day rule and keeping a shared database of everyone entering the bloc.
Traveling to the Schengen Area, which today comprises 26 countries, including France, Germany, and Italy, Americans are only allowed to remain in the territory for up to three months out of every six. As of now, control is carried out by means of manual stamp checks at every external border of Schengen to ensure ‘overstayers’ are identified and punished.
From next year, manual checks, and potentially passport stamps, will be a thing of the past as all incoming visitors will be subject to biometric authentication, making it much harder for law-breakers to stay under the radar. The measure has already been rolled out in Prague Airport, where registration ‘kiosks’ have been implemented.
There is more.
Americans Will Need A Travel Permit Beginning November 2023
Modeled after the U.S.’s ESTA, a visa-waver program requiring eligible foreigners to apply for a travel permit lasting up to two years, Europe is introducing its very own electronic authorization, dubbed the ETIAS. From November 2023, Americans flying across the pond will only be permitted to do so when carrying valid ETIAS.
It’s important to note that this is not a visa; nationals from countries with travel restrictions will still need to apply at a Consulate and present all relevant papers before booking a trip. The United States and Canada are two examples of countries that have formed visa-free travel arrangements with the European Union and Schengen.
The average cost of an ETIAS will be $8.00, which is significantly lower than the cost in the United States, and applications can be submitted immediately through a special website. The validity duration of the permit is three years, which is longer than the United States’, and it allows numerous entries into the Schengen Area during that time, so long as the 90/180 guideline is followed.
Long-Term Travelers Will Have Fewer Options
Lastly, the European Commission (EC) has been encouraging Schengen member states to lift border controls with at least three of their fellow EU partners. Although Schengen is deeply intertwined with the European Union, there are EU nations still lying outside the borderless agreement, such as Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Ireland.
Ireland has officially opted out of Schengen in favor of its Common Travel Area with the neighboring United Kingdom, but the remaining four EU countries have been aspiring to enter the select group for years. Finally, Croatia seems to have completed its path to full European integration, being the closest to joining Schengen.
Croatia might be promoted to the zone on January 1, while the case for Romania and Bulgaria’s accession is being pushed by the EC, with a vote on the matter set to take place later this year. Cyprus, on the other hand, continues being barred in light of the ongoing Turkish occupation of the northern half of the island.
Should Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria join simultaneously, the move will permanently alter the landscape for long-term travel in Europe. After all, an American’s stay in Schengen cannot exceed the maximum 90 days in any 180-day rolling period, and many have used non-Schengen states to ‘reset’ the clock until they are allowed back in the zone.
Other Non-Schengen European Countries
Fortunately, once the trio + Cyprus join their EU counterparts, there are still several European countries that are not signatory or are not eligible to participate in the treaty, such as:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- The United Kindgom
- Türkiye (formerly Turkey)
*Travel to Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine is currently advised against due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine
**Partially recognized state still claimed by Serbia
Any visits to the above countries, which grant Americans up to 90-day stays individually, do not interfere with your Schengen limit. For more relevant updates on travel in Europe, visit this link.