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ETIAS – Americans Traveling to Europe Now Forced to Take a New Step

The requirement involves an online travel authorization through the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, which applies to visitors from 30 European countries. That includes popular destinations such as France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Portugal.

Entry/Exit system

Now, the system “will be ready to enter into operation in Spring 2025,” said a brief announcement after a meeting of the Council of the European Union earlier this month. "The new roadmap for the delivery of the new IT architecture foresees that the Entry/Exit system will be ready to enter into operation in Autumn 2024," it also said.

It has been postponed several times.

In a recent update to the European Union website for ETIAS, it said that "mid-2025" is when the new travel requirements will go online. No applications are being processed or "are collected at this point," according to the website. Multiple reports noted that the system was supposed to go into effect in 2021, but it has been postponed several times since then.

Other Countries

It's not just travelers from the United States who must register online. Travelers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Mexico, and dozens of other countries—including some located on the European continent like Albania, Montenegro, and Ukraine—will have to adhere to the requirement.

The new system is being adopted by 27 countries in Europe’s Schengen Area and several others. The European Commission, the executive decision-making organization for the EU, proposed the system in 2016 in what officials say is a means to strengthen security checks for people from over 60 countries who can visit Europe's Schengen Area without a visa. The United States imposed a similar system years ago.

In the meantime, we will register the information and biometric data of travelers. That includes face scans and fingerprints, while stamp passports will be phased out. This system, elaborated on the European Union's site, "will replace the current system of manual stamping of passports, which is time-consuming, does not provide reliable data on border crossings, and does not allow a systematic detection of over-stayers."

Travelers must complete an ETIAS application form before traveling and pay a $7 fee. However, some applications may take several weeks if additional information is needed from the traveler, while some may have to obtain an interview, according to the EU website. “We strongly advise you to obtain the ETIAS travel authorization before you buy your tickets and book your hotels,” said the EU website, adding that the authorization is valid for three years.

A European Commission memo sent out earlier this year about the new travel rules described ETIAS as a "largely automated IT system" and said the ETIAS travel authorization is "not a visa." Problems? Some officials have expressed alarm over the proposed new system. Gareth Williams, a director at Eurostar—which operates trains to France from London—said that "we don’t currently see a practical solution.

If we take the peak of August, up to 80 percent of people will have to go through the system," reported The Independent. The new system will likely increase processing times at European airports. “If the [biometric] process is added to the entry process, careful logistic planning is crucial to avoid congestion,” Kuan-Huei Lee, associate professor of tourism at Singapore Institute of Technology, told National Geographic. But, “If you forget to do it, you won’t board the plane,” Sofia Markovich, a travel advisor and founder of Sofia’s Travel, told CNBC earlier this month, referring to applying under ETIAS. “After 9/11, things changed in the world,” she added. “It’s really about keeping things safe and knowing who comes in and who goes out.”

“It’ll be a minor hassle, but it’s not unusual for countries to have entry requirements like this one,” Cameron Hewitt, content and editorial director at Rick Steves’ Europe, told the Washington Post. “It certainly shouldn’t cause anyone to rethink a trip to Europe. From what we know, ETIAS looks like it’ll simply be a manageable bit of red tape.”

The update comes as the U.S. State Department recently sent out a worldwide alert to Americans overseas due to an elevated possibility for terrorist attacks, coming amid high tensions in the Middle East. "Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution," the alert said earlier this month.

The issuance of the rare worldwide alert bulletin came after demonstrations and riots across the Middle East earlier this month in response to the conflict in Israel. The designated terrorist group Hamas attacked multiple areas in southern Israel, leading to an extensive bombing campaign in Gaza.