Lonely Planet Writer

Will you need a visa to visit Europe? Here’s what you need to know

A new travel authorisation system is set to be introduced in Europe in 2021 and is sparking confusion among travellers.

Church bell towers in the coastal village of Ravello, Italy. Photo by Neirfy/Shutterstock

Reports all around the world have been calling the new system a ‘visa’, which the European Commission is quick to point out is incorrect. Currently, more than 60 countries have visa-free access to the European Union and this would not change.

However, there will be an additional step for non-EU visitors to complete before preparing to travel. Visitors from these countries – including the USA, Canada and Brazil – will need to apply online through the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). This works in a similar way to the US ESTA, conducting a quick, automated security check on visitors before allowing them entry.

Dubrovnik, Croatia. Image by ©Dreamer4787/Shutterstock

The application will cost €7 (US $6.22) and it’s estimated that 95% of people will get a positive response within minutes. Out of the remaining applications, 3-4% may need a little longer to process while just 1-2% will be forwarded for a longer, manual review with the potential for refusal. The ETIAS will then be valid for three years.

Airlines will need to check passports before boarding to ensure you’ve been approved. If you get to a border check without securing an authorisation, you will be denied entry. Perhaps confusingly, the ETIAS will not be needed for every EU country but rather for those in the Schengen Area, who have abolished all controls at their mutual borders. Currently Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia and the UK do not fall within that area.

The European Commision says the new system will improve security while reinforcing their commitment to greater access to visa-free travel. It is currently slated to begin in early 2021.