In an effort to thwart potential threats, the European Union is going ahead with its new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), by which folks coming from the United States and another 60 countries (including Canada, Mexico and Australia, among others) will have to register before entering the various destinations that make up Europe's Schengen Zone.
Currently, the Schengen Zone is comprised of 22 countries that are also part of the European Union, plus four non-EU ones and three European micro-states. Here is the list of countries that will require you to register prior to entering: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. San Marino, Vatican City and Monaco, three micro-states, are also part of that list. As of now, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus are in the process of joining the Schengen Zone and will therefore require authorization prior to arrival as well.
The new system was originally set to go into effect on January 1, 2021, but will now kick off at the end of 2022 and won't be mandatory for at least six months after that. During those six months, travelers can expect to be reminded about the need for a valid travel authorization in upcoming months.
Lest you think of the process as a visa-like one, think again. "An ETIAS travel authorization does not re-introduce visa-like obligations," reads a 2018 fact sheet released by the European Commission. "There is no need to go to a consulate to make an application, no biometric data is collected and significantly less information is gathered than during a visa application procedure. Whereas, as a general rule, a Schengen visa procedure can take up to 15 days, and can in some cases be extended up to 30 or 60 days, the online ETIAS application only takes a few minutes to fill in." Once approved, the application will be valid for three years and an unlimited number of entries.
As for how the application will actually work: you'll need an email address, a valid passport and a credit card to pay the €7 (about $8 US) application fee, which can be completed online. You'll get an approval email a few hours after submitting your document. Although kids under the age of 18 will also have to fill out an application, they will not be charged a fee for doing so.
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