Will Americans need a visa to travel to Europe in 2021? Here’s what you need to know

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In two years, visiting Europe is going to get a bit more complicated for American travelers.

Starting in 2021, United States citizens will be required to undergo a pre-screening and registration process called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) before entering European Schengen-zone countries.

The Schengen area is comprised of 26 countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Currently, Americans are allowed to travel visa-free to these countries for less than 90 days with no prior screening.

In a few years, there will be more to it.

Here’s how the process works – Each traveler must apply online, which includes filling out personal biometric questions (name, date of birth, etc.), passport information as well as questions about the applicant’s health, criminal record and any previous European immigration history.

The application is then checked across multiple databases. If the application is not flagged to be looked over manually, a decision will be reached by the system “within minutes,” the site says. If an application is denied, the applicant will receive a reason as to why.

So what do you need to apply? A valid passport, a credit or debit card and an email account, according to the website.

ETIAS authorization costs 7 euros for individuals over the age of 18 and is free for those under 18. It is valid for three years and allows multiple entries. Travelers still can only stay for up to 90 days in a 180 day period.

ETIAS was first proposed by the European Commission in 2016 and was later approved by the European Parliament in 2018.

Despite headlines calling the new screening process a “visa,” the U.S. Department of State and the Delegation of the European Union clarified that it is not.

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