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Traveling to some countries in Europe will soon require yet another piece of paperwork — and yet another fee. For Americans, that fee is just under $8 (7 euros) per person.
Sometime in 2022, the European Commission is set to launch what’s called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, or ETIAS.
What is ETIAS?
The new ETIAS program is expected to be a largely automated process for identifying security, irregular migration or high epidemic risks. The program is designed for certain travelers heading to the Schengen Area, which consists of 26 European countries without border controls between them.
The European Commission says the program is designed to “facilitate border checks; avoid bureaucracy and delays for travellers when presenting themselves at the borders; ensure a coordinated and harmonised risk assessment of third-country nationals; and substantially reduce the number of refusals of entry at border crossing points.”
The new ETIAS program applies to citizens of countries who don't need visas to enter the European Union, including the U.S.
That means Americans have one more task on their to-do list (and one more fee to pay) before entering Europe’s Schengen Area.
How ETIAS will work
First, you’ll have to fill out an online application form, which the EU uses to conduct various security checks. Submitting that form also entails a fee of around $8.
In most cases, visitors will receive travel authorization within minutes. But in some cases, it could take travelers up to 30 days to receive authorization.
Once you have your authorization documents, they’ll be checked along with other travel documents such as your passport by the border guards when crossing the EU border.
What ETIAS means for travelers
An extra cost
The extra fee could be a headache for travelers. Sure, about $8 is small potatoes in the grand scheme of a European trip. But it comes in an era where new fees are appearing everywhere, whether it’s hotel resort and amenity fees, or airline fees for things such as checked bags and seat selection.
That’s on top of pandemic-era expenses like mandatory COVID-19 tests, as well as potential quarantine costs should you test positive abroad, or Cancel For Any Reason travel insurance, which has become increasingly popular given the uncertainty of travel these days.
Plus, the fee is per person, so if you’re bringing the family, you’ll need to pay and register everyone in your travel party.
ETIAS joins the list of ever-growing paperwork you need before boarding a flight. Your trip might already require proof of a COVID-19 test. You’ll likely also need to pack proof of vaccination. Additionally, you’ll need to ensure your passport is up to date. If it’s not, that may pose its own challenges because it sometimes takes the State Department over two months to process passports.
A challenge for procrastinators (or last-minute travelers)
Given that ETIAS authorization could take up to 30 days, people booking last-minute travel may have to account for this change, as well as people who procrastinate on this particular paperwork.
Of course, the ETIAS program hasn't started, and there’s no clear initiation date beyond a statement from the European Commission that ETIAS is expected to be operational by the end of 2022. From there, expect a six-month transition period for the system to be implemented, meaning you likely won’t actually need to register with the ETIAS program until sometime in 2023.
But when it does become mandatory, add it to your growing pre-travel to-do list — and bake those $8 per person fees into your travel budget.