Family Vacation Tips

Do U.S. Citizens Need a Visa to Visit Europe?

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 18, 2020 6:30:00 AM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Do U.S. Citizens Need a Passport to Visit Europe

Starting on Jan. 21, 2021, all  Americans  will be required to register for ETIAS - that is the European Travel Information and Authorization System  when traveling to a European Schengen-zone country.  While this is technically not a visa, it is a way to strengthen security and facilitate border crossings for travelers who travel to Europe visa fee.  The ETIAS travel authorisation will be a mandatory pre-condition for for U.S. citizens to gain entry to the Schengen area. It will be checked together with the travel documents by the border guards when crossing the EU border.


Travelers can complete a simple online form either via computer or mobile phone. A valid passport number will be required for application.  Passport expiration date requirements vary between different European countries do double check.  For peace of mind,  make sure your passport is valid for 6 months beyond your return travel date.  If not, it would be best to have your passport renewed prior to travel.  The application should take less than 10 minutes to complete and will cost less than $10 per person which will be paid electronically online at the time of application. ETIAS approval is made within minutes and is valid for 3 years.


At the very minimum, an ETIAS application can be made within 72 hours of travel but we highly suggest taking care of this important travel requirement as soon as you book your flights.  Remember should there be any delay or refusal, you'll need time to appeal.  If you do not have this required document at the time of airport check in, you will be denied boarding.  It is the responsibility of all travelers to have the appropriate documentation at the time of travel. This is not a situation that is covered by travel insurance.  If you do not have the proper documentation to travel then you can find yourself out of pocket for the entire cost of your trip.

Your ETIAS authorization will allow you to cross borders and travel seamlessly between the 22 countries that form the Shengen area. These countries include:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Hungary
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

Although not members of the European Union, ETIAS Authorization will also be required to visit these areas in Europe:

  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Monaco
  • Norway
  • San Marino,
  • Vatican City
  • Switzerland

 With the Brexit vote, the United Kingdom is no longer a part of the European Union and as the time of this post does not require ETIAS Authorization.  U.S. Travelers can visit England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland with a valid passport.  Bear in mind if you plan to fly to England and then take the train to France, you will need ETIAS authorization to cross the french border.

When planning a vacation to Europe, we do recommend travelers start making their plans and reservations between 1 year and 9 months prior to travel.  This is when families will find the best availability and pricing.  With this in mind, please know travel requirements may continue to evolve throughout 2020 up until the 2021 deadlines.

We HIGHLY recommend that all travelers interested in visiting Europe in the near future, keep an eye on the U.S. State Department Travel Site .  This is where travelers can find the latest information and travel requirements to help insure their travels are safe and seamless.


Topics: Family Vacation Destinations, Family Vacation, family vacation ideas

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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