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European Parliament debates reinstating visas for US citizens visiting Europe

The European Parliament has indicated that it would like the European Commission to reinstate visas for American citizens traveling to any of the 28 EU member countries. This will not come as a shock to those who were previously aware of the debate between the US and the EU regarding tourist visas and the five EU member countries who are still required to apply for a standard tourist visa before traveling to the US.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented the ESTA Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allowing citizens from the 38 eligible countries entry into the US for visits of 90 days or less without the need to apply for an embassy or consulate visa.

ETIAS - the Future Travel Visa for Europe

Europe has planned to install a similar system from 2020 known as ETIAS which will apply to all US citizens among others. The Electronic Travel Information and Authorization System, aka ETIAS, will provide visa-free access to foreign nationals from eligible countries wishing to enter the free-roam Schengen Area while also allowing the EU to improve and monitor border and immigration controls.

However, for the time being, the EU Parliament argues that, while the US is denying visa-free access to foreign nationals from certain European countries, the 28-country bloc should do the same for US citizens wishing to travel to and within this area.

The five member states whose citizens must currently apply for a tourist visa to enter and travel within the USA are

  • Bulgaria,
  • Croatia,
  • Cyprus,
  • Poland
  • and Romania.

For some time the European Union has been asking the US to accept these countries into the Visa Waiver Program but as of yet they have not been granted visa-free travel. This has been felt as an injustice towards these countries and that the US is not treating all EU countries as equal, which has, in turn, provoked this new proposal of temporary visas for US nationals looking to travel to Europe.

EC Demands Changes to Visa Policies

The New York Times stated that in 2014 the European Commission insisted that the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada and Japan change their visa procedures to begin offering the reciprocal visa-free travel for all EU members. Since then, 3 out of 5 have done so with Canada agreeing to introduce measures from December 2017 which would leave the US as the only country that has yet to make changes.

The following months of May and June will see the EU Parliament meet to discuss the plans of the European Commission regarding their decision whether or not to establish a temporary visa for tourists from the USA until the US amends their visa-free policies or ETIAS takes effect in 2020 when it will be obligatory for all eligible foreign nationals to apply online for their travel authorization before traveling to Europe.