Another reason why Americans choose Europe for their vacations is that US passport holders can enter visa-free for stays of up to 90 days.

From 2022, Americans will need to apply for ETIAS to visit Europe. Although they’ll continue to enjoy visa-free privileges, a visa waiver will become an essential requirement.

ETIAS will grant entry to the Schengen Area, made up of 26 European nations, and ETIAS holders will be able to move freely within the region.

Americans planning a trip to Europe from 2022 can find out more about the ETIAS visa waiver for Europe, including how to apply and some of the best countries to visit with ETIAS.

Types of tourist visa for Europe

There are 2 types of travel documents available for tourism in Europe: ETIAS and the Schengen visa.

  • ETIAS is Europe’s visa waiver, similar to the US ESTA. The system will pre-screen travellers before they arrive in Europe with the aim of increasing border security. The system will identify individuals who are considered to pose a threat in terms of security, irregular migration, or high epidemic risk. Tourists currently eligible for visa-free access in Europe, including US passport holders, will be able to apply for ETIAS when it is launched in 2022.
  • The second type of travel document available is the Schengen visa, which can be obtained for tourism, business, and short-term medical treatment. This Europe tourist visa is for third-country nationals who are not visa-exempt. As this is a traditional visa, there are additional requirements. Applicants must make an appointment at a Schengen member country embassy or consulate to get their tourist visa for Europe.

ETIAS visa waiver for tourism in Europe

ETIAS is being introduced to make Europe safer for tourists and residents by pre-screening arrivals from outside the EU.

This will be achieved by automatically cross-checking travellers’ details against a number of international security databases including the Schengen Information System (SIS), Europol and Interpol as well as the ETIAS watchlist.

Most ETIAS applications are approved within minutes

It is expected that the vast majority of applications will be approved almost immediately. At this point, the visa waiver is linked to the biometric passport and the holder can travel to Europe with ETIAS for tourism.

In the unlikely event that there is a hit in the system, the application will be assessed manually by the ETIAS Central and National Units. Only those people considered a threat to the public will be stopped from entering Europe.

With the system in place, US tourists will be able to enjoy European destinations with even greater peace of mind.

Schengen visa for tourism in Europe

Tourists from non-EU countries that do not benefit from the EU’s visa liberalisation policy should apply for a Schengen visa rather than ETIAS.

Travellers who need a Europe tourist visa should be sure to apply well in advance, visa processing takes longer than registering with ETIAS.

Tourists are issued with a Uniform Schengen Visa (USV) which is issued for a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period. The USV is divided into 2 categories:

  • A category: for airport transfer only
  • C category: for short stays in the region

The Uniform Schengen Visa C category visa can be issued on a single, double, or multiple-entry basis.

Applicants should ensure they have all the additional paperwork required for the Schengen visa.

What documents do you need to enter Europe?

The ETIAS application process for US citizens is fully online and can be made from anywhere with an internet connection 24 hours a day.

Just a biometric passport valid for 3 months from the date of entry in the Schengen Area and a debit or credit card is required to complete the request.

The application form is filled in with a few personal details and passport information including:

  • First name as it appears on the passport
  • Date and place of birth
  • Nationality
  • Passport number and expiry date

Tourists are also asked some additional health and security-related questions before paying the ETIAS fee and submitting the request.

Unlike ETIAS, applying for a Schengen visa can not be done online. Anyone requiring this tourist visa needs to submit additional documents including proof of medical insurance and onward travel.

Which countries can you to visit with ETIAS?

Americans with an ETIAS visa waiver can visit all 26 European Schengen countries. The Schengen Area is a border-free travel zone composed of 24 European Union Member States plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein.

One of the great advantages of ETIAS to visit Europe is that it is valid for the entire area. Once an ETIAS holder has crossed the exterior Schengen border they are free to travel between countries without facing further checkpoints.

Tourists can make the most of their trip to Europe by visiting several nations on one trip.

EU Member States in the Schengen Area

Non-EU Member States in the Schengen Area

Micro-States de facto part of Schengen Area

How to travel between European countries with ETIAS

It’s quick and easy to get around Europe given that there is a relatively short distance between countries.

Flying is a good option with daily flights between all major European cities. Interrailing around the continent is also popular, particularly when heading to a neighbouring nation.

Some American tourists choose to hire a car in Europe. Visitors must have a valid driver’s licence. Renting a car is suitable for those who want greater flexibility. In addition, with ETIAS, motorists can drive across the border without being stopped.