Yesterday a committee in the European Parliament conducted a vote on whether or not to rescind United States citizens’ ability to travel to the EURO zone visa-free. They voted to rescind — a blow to free movement. This set in motion the European Commission’s ability to have that option on the table in future negotiations. The issue they have with the United States is that we insist on EU citizens from Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania obtaining visas before travel to the United States.
The EU first put the US on notice over this unbalanced issue in April 2014. And now it seems they’ve had enough. So if the United States doesn’t add the aforementioned EU countries to their visa waiver program — a scheme that the other 23 EU member states already enjoy — they will start the two year process that will force US citizens traveling to Europe to apply for a visa first.
So what does these mean for your travel plans? Not much at the moment. Even if talks don’t go well — and let’s be honest, they are likely not to given the current travel attitudes of the man sitting in the White House — there’s still going to be a two year implementation process.
There is some hint at what getting a visa to enter Europe will look like for Americans: Currently the EU is readying themselves to implement a visa program for UK citizens entering the zone, as soon as Brexit becomes official. It’s basically the system we have in place for visa free travelers to enter the USA — the Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA. To enter the USA without a visa (if you’re eligible for that), you have to fill out some forms online and pay a $14 processing fee, print out the form, and then show it when you cross the border.
The EU’s immigration minister, Robert Goodwill spoke to the Independent about this and reasoned at the time that the “British people are now used to the US ESTA scheme and, therefore, we view with interest how the European scheme might develop and what similarities, and differences, there may be.” Goodwill continued, ““This type of scheme is generally there to help enhance security. To get to know as much as possible about the people who are intending to travel.”
It would be reasonable to think that a similar situation would then be adapted to also include anyone entering the EURO zone with a US passport. Given that approximately 13 million Americans go to Europe every year for vacation, and guessing that a fee of €15 would be charged for a visa, that’s an extra €195 million ($206 million) in European coffers. Take that Europe. Of course fees may vary and tourism numbers may plummet. Who knows at this point.
There’s also the possibility of using the system currently in place in Australia, called VEVO. It’s an electronic form for visas you fill out before departure and pay a fee for online. Then you can download the My VEVO app on your phone and use it when you cross the border. It’s slick, user-friendly, and the future of border crossing.
The biggest question will be how much exactly the European Union decides to charge. They could very easily install a scheme that has tiers for how many EU countries you plan to visit, or make it just high enough to turn off a whole subset of travelers — like cost-conscious US backpackers. It’ll likely be a tit for tat situation. We still charge Brazilians an extra $100 fee for a tourist visa. So, in turn, they charge US citizens the same and make sure you know it. On the visa fee form the Brazilian’s state it says clearly: “a Processing Fee based on reciprocity: an identical fee charged to Brazilian citizens applying for a visas the United States of America.”
At this point anything is possible. But since US citizens visiting Europe is only 2 percent of their yearly tourism travel pie and European citizens visiting the USA is 19 percent of our travel pie…there’s going to be a clear winner and loser here and it’s not hard to guess who that’ll be.