Signing up shouldn’t be a big hassle nor a big expense. Without it, however, you won’t be getting into Europe.

This is just the first of what will surely be many pulls of your coat, because nobody wants to be taken by surprise after Jan. 1, 2021.

In reality, ETIAS is not new. It’s basically just the European version of ESTA, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, an American program to register foreign visitors that’s been around since 2007.

There’s a bit of confusion about what ETIAS is. I’ve seen it referred to as a visa. I’ve also seen it referred to as a visa waiver for travelers from 60 non-European countries.

However you refer to it, one thing is clear: Without its electronic blessing, not only will you be denied entry into Europe, but you might not even be allowed to get on the airplane to get there.

So if you think you can just show at the airport with your US passport and your winning attitude and slide by…don’t. Because you won’t.

(If you Canadian and Mexican travelers are wondering if this applies to you, too, the answer is yes, it does. Sorry about that.)

We’re led to believe that registering with ETIAS will be a fairly straightforward process. You’ll need three things:

  1. A valid passport
  2. A valid credit or debit card
  3. An email account

Fill out your ETIAS application online and pay by credit card. You’ll receive your ETIAS confirmation via email. Theoretically, you’ll be good to go for your European trip after that.

Currently, the application fee is expected to be 7 euros — not quite US$8 at current exchange rates. If you can afford the airfare to get to Europe, that’s not exactly a hardship.

Obviously, that could change between now and the time ETIAS takes effect, but don’t expect the EU to raise the cost to the point of making European travel financially painful.

The other bit of good news: Once you’re registered, it will be valid for three years.

If you book with a travel agent like me, I’ll make sure you’re set up with ETIAS before you pay for your airfare or anything else. If you do your own booking, bookmark this blog post and take advantage of the links provided.

Either way, don’t sleep on ETIAS, because his electronic eyes will not be sleeping on you.

  • For general information on the ETIAS program, click here.
  • To see if your country falls under ETIAS rules, go to the pull-down menu labelled “ETIAS REQUIREMENTS.”
  • To receive notification when the online ETIAS application will be available, click here, then scroll down to “ONLINE VISA NOTIFICATION” to sign up with your name and email address.

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