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European Parliament votes to end visa-free travel for Americans: How policy will affect US citizens
7 March 2017 - 8:14, by , in Travel Tips And Guide, No comments

Americans travelling to Europe this summer face much tougher controls as a result of a vote in the European Parliament.

British travellers can also expect much more red tape after the UK leaves the EU. Simon Calder explains why and how the bureaucratic barriers are going up across Europe

Q What exactly did the European Parliament vote for?

MEPs have demanded that the EU Commission makes visas mandatory for US visitors within two months, by suspending the current “visa waiver” for its nationals for a year.

European Parliament votes to end visa-free travel for Americans

“The EU Commission is legally obliged to take measures temporarily reintroducing visa requirements for US citizens, given that Washington still does not grant visa-free access to nationals of five EU countries,” said a communique from Brussels.

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The trigger for the vote was the lack of reciprocity, with not all Europeans enjoying the relative freedom of movements that Americans have in Europe.

US citizens from any of the 50 states can go anywhere they want in the EU. But citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania cannot enter US territory without a visa.

Q What happens now?

Lots of negotiations begin. While the MEPs regarded it as politically important to be seen to be criticising Washington’s refusal to bring those five countries into line, they also don’t want to damage tourism from the US — which would certainly happen if Americans needed visas to visit France, Spain, Italy and Britain. The deadline theoretically expires early in May, but actually all the US needs to do is say that it intends soon to harmonise the rules — to the benefit of the citizens of those five countries — and it is likely to be let off. Canada also imposes visa requirements on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, but after it announced that they will be lifted on 1 December 2017, no further action was taken by the European Parliament.

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European Parliament votes to end visa-free travel for Americans

Q For British travellers there’s been talk of having to apply for visas for Europe once Brexit happens?

That looks very likely to happen. What the European Parliament is saying about the US is really just a side-show compared with the ambitious plans for a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). This is aimed at nationalities who currently don’t need visas — which means Americans now, and UK citizens after Brexit.

The plan is largely to emulate the Esta scheme that the US set up in the wake of 9/11 to evaluate prospective visitors. You will have to go online to enter all your personal data (name, date and place of birth, etc) and details of the travel document you plan to use. According to the latest proposals, you will also need to answer questions “relating to public health risks, criminal records, previous refusals of entry/an order to leave the territory of a Member State”.

Your data will then be compared a whole range of security databases before a decision is made about whether you can apply for entry.

Q Anything else travellers need to know about?

Yes. An even broader package of proposals will see life at frontiers much more complicated for all non-EU nations at borders of the Schengen common travel area. The Commission is putting together an entry-exit system (EES) that “will apply to non-EU nationals, both those that require a visa and those that are exempted, travelling to the Schengen area.” Travellers will have to submit to fingerprint checks and to having their photograph taken.

UK news in pictures

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UK news in pictures

  • 1/12 5 March 2017

    The sun rises over Bingham in Nottinghamshir

    Neil Squires/PA Wire

  • 2/12 5 March 2017

    Annie Lennox, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Bianca Jagger, at the start of the March4Women event in London, ahead of International Women's Day

    Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • 3/12 4 March 2017

    David Haye after being knocked down in his bout against Tony Bellew at the O2 Arena, London


  • 4/12 4 March 2017

    Tony Bellew speaks with David Haye after his victory during the heavyweight contest at The O2

    Nick Potts/PA Wire

  • 5/12 4 March 2017

    Britain Boxing – David Haye v Tony Bellew – O2 Arena, London – Tony Bellew celebrates winning the fight


  • 6/12 4 March 2017

    World number one Andy Murray of Great Britain celebrates with the championship trophy after winning his ATP final tennis match against Spain's Fernando Verdasco, during the Dubai Duty Free Championships. Murray clinched his first title of 2017 and 45th of his career as he dominated Spain's Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-2 to win the Dubai Tennis Championships, claiming the trophy in the emirate for the first time after losing the final five years ago to Roger Federer

    Getty Images

  • 7/12 5 March 2017

    Jack Mckendrick from North Wales, carrying his partner Kirsty Jones, wins the 10th UK Wife Carrying Race in Dorking, Surrey

    PA wire

  • 8/12 5 March 2017

    Competitors start the 10th UK Wife Carrying Race in Dorking, Surrey

    Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

  • 9/12 4 March 2017

    'Our NHS' demonstrators protest outside of the parliament in London


  • 10/12 4 March 2017

    Protesters march with banners and placards against private companies' involvement in the National Health Service (NHS) and social care services provision and against cuts to NHS funding in central London

    Getty Images

  • 11/12 4 March 2017

    Sinn Fein northern leader Michelle O'Neill stands in front a mural of republican hunger striker Bobby Sands after holding a post election press conference at Sinn Fein headquarters in Belfast, Northern Ireland

    Getty Images

  • 12/12 2 March 2017

    Mother Pam Duggan and aunt Carole Duggan arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the latest round of a legal battle by the family of Mark Duggan, whose fatal shooting by a police marksman sparked nationwide riots. They are going to the Court of Appeal to challenge a decision by three High Court judges that an inquest jury was legally entitled to bring in its 8-2 majority verdict that he was 'lawfully killed'

    Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Q Why is the EU putting up the barriers?

“We need to know who is crossing our borders,” says Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. “This way we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here.”

  • More about:
  • EU US visas passport ETIAS EES

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