EU Judges Dismisses Parliament’s Bid To Impose Visas on Americans
United States passport holders have long travelled throughout most of the world without having to worry about visa applications.
In October 2020, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding the imposition of visas for US citizens until all EU citizens could enter the US freely.
The European Union has a list of countries whose citizens can travel to the EU / Schengen area for 90 days in any 180-day period without needing a visa.
These countries include the US and this is based on the fact that EU citizens are not required to get a visa when travelling to the US. However, while most EU citizens can travel to the US for up to 90 days without a visa (although they do need an ESTA visa waiver), this has not been true for all EU nationalities.
EU rules state that if a non-EU country decides to introduce a visa requirement for citizens of one or more EU member states, then the European Commission can propose to suspend the visa exemption for their nationals too.
In 2014, the EU raised with the US the issue of non-reciprocity of visa waivers concerning Bulgarian, Croatian, Cypriot and Romanian citizens.
Under EU legislation, if a third country does not lift the visa requirement within 24 months from the notification, the Commission can propose a legal act to suspend the exemption for its nationals for 12 months.
Since the US did not change its approach, in 2017 and 2020 the European Parliament had called on the Commission to reintroduce the visa requirement for US citizens.
“The discrimination that Bulgarians, Croatians (Croatia has since become part of the Schengen area and now benefits from the US visa-waiver system), Cypriots and Romanians experience when travelling to the US is unacceptable. Respecting the fundamental principle of solidarity among EU members, we call on the Commission to act as established in European legislation and table a proposal to suspend the visa exemption for US nationals,”Juan Fernando López Aguilar, chair of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee in 2020.
But the EU court has ruled that the EU isn’t obliged to impose visas on US citizens. It argued that given the close relations between the EU and the US and the importance of US tourists for the EU economy, the suspension would have had “significant negative impacts in a wide range of policy areas and sectors”.
The Court therefore dismissed the Parliament’s action.
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ETIAS Soon To Launch
Although Americans will continue to visit the EU without the visa requirement, the European Union is preparing a new travel document requirement for American travellers.
The new regulation is called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). When the system launches in 2024, it will require all visitors who currently travel to Europe visa-free, such as citizens from the US to apply for travel authorisation and receive approval prior to their departure.
ETIAS is not a visa in the traditional sense. The goal of ETIAS is to tighten border security, as well as digitally screen and track travellers entering and leaving EU countries.
Its purpose and application process are similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) program for visitors headed to the US.
At the moment, the exact launch date of ETIAS is still unclear.
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