EU Threatens to Require Visas for U.S. Travelers

At the moment, U.S. citizens can travel to all of the European Union countries without a visa. When traveling to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program, visitors must be approved by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This allows citizens of approved countries to enter without a visa. The list includes all EU countries except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania.  

The four former communist countries and the Mediterranean island of Cyprus have been calling for the end to U.S. discrimination against their citizens.

Traveling to Europe may soon require a visa, according to the EU.  

After the U.S. has failed to grant visa reciprocity to the five European Union countries, the EU wants to reinstate visas for American travelers. On Thursday, the EU Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution for the EU Commission to urge the full visa reciprocity, or reinstate visa requirements, for Americans traveling to Europe.

Passed by a show of hands, Parliament wants the the new visa rules to come into effect quickly and remain in place until the U.S. lifts their visa requirements.

Citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania are currently required to obtain a visa to travel to the U.S. The EU Commission was given a two month deadline of May but says that it may not respond until this summer. There is a meeting set for June 15 with the EU and U.S. to attempt to resolve the issue that started in 2014. The whole process could take years.

A representative of the Commission says the members will report on any progress before the end of June.

The visa requirement would be temporary, according to the EU.

In April 2014, the Commission was notified that five countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, and the U.S.) were not meeting their obligations towards the EU, offering visa-free travel. Since then, Australia, Brunei, and Japan have lifted their visa requirements for all EU citizens, and Canada will be doing so in December of this year.

The visa reciprocity mechanism states that if the U.S. does not lift its visa requirements within 24 months of notification, the EU Commission must suspend the visa waiver for its nationals for 12 months. The notification was given in April of 2014, meaning action should have been taken in April 2016.

U.S. travel has been a frequent item in the news lately, after President Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, and now the topic of visa reciprocity. Many have been required to give up passwords to smartphones and social media. The U.S. tourism industry fears this may lead to a decline in tourism.