Europe has historically been, and to this day remains, one of the top travel destinations for U.S. citizens. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which being the incredible diversity and historical beauty of this region. The fact that U.S. citizens don’t need a visa for a short visit to Europe also makes Europe an attractive travel destination for many Americans.
This all may soon change, however. The European Parliament recently passed legislation which would end the visa waiver program with the United States. Previously, U.S. citizens could travel throughout the European Union without a visa for as long as 90 days. With the passing of this new legislation, a visa may soon be required for U.S. citizens to travel throughout the European Union.
This is huge news for the millions of Americans who travel to Europe each year. In 2016, for example, an astounding 12.6 million U.S. citizens traveled to Europe.
The removal of the visa waiver for U.S. citizens is generally seen as a retaliatory measure by the European Parliament. This is due to the fact that, while most EU citizens can travel to the U.S. visa-free, there are 5 countries which are an exception to this rule. The 5 EU member states whose citizens must obtain a visa to travel to the U.S. are Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Cyprus, and Poland. In total, these nations represent 14% of the EU population. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to visit these countries.
According to EU protocols, all EU citizens are required to have equal treatment. The EU believes that all citizens are not being treated equally as a result of these 5 nations being required to obtain a visa before visiting the U.S.
The U.S. has visa requirements for citizens of these 5 nations due to perceived potential security risks that are associated with these nations.
To be clear, there is no requirement as of yet for U.S. citizens to acquire visas to visit any country in the EU. What has happened is that the European Parliament has approved a resolution that would require U.S. citizens to acquire a visa to visit EU member nations, beginning this summer, and only if the situation with the 5 nations mentioned above is not resolved. In any case, the resolution must still be approved by the European Commission, which is the executive branch of the EU government.
Many EU member nations do not want visa restrictions imposed on U.S. citizens, as this would hurt tourism to these countries. The U.S. likewise does not want visa restrictions imposed on its citizens who wish to travel to the EU.
It is unclear what will happen next with this situation. What is clear is that, as of right now, U.S. citizens can still travel to all EU member states visa-free. While this may change come summer of this year, any U.S. citizen who has travel plans to the EU before May of this year should not worry. For those U.S. citizens with travel plans to Europe later in the year, keep yourselves updated on this evolving issue.