On March 2nd of this year, the European Parliament voted to pass a non-binding motion that would require American visitors to European Union countries to obtain a visa prior to travel. Currently, American citizens are allowed entry to EU countries and permitted to stay for up to 90 days without a visa, under a current visa reciprocity agreement. If the EU elects to move forward with this requirement, the changes would go into effect on May 2nd and would affect the nearly 12 million Americans that visit Europe on an annual basis for either business or leisure.
Why Did the European Union Vote for this Measure?
Although American citizens currently enjoy visa-free travel throughout the European Union, the United States does not fully reciprocate as it requires citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania to submit visa applications ahead of time. The United States was, initially, not alone in the lack of reciprocity. Australia, Brunei, Canada and Japan had also been requiring citizens of these countries to apply for visas as well, but these four governments have since lifted their requirements and have granted full reciprocity to all EU member countries. The United States, however, has not wavered on its stance. Unless full reciprocity is made available to all European Union countries, American citizens may be required to obtain travel visas by later this spring.
Will It Happen?
By all accounts, chances are slim that the European Parliament will push the measure ahead and that the motion was more symbolic in nature, meant to serve as a call to reach a diplomatic resolution to the dispute. American visitors to EU countries represent income of more than $50 billion dollars annually to the European economy, and any action taken that might reduce this income could have a negative impact on employment, which would ultimately do more harm than good.
What Does This Mean for American Travelers?
As things currently stand, there has been no change in the ability of Americans to travel to, from and through EU countries. In the event that the measure moves forward, it is unclear whether the requirement would take effect immediately (on the predetermined May 2nd date) or if there would be a date of implementation announced ahead of time. Immediate implementation would result in logistical complications as Americans could find themselves unable to enter or leave EU countries until proper visas are obtained. In the meantime, we are watching the situation closely and keeping our clients informed of developments as they happen.