Is the EU’s New Travel Authorization for Americans A Visa?

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EU Travel Authorization Americans Visa

EU Travel Authorization Americans Visa

Earlier this week the European Union announced details of an authorization program that Americans will need to participate in so they can travel to the EU beginning in 2021. Many news sites and blogs including this one called this authorization a visa. Then the trolls descended down and began harassing us.

Emails and comments rolled in, all saying this is not a visa. Most people pointed out that the EU doesn’t consider this a visa. Here is what the EU says on their website about it:

The ETIAS authorisation is not a visa. Nationals of visa liberalisation countries will continue to travel the EU without a visa but will simply be required to obtain a travel authorisation via ETIAS prior to their travel. ETIAS will be a simple, fast and visitor-friendly system, which will, in more than 95% of cases, result in a positive answer within a few minutes.

Not A Visa?!?

Wow they even put “not a visa” in bold. They must really want to convince us that this is not a visa. But why? Well, tourism is a big industry and one FACT is CLEAR. Right now Americans do not need to do anything to travel to the EU, but this new system adds a hoop to jump through. And my guess is the EU is afraid of this new system hurting tourism.

So is this a visa? Well, here is a definition of visa:

An official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region subject to certain conditions, such as length of time and purpose of the visit.

Let’s break that down a bit:

  • Is this new authorization tied to a passport? Yes!
  • Does it permit entry to the EU? Yes it does.
  • Is the authorization conditional in ways? Yes it is!

In other words, this is a de-facto Visa. I can call a pencil a pen and insist it is a pen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a pencil. The EU can make up any word they want, but if their authorization follows the definition of a visa, then it is essentially a visa. Out of respect for them we’ll say that it is not a Visa, but it is the SAME in my opinion.

Now, to be fair the United States has a similar and even more restrictive programs in place for travelers to our country. Called the “Visa Waiver Program” it is similar in many ways in that it requires foreigners from Visa exempt countries to apply for an authorization to come here. Yes, I would say it is technically a visa as well, but of course the US government doesn’t think so.

Bottom Line

Neither the United States nor the European Union consider these authorizations a visa, but by definition they are. Yes, they are much less restrictive and easier to get than a lot of traditional Visas, but in a world where you cannot just show up at a border and cross, but instead need an authorization ahead of time, let’s stop talking about which word to use.

Let’s instead talk about how this affects travelers, hopefully improves security and how it is isn’t too much of a hassle. We never said this new de-facto visa was terrible or bad, but instead we just accurately described it by its definition. But, to make the trolls happy, it isn’t a Visa according to either the US or the EU. I mean of course it isn’t, because that would be bad for business.

Shawn Coomer
Since 2007 Shawn Coomer has been circling the globe with his family for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

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  1. Not sure it is fair game for US. Australian comes to US with Visa Waiver and pays nothing but we have to pay $25 AUD to apply online for Visa. Now it would be the same for going to Euro.

  2. If we’re being pedantic, perhaps we should consider the definition of “append.” It seems a visa has to be physically attached?

    I’m kidding, of course. Here’s my take, having gone through what I consider a “real” visa process:

    With a “true” visa, the subject is asked to:
    (1) state the purpose of their trip(s)
    (2) provide evidence for that (and/or evidence against an alternate purpose)
    (3) provide evidence of ability to sustain themselves, i.e. not become a “public charge” (US term, applies to others as well)
    (4) provide background information that shows that they are not engaged in certain unacceptable activities/that they are not “immoral”

    The application is then looked over by an officer who is tasked with judging the subject’s truthfulness, morality, and ability to fend for themselves.

    At the border, a visa basically says “we’ve looked into it, we trust this person.” All the border agent has to do is make sure the subject hasn’t been since deemed unacceptable (with a quick passport check) and doesn’t appear to be acting strange.

    Compare that to a visa waiver program, which basically says “we trust travelers from X, as long as they’re not blacklisted and promise they’re not engaged in certain activities.” The US does have the additional requirement that you provide employment information; you may argue it has something to do with not becoming a “public charge,” but it’s not like you’re providing proof of income, or even proof of employment. I’d argue it has to do with being “unacceptable” on the basis of company activities. I see no reason anyone would be looking into it unless an (automatic) red flag is raised, so once again… no manual “stamp of approval.”

    In the end, visas are a judgment call by actual humans scrutinizing every aspect, while visa waivers are basically automatic vetting against things for which you would likely get turned away (at the border) anyway.

  3. Of course it is a visa.

    Anyway it seems fair as Europeans have to jump through the ESTA hoops, even some Europeans need a full visa for US. I see this as counter measure and to improve security in Europe so they can keep track of who is hanging around there.

  4. ^Aw Shawn you hurt poor little Andy’s feelings. How? By writing an entitled article saying how you shouldn’t have to pay for this “non-Visa”…wait no you didn’t. But I’m sure somewhere else you did…again, you didn’t. Ah I see. Andy made a comment that had nothing to do with what you wrote. That’s called being irrelevant, Andy. Do us a favor and stop making irrelevant comments. Also I hope the irony of a Brit, who comes from a country that felt entitled enough to colonize almost the entire world, on how Americans are too entitled regarding travel, isn’t lost on anyone. Cheers m8

    • “Felt” being the operative word. As in the past. Otherwise yes his comment is not particularly on point. I am though fed up of everyone on BoardingArea writing the same article over and over. It’s a authorisation to travel whether you call it a visa or not – who cares?! And yes the rest of the world has no sympathy for Americans who will have to pay €7 and fill in a form. Next.

      • In the past to you, perhaps — not necessarily to those countries that spent decades under their rule, and to this day, under their jurisdiction. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make his comment any less laughable or ironic. Also, again, no one here is mentioning anything about sympathy for the Americans (except you, now), asking for/expecting sympathy, or anything of that nature. So, I would doubt very much they care about earning our sympathies.

        With that said, I do agree this topic of “Is it a visa or not?” is played out at this point. Done.

  5. Americans… do you think you deserve your worldwide reputation of being entitled, and overly superior based on well… nothing at all?

    Bitching about a travel authorization. An almost identical authorization that I need as a British citizen to enter the US.

    Very similar/ identical to Australia ETA system also that actually gives you preference of many Europeans.

    Etc etc etc

    If ya don’t like can always do Europe a favour and stay in Trump’s America? That would be awesome for all of us. USA USA USA!

    • Andy call me whatever you want because you obviously didn’t read the post. I don’t care about this new program or if it costs a few bucks. This post is only in response to me being harassed over the use of the word Visa since the news broke. So take the easy road by attacking Americans and blah blah blah. It didn’t work when Europeans cussed me, my wife and my six year old son out in a bus in Guatemala in 2007 because they hated George W. Bush and it doesn’t work now.

      Again, I have no issue with this program. I have no issue if they call it whatever. Everything else I have to think is in the article if you actually care to read it.

  6. “An electronic payment of a €7 fee for each application will be required for all applicants between the ages of 18 and 70. The electronic payment methods will take into account technological advancements in the visa-free countries in order to avoid hindering visa-free third country nationals who may not have access to certain payment means.”


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