Europe is Considering Requiring US Citizens to Get a Visa to Visit. What Does That Mean for You?

The European Parliament voted to call on the EU’s executive branch to force Americans to apply for visas in order to visit Europe.

European lawmakers set a May deadline, so that this would affect American summer vacations — they want to be punitive — but that’s highly unlikely to happen, in fact there’s a diplomatic meeting scheduled with the US on June 15 and there will be resistance to taking action prior to that meeting.

Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo

This is the continuation of a long-running diplomatic dispute between Europe and the US over the US Visa Waiver Program.

Washington refuses to grant visa-free access to people from four east European states and Cyprus, while those from the other 23 member states can enter using the U.S. visa waiver program. EU rules call for equal treatment for all Union citizens.

The European move towards requiring visas for US citizens is on its surface about reciprocity. Indeed, the European Union has pushed for similar treatment from other countries as well, though things haven’t been pushed this far.

The US doesn’t offer its visa waiver program to citizens of all European Union nations therefore the EU doesn’t want to offer it to the US.

That’s not really what this vote is about though, and the way we know that is by asking why now? and what’s different?

What’s different now is President Donald Trump and the administration’s moves on immigration, making it harder for some people to come to the U.S. and creating more hoops to jump through.

What’s going to happen? In a rational world you assume each nation does what’s in its own self-interest. Or at least individual politicians do what’s in their electoral self-interest. Erecting barriers to tourism isn’t what European economies need, so you’d expect they wouldn’t choose to create them.

At the same time, ‘reciprocity’ is the stick the EU has, it’s how they can express solidarity with voters who find the US increasingly objectionable. And it’s possible to see this escalating on both sides for spite — the EU makes a threat, the US administration retaliates. That wouldn’t end well for people on either side of the Pond, but it signals strength as well.

The EU’s threats to require visas for US citizens isn’t a ‘thing’ yet, but it has the potential to become one. We’ll have to see if Trump’s new immigration order, and follow-on policies, moderate enough to give European Union officials a face-saving path to back down.

If not, here’s what would happen: such a requirement might apply to Schengen countries, but some like Norway are not a part of the EU. US citizens would have to apply to the European country that’s their “primary destination” and the visa would be issued for two years for both business and tourism in any Schengen country. You won’t be allowed to stay more than 90 days total during any rolling 180 day period.

File this under ‘good to know’ but ‘not something to worry about — yet’.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Added to your last paragraph, any precedent or rule on what the visa would cost? And of course US would match anything they do for all the other 23 EU countries. The whole thing is self-defeating for both sides, but there’s no evidence thoughtful people are running the show in either Washington or Brussels.

  2. Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are all part of Schengen so any reciprocity would apply to them as well.

  3. For true reciprocity, it should be $14 for all US citizens every three years to be equivalent to the ESTA fee, plus full visa requirements for three randomly chosen states (perhaps done on the basis of the proportion of rednecks who live there.

  4. I get that this is all political but to me the EU doesn’t even treat all countries in Europe the same so it makes no sense to get all worked up that the USA doesn’t either. Europe has bigger problems with refugees, terrorism, etc. I highly doubt many USA visitors pose a big immigration or terrorism threat.
    Personally I will put off planning any Euorpean travel to see what happens. I assume the Chinese will pick up the tourism slack in Europe.

  5. do they really want to give U.S president another reason to withdraw NATO? It is possible one day it would be visa free to visit Russia?

  6. So if you are a US tourist, you might need a visa, but if you are a ME refugee, just walk on in.

    I fail to see what Trump imposing a temporary pause in immigration from ME countries like Syria and Yemen has to do with the EU requiring a visa for US tourists. The EU might want to consider that the UK has already left, and France and Italy are thinking about it. Both of those countries get a lot of tourist business from the US. And in fact both US and intra-EU tourism is already down due to terrorism fears, with tourism from Russia in a huge slump due to the collapse of the Rubble.

    The EU imposing this on them would only add to the impetus for Frexit and Italexit.

  7. On Thursday I emailed the Swedish embassy in Washington asking what they know about this.

    My question in particular addressed trips that I have booked for late May and mid-August.

    The response, loosely translated, was:

    “you don’t need to apply for a visa to Sweden. The visa issue is a suggestion that has been put forth, but it is a long process to implement the suggestion. It won’t happen overnight.”

  8. The EU might settle on a “Visa Free of Charge” rather than “Visa Free” for EU citizens visiting the U.S, as they did with Australia.

  9. The US already charges ALL citizens from eg France, UK, Germany etc. for the right to enter without a visa. The US should scrap this as a quid pro quo.

  10. with all the unvetted terrorists in their countries, europe is the last place i will take my family on vacation.
    idiots at the EU still don’t get it.
    people all over the world are rejecting and revolting against oligarchical globalist rule.
    their mini tantrums like this won’t stop the eventual downfall of the EU.

  11. @stevenk–you really worry about taking your family to any place in Europe since you worry about terrorists? No place is 100% safe, but this shows you don’t have a very accurate threat assessment measurement system in place.

  12. Robert Hanson: From Reuters
    The European Parliament has passed a non-binding resolution calling on Brussels to force Americans to apply for visas before visiting Europe unless Washington adheres to a visa reciprocity policy and stops discriminating against eastern EU citizens.
    The resolution, passed by a show of hands, demands equal treatment and reciprocity for all EU citizens from Washington as the US continues to refuse visa-free access to people from Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania, along with Cyprus. Other 23 EU member states can enter the US using the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).
    The European lawmakers urged the EU Commission to adopt the necessary legal measures “within two months” to limit American visa-free travel to Europe.

    Basically they are doing this because the US STILL won’t allow visa free travel for citizens from these states (and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a terrorist from any of these places?) not because Orange Hitler is wanting his Muslim ban.
    The refugees are literally walking in all across the EU, and yes, there are some risks anytime you allow citizens and non-citizens free and unfettered movement, like here in the US where we have folks routinely buying guns and shooting up schools, churches, businesses, etc. MOST of whom were born and raised here, home grown crazies so to speak. I’m a gun owner and support the 2nd Amendment, but I’m a lot more afraid here than I’ve ever been anywhere in Europe.

    Trump is doing all this junk to pander to his base, not caring if he’s hurting tourism or human beings, he’s not a real human so it doesn’t matter to him. As long as he never has to suffer any consequences for his actions, it doesn’t hurt him, he doesn’t care and the rest of his party is so busy planning the robbing and pillaging they don’t care what he does as long as the spotlight is on his mental instability and not on what they are sneaking through behind the scenes.

  13. I have a 3 month trip planned this summer. I wonder what might happen if this goes into effect after I’m already in the EU?

  14. After spending 14 years as part of the American NATO forces that permitted the European Union to EXIST, you can imagine how I feel to need a VISA to go to an European country. And people, this issue started during the Obama administration, so don’t jump on Trump. The point is that just the fact that the clowns in the European Parliament consider these measures is an insult to those who spent the best years of their lives protecting Western Europe from Communism, the Berlin Airlift, allowing for the Unification of Germany and the development of the today ungrateful European Union. No one ask us Americans for VISAS during World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. Shame of you European Union and Parliament!

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