ETIAS Visa Waiver for Foreigners Visiting the EU

EU flag. An ETIAS visa waiver will be required by many foreigners, including Americans, who wish to visit the EU and Schengen Zone countries from November 2023 onward

Is it your dream to marvel at Santorini’s whitewashed homes and blue seas, hike in the Swiss Alps, or savor the creamy taste of genuine Florentine gelato? We’re sure it is. But 2025 will bring a key change for Americans seeking a European escape: the ETIAS visa waiver.

While American citizens have not previously needed a visa to travel to the EU, starting from the first half of 2025, they will need to apply to travel to the EU and the Schengen Area without a visa.

What caused this change, and how do you apply? We’ll explain it all in this article.

What is the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)?

ETIAS is an electronic EU-approved visa waiver program that applies to citizens of certain countries who currently don’t need a visa to travel to the EU or the Schengen Area.

According to the official information, the online approval system completes background checks on applicants “to identify potential security risks”:

  • ETIAS aims to improve border management by pre-screening visitors from visa-exempt countries, allowing authorities to identify potential threats before they arrive at the border
  • ETIAS also helps address concerns about irregular migration by collecting travel information beforehand, authorities can better monitor travelers
  • For the majority of travelers who don’t pose a risk, ETIAS aims to expedite the border crossing process by obtaining pre-approval, making entry into the Schengen Area more efficient

Applying for ETIAS will cost €7 (~$7.5). The start of implementation of this program has been delayed several times and it’s now planned to be put into effect in early 2025.

Who needs an ETIAS?

When visiting the EU or a Schengen Area country, you will need to apply for ETIAS if you are: 

  • Traveling to the EU or a Schengen Area country from a country the EU categorizes as “a third country,” including the US and Canada, and 58 other countries
  • Visiting for tourism, business, transit, or medical purposes
  • Going to any EU country except Ireland


Your stay can be for 90 days or less in any 180-day period.

Who is exempt from needing an ETIAS visa waiver before entering the EU?

All travelers to the EU member countries in the Schengen zone — including infants and elders — will require an ETIAS. However, travelers under 18 will be exempt from paying the application fee.

If you’re not an American citizen and wish to visit the EU, you may need a Schengen Visa, not an ETIAS.

Is ETIAS a visa?

No. ETIAS is not a visa—it’s part of the EU’s visa waiver program for short-term stays. Those granted ETIAS approval will not be issued a visa. Even their status will remain “visa-exempt.”

Here’s how to understand this. 

Picture the EU as a sports arena. You hold a ticket (your US passport) to a sporting event in the arena. You’re automatically allowed in the stadium with your ticket (passport), but ETIAS is the metal detector. You’ll need to pass through the metal detector before entering the arena.

What countries require an ETIAS visa waiver?

The following countries are in the Schengen zone and will require an ETIAS visa waiver to travel to:

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Croatia
  5. Czech Republic
  6. Denmark
  7. Estonia
  8. Finland
  9. France
  10. Germany
  11. Greece
  12. Hungary
  13. Iceland
  14. Italy
  15. Latvia
  16. Liechtenstein
  17. Lithuania
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Malta
  20. The Netherlands
  21. Norway
  22. Poland
  23. Portugal
  24. Romania
  25. Slovakia
  26. Slovenia
  27. Spain
  28. Sweden
  29. Switzerland

(Source: ETIAS:Who should apply?)


In addition to countries in the Schengen zone, future Schengen member countries, like Cyprus, also require an ETIAS authorization. European microstates with open borders will also require ETIAS authorization: Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City.

Citizens of the countries listed below will need to apply for ETIAS before traveling to the EU:

(Source: ETIAS: Who should apply?)

What countries do not require an ETIAS visa waiver?

Because Ireland is not a part of the Schengen zone, it doesn’t require an ETIAS visa. The same goes for the UK, which is no longer part of the EU.

What does ETIAS have to do with US expats?

US expats who already live and hold resident cards in their EU host countries generally aren’t affected by ETIAS and can freely travel in and out of the EU.

If you’re only planning to move to an EU country, apply for a digital nomad visa or another type of long-term visa, or retire in Europe, you will likely need to take ETIAS into consideration for any trips in 2025 and later.

Although this program probably isn’t a significant item in your travel budget, it can be an inconvenience if you have already booked tickets and accommodation and planned your itinerary, then get rejected for entry. This is why it’s recommended to apply for ETIAS before any other travel planning activity.


You have the right to appeal against a decision if you’re denied ETIAS.

How to apply for an ETIAS?

To apply for an ETIAS when it’s finally rolled out, you will be required to complete an online application on the ETIAS website. You will need to do this at least 96 hours before your scheduled departure or authorize someone to fill out the application for you. Remember that you might get asked to provide additional documents, which may take more time—up to 30 days.

The process is overall fairly simple and you don’t need documentation other than a valid, machine-readable passport.

You’ll need to include personal details such as your:

  • Personal information: Full name, home address, email, phone number, nationality, date and place of birth
  • Your parents’ names
  • Level of education and current occupation
  • First destination member state and address where you’ll be staying
  • Travel document details
  • Information about any:
    • Past criminal convictions
    • Travels to a war/conflict zone
    • Previous ETIAS rejections

The entire process of applying for an ETIAS should take only 10 minutes.


If you declare a family member who is either a citizen of a European country requiring ETIAS or a third-country national who has the right to move freely throughout the EU in compliance with EU law, you’ll need to provide the personal information about this family member and a specification of your family ties with them.

If you authorize someone to submit the application for you, this person must provide their full legal name, contact details, and information regarding their relationship with you, as well as a confirmation that you have legally assigned this person to represent you.

Connect with Bright!Tax today to set yourself up for international tax-filing success

The bad news is—you have another form to complete and hurdle to jump over before boarding. The good news is—you can move around the EU freely once your entry is approved. The best news is—our tax experts are there to support you with tax-related matters as soon as you settle in your new location.

US expat exits a meeting after discussing the difference between independent contractor and employee.

Bright!Tax gives you peace of mind and your time back

Our firm specializes in US expat taxes and we love nothing more than relieving our clients of the burden associated with filing US taxes from abroad. We’re also developing a global network of partners specializing in filing foreign taxes, including in the EU! Reach out to a Bright!Tax team member today to learn more about how a professional tax filing service specializing in US tax can benefit you.

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ETIAS Visa Waiver FAQs

  • What is the difference between ETIAS and ESTA?

    ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization, is an online security screening system for those entering the United States.

    Considered the American equivalent of the EU-based ETIAS, ESTA derives its legal mandate from the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The Act was part of a broad set of measures the federal government enacted after 9/11.

  • How long does ETIAS approval take?

    After completing and submitting your application, within minutes the system will send an approval to your email in PDF format. Don’t forget to check your Junk and Spam folders just in case the approval email ends up there.

  • How long is an ETIAS valid?

    An ETIAS will be valid for three years from the approval date or when your passport expires, whichever comes first, so you don’t need to apply each time you travel to the EU within this period.

  • What languages is the application form available in?

    You can fill out the ETIAS application in 24 official languages of the EU: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish. Note that you can only use the Latin alphabet.