Before you pack your bags, get ready to try new foods, and indulge in scenic and historic landscapes, Canadians and Americans should be aware of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
Starting in mid-2025, you'll have to apply to ETIAS to visit a list of 30 countries that currently or will eventually belong to the Schengen Area. This includes all countries part of the European Union (except for Ireland) and the European Economic Area, as well as Switzerland.
The program was supposed to start Jan. 1, 2024. Pushing it back to mid-2025 was a decision that was reached after "unforeseen challenges and complications stemming from the Paris Olympics and the delayed EU Entry/Exit System," according to a recent press release.
The process applies to nationals of Canada and the U.S., who are amongst approximately 60 countries and territories that currently enjoy visa-free access to countries that belong to the Schengen Area.
The application comes with a processing fee of €7 or approximately CAD$10.25.
ETIAS is meant to act as a pre-travel screening, to deny those that pose a security threat, or a risk in terms of irregular migration or public health. It's meant to gather a traveller's essential info, along with passport details. It was announced in 2016, and was first scheduled to roll out in 2021, but has faced multiple delays.
How does the ETIAS approval process work?
The application should take less than 10 minutes to complete, while for a majority of cases you'll receive a decision within 96 hours. Some cases may take up to four weeks if more documentation is required.
If you choose not to pay the €7 fee, a process that's carried out online through a valid credit or debit card, your application will be rejected. You also won’t be reimbursed if your application is denied.
You'll need a valid passport, one of the aforementioned forms of payment and an email address, which you'll use to be notified when your ETIAS application is approved.
The process provides an extra step, reinforcing the importance to always be mindful of requirements needed for countries you’re travelling to. If you don't have an approved ETIAS, you will be turned away at the border or prior to boarding a vehicle or plane that is bound for a Schengen Area country.
Who is exempt from ETIAS?
Canadians who hold passports or residency cards to European countries that require ETIAS are exempt.
Thankfully, once you receive ETIAS approval, it will be valid for visits up to 90 days within any 180-day period and is valid for three years, or until the passport used in the application expires.
Canada has a similar application process for those entering the country with visa-free access; called the Electronic Travel Authorization, it also requires a $7 fee. The U.S. has its own version through the Visa Waiver Program that includes a $6 fee.
Currently, when travelling to countries of the European Union that belong to the Schengen Area, Canadians and Americans are allowed to stay for up to three months for tourism, business or transit purposes. We’re not permitted to work, and that will continue with ETIAS’ launch. However, with an ETIAS, you can participate in short-study programs for up to a 90-day maximum.
Currently, those under 18 years old and those above 70 are exempt from the €7 fee, as well as those who are family members of either E.U. citizens or non-E.U. citizens who have the right of free movement in the E.U.
Which 30 countries will require ETIAS?
Below are the 30 European countries that will require ETIAS travel authorization before arrival.