Trips to Europe Will Require a New Step for American Travelers

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Americans who want to travel to Europe will have to register online to enter the continent starting in 2025.

U.S. travelers will need prior authorization for travel to European Union countries beginning in spring 2025, EU officials said Friday. The new requirements for travel will also mean that U.S. travelers arriving in Europe will no longer get passport stamps. Instead, their faces and fingerprints will be scanned and logged in a new digital registration system beginning next fall.

The changes, which have been delayed numerous times, are part of a global movement toward biometric screening at border crossings. Travelers won’t need to apply for advance permission to visit until well after the surge of international visitors taking in the Paris Olympics next July and August.

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System, or ETIAS, will apply to Americans and others whom the EU allows to travel without visas. The authorization is meant for trips of up to 90 days, meaning short vacations are included. Once the changes take hold, the EU recommends that travelers submit their information to the Etias website before booking flights or lodging. Some other European countries that aren’t EU-member states, including Switzerland and Norway, will also require the authorization. Most applications will be processed in minutes, but others could take up to 30 days if an interview is required.

You will still need to bring your passport when the new entry/exit system that collects fingerprints and face scans goes into effect. Travelers will still have to scan their passports at electronic gates. The arrival and departure information will be stored in an electronic database, along with other personal information about the traveler. Travelers won’t be able to opt out of the biometric screening. Cyprus and Ireland will continue to stamp passports manually.

The changes should result in shorter waits at entry points and a more efficient process, officials say. The EU says the system will allow it to better track people who overstay—and that it will strengthen security by giving law enforcement digital access to travel records.

Electronic-privacy advocates warn that travelers will give up privacy, in addition to passport stamps. Face and fingerprint data will be stored in databases maintained by other governments, which digital-privacy organizations say could ultimately lead to increased surveillance.

The new target launch dates of fall 2024 and spring 2025 offer some flexibility for the 27-member states to prepare the technology and train appropriate staff, an EU official said.

Americans may have already encountered facial comparison technology in domestic and foreign travels.

They can use electronic gates at the Cancún International Airport in Mexico and at international airports in the United Kingdom. Singapore’s Changi Airport said in September it would launch an automated clearance system.

Many airlines now use face-scanning systems that have replaced tickets for boarding flights.

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Posted in Blog, Country Guides, Travel.