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In the past, U.S. citizens traveling to and through the majority of western Europe for a short period of time only needed to apply for and bring with them their U.S. passport. However, at the start of 2023, Americans will need to take an extra step to travel through Europe’s Schengen Area.

The Schengen Agreement

Your first question may be, what is the Schengen Area? The Schengen Agreement is a treaty that created the Schengen Area of Europe, which includes 26 European countries. In this zone, internal border checks are mostly nonexistent for short-term tourism, a business trip, medical treatment, or transit to a non-Schengen destination.

Schengen Area

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • France
  • Spain
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Denmark
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Hungary
  • Slovenia
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • Czech Republic
  • Malta
  • Microstates of: Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City

The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) visa waiver

Starting in 2023, American citizens will need to apply for new travel authorization—an ETIAS visa waiver—for through the Schengen Area and the following countries:

  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Switzerland

An ETIAS permits multiple-entry travel to all Schengen countries and those listed above for stays up to 90 days within every 180-day period. The permit is valid for three years from its moment of approval. To stay for longer periods of time or to secure work, U.S. citizens need to apply for a Schengen visa from an embassy or consulate.

This visa waiver is similar to travel safety procedures other countries have put into place, including the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, and others, to improve security and avoid incidents of illegal immigration and terrorism. It is a screening process completed through an online application. It’s fast and inexpensive—it should only take 10 minutes, automatic approval is given in 95% of cases, and it currently costs less than $10.

To sum up

If you will travel to or through any of these countries starting in 2023, plan to apply for your ETIAS visa waiver a couple of months before your departure date. You will need a valid passport, an email address, and a debit or credit card. You can visit for more details and a how-to for applying.