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So I have been enjoying international travel for a while now. As an American citizen, it has always been so easy. It is so easy because U.S. citizens can travel to certain countries without a visa.
If you are thinking of traveling to one of the European Union countries, you're in luck. The European countries have abolished their borders, which means that you do not require a visa to visit most of them. It may seem straightforward, but there's a catch. Due to bureaucracy in many countries, U.S. citizens may be confused about whether they need a visa to enter the Schengen Area.
On my previous trip to Paris, I had the same questions you are probably asking yourselves now but fear not. In this post, we'll cover everything from if American travelers need a visa to visit Europe, what documents you will need, and how long you can stay in the Schengen Area.
Here's what you'll need to know:
As mentioned earlier, U.S. citizens enjoy visa-free traveling to 26 European member countries in the Schengen Area. This means that American travelers can travel to any one of the 26 European member countries for 90 days. The purpose can either be for business or short-term tourism but may not exceed a travel time of 90 days in a 180-day period.
Although U.S. residents can also enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen Area, it may change depending on their country of origin. For example, perhaps you are from one of the European countries that have established visa-free regimes with the E.U. In that case, you do not need to apply for a Schengen Visa. On the other hand, if you are a U.S. resident but are from a country that has not established a visa-free regime with the E.U. In that case, you must apply for a Schengen Visa before entering the Schengen area.
For more detailed information on the Schengen Visa, please check out our Schengen Visa guide.
After I first found out that I didn't need a visa to travel to the Schengen Area, I was so excited that I forgot all about my travel documents. So please don't be like me.
Even though U.S. travelers do not need to apply for a visa to enter Europe, there are some documents you have to carry with you before you are allowed entry. As soon as you arrive at the entry border of the Schengen Area, you must present the following documents:
Although the documents I mentioned above are mandatory, you may also be required to present an additional document depending on the E.U. country you are traveling to. This document includes the following:
Simply gather the few required documents I mentioned above, book a flight, and fly to your desired Schengen country.
You must follow the standard arrival procedures when you arrive at the border. Border officials will ask you about the purpose of your trip, how long you intend to stay, and other details. Finally, you can present all of the supporting documents you have gathered. You'll receive a stamp on your passport once your entry has been approved, and you'll be free to enjoy your visit to the Schengen Area.
Remember that authorities do not always request these documents. This is not to say that you should not collect them. However, if you do not present a valid reason for your trip, you may be denied entry into Europe.
Although some U.S. tourists don't need to apply for a Schengen Visa, you must apply for the ETIAS. Luckily, this would only be applicable from 2023.
The European Travel Information and Authorization System is based on the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The system aims to collect information on visa-free tourists to the European Union and ensure that people who pose a security risk are identified before traveling to the Schengen Area.
As I previously mentioned, 26 countries are under the Schengen agreement. Therefore, if you are traveling to any of these countries, you don't need to apply for a Schengen Visa. These countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
You must apply for a visa to travel to Croatia, Ireland, Romania, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Turkey as they are not part of the Schengen Area.
As mentioned earlier, U.S. citizens can stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days. If you are confused, check out the Schengen 90/180-day rule.
Although travel insurance is not a mandatory entry requirement for U.S. citizens and U.S. residents, I advise that you get health insurance just in case. In Europe, travel insurance will cover any medical emergencies, such as illnesses or accidents, during your trip.
Perhaps you were denied entry into the Schengen Zone despite being a U.S. citizen or a national of a country that has established a visa-free regime with the European Union. In that case, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa in the U.S.
You can apply for a visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate of the country you want to visit. However, sometimes embassies outsource visa submission to another Schengen country's embassy or consulate or third-party visa service providers.
Before getting too excited about your passport-free travel to the Schengen Area, you must remember to check the Covid-19 travel restrictions and requirements. In addition, although the coronavirus pandemic has dimmed down, some conditions are still in place.
Each country makes its own decision about who can enter and its precautions. Here's a list of the requirements that you can expect:
You can head over to the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) advisory website for further information. You will find information such as high-risk zones, lockdown zones, testing requirements, quarantine requirements, curfews, etc.
Alternatively, you can also check out Atlys' Covid-19 restrictions and requirements for countries such as Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
You can now officially travel to the Schengen Area as a U.S. citizen without a visa. This means there are no hassles in applying for a Schengen Visa. Instead, simply book your flight ticket, and you're on your way to explore Europe.