Americans will need a visa to visit Europe in 2024. Meanwhile, Europeans who have been to Cuba are discovering they can’t come to the U.S., because terrorism.
Once upon a time, citizens of the United States could travel to almost every country in the European Union for 90 days without asking any government for permission beyond showing a passport at the initial point of entry. It was—and still is, for a few waning months—a marvelous if underacknowledged achievement for liberty.
Alas, the days of frictionless travel will soon be a memory. Starting at a so-far-unspecified date in early 2024, Americans and residents of 62 other countries that currently enjoy visa-free visitation to the Schengen Area of the E.U. will need to pay a fee and submit an online application (including biometric information, work experience, medical conditions, and initial itinerary), then pass a criminal/security background check, before enjoying that croissant in gay Paree. The grimly named European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is projected to cost 7 euros per application and take up to 14 days to render a decision.
Before you start shaking your fist at freedom-hating Eurocrats, know that ETIAS is the belated continental answer to a system the U.S. has imposed on residents of friendly countries since 2009, called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA. Like ETIAS, ESTA is a response to 21st-century terrorist attacks and combines modest fees ($21) with less-than-instantaneous turnaround times (a promised 72 hours). Both either tweak or torpedo (depending on your point of view) the notion of reciprocal “visa waiver” travel between high-trust countries.
U.S. passports have long been given the red carpet treatment worldwide, due to the country’s economic heft and traditional leadership role in negotiating down international barriers to the movement of people (and goods). That latter ethic began to deteriorate after the Cold War, with the rise of bipartisan anti-illegal immigration politics in the early 1990s, and then in earnest after Saudi nationals pulverized the World Trade Center with highjacked planes on September 11, 2001.
The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 mandated that travelers from Visa Waiver countries (which now number 40) submit an application using a machine-readable passport, volunteer plenty of personal information, and answer correctly a series of potentially disqualifying questions. As some of us mentioned at the time, “Whatever we impose on the world, the world will get around to imposing on us.”
We have since imposed still more restrictions, which many Europeans are discovering this summer to their chagrin. First was the 2015 exclusion (backed by several libertarian-leaning legislators) of dual nationals of both an existing Visa Waiver country and of either Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, as well as anyone (aside from those in selected professions) who had visited any of those countries since 2011. Then in 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list.