What You Need to Travel to Europe in 2024

The rules are changing for what Americans need to travel to Europe.

A European Union flag flies on a shore with mountains in the background and a plane flying overhead in the sunlight.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The rules are changing around what you need to travel to Europe, including to some of the cheapest countries to visit, with a moving target on a planned update.

Starting in "the first half of 2025," Americans will need one more document to enter countries in the European Union. To visit, you'll have to apply for approval under the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). You will apply online, and the authorization, which will be linked to your passport, will account for short-term stays, including up to 90 days in a 180-day period. 

This had been planned to be in effect till 2024, but in fall 2023, the European Union updated its page on ETIAS to indicate it won't happen till the middle of 2025, confirming rumors of a delay. European Commission spokesperson for home affairs Anitta Hipper had told Kiplinger in late September, "The Commission remains committed to make ETIAS operational as soon as possible."

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How Europe's ETIAS system will work

To fill in the application, you'll need some basic information. This includes your name, address, passport information, current occupation, as well as information about past travel to conflict zones and criminal convictions. You will also have to share information about your travel plans, as well as answer questions about if you have relatives who are citizens in Europe. The application will not require any health information or biometric data, like fingerprints. 

The ETIAS website says that "most" applications are processed in minutes, but it could extend to within four days of an application. Additionally, some requestors may be asked for more information or to do an interview, which would extend the process by up to 14 days, for more documentation, or 30 days, for an interview. So if you're planning travel, remember to apply well before you have to go.

The good news is that once you're approved, the authorization lasts for three years. But if your passport expires within those three years, you'll need to apply again.

Email is important to this process. You apply online, and then receive an email confirming your application. That email "will include your unique ETIAS application number: make sure you keep this number for future reference," the ETIAS website says. You will get another email once your application is processed. 

If your application gets rejected, the email will have the reasons for it. You will have the option to appeal a rejection. 

What Americans should look out for with ETIAS

A middle-aged couple happily looks at a phone near a body of water.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In addition to adding some hassle, this requirement will make a family vacation slightly more expensive. Applications will cost 7 euros, which right now is close to $8. However, applications for people under 18 or over 70 years old are free. There are also some exemptions for those who have EU citizen family members and "non-EU nationals who have the right to move freely throughout the European Union."

One more thing to look out for: ETIAS warned last spring that many unofficial ETIAS websites have sprung up. ETIAS says these sites have incorrect information and some "already collect travellers’ personal data, which is concerning." Protect your identity by only using the official ETIAS website. 

The bottom line on what you need to travel to Europe

This is a big change for Americans since there hasn't been a visa requirement to visit EU countries before. Keep this in mind before your big trip to Greece, Italy, France, or any of the other 30 Euro nations in 2025. 

But, Cameron Hewitt, content and editorial director at Rick Steves' Europe, told the Washington Post: "It certainly shouldn’t cause anyone to rethink a trip to Europe. From what we know, ETIAS looks like it’ll simply be a manageable bit of red tape." Then, your biggest concern will be avoiding the crowds on Santorini

For now, though, the old rules are in place, and you do not need a visa to travel to Europe for trips under 90 days as an American in 2024. But you should check your passport's expiration date, as it needs to be valid for at least six months after arrival in the European Schengen area, and be aware of how long it takes to renew your passport

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Alexandra Svokos
Senior Digital Editor

Alexandra Svokos is the senior digital editor of Kiplinger. She holds an MBA from NYU Stern in finance and management and a BA in economics and creative writing from Columbia University. Alexandra has a decade of experience in journalism, specializing in online newsrooms. She previously served as the senior editor of digital for ABC News, where she directed daily news coverage across topics through major events of the early 2020s for the network's website. Before that, she pioneered politics and election coverage for Elite Daily and went on to serve as the senior news editor for that group. 

Alexandra was recognized with an "Up & Comer" award at the 2018 Folio: Top Women in Media awards, and she was asked twice by the Nieman Journalism Lab to contribute to their annual journalism predictions feature. She has also been asked to speak on panels and give presentations on the future of media, including by the Center for Communication and Twipe.