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Monday, March 6, 2017
US Citizens might need a Visa for Europe
For as long as most Americans can remember, visiting Europe has required nothing more complicated than a plane ticket and a passport. That may change as early as this May. On March 2, the European Parliament voted "to force Americans to apply for visas before visiting Europe this summer," according to Reuters.
Why? It has to do with the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, the agreement with 38 countries eligible for visa-free travel to the U.S. and vice-versa, for stays of up to 90 days. This program is one of many such visa waiver agreements among nations worldwide.
The agreement covers most of the 28 member countries of the European Union, but five are excluded: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, collectively about 14 percent of the E.U. population. While U.S. citizens can travel to these countries visa-free, their citizens don't have the same privilege in the U.S. and must still apply for visas. Most visa waivers are reciprocal, and under E.U. rules, all countries' citizens must have equal rights.
Using this logic, it would be as if citizens of, for example, California, Oregon and Nevada (collectively about 14 percent of the U.S. population) were required to go through the often cumbersome, time-consuming visa application process to travel overseas, while citizens of the rest of the states faced no such hurdles.
Australia, Brunei, Canada and Japan have also had similar restrictions. The E.U. put them and the U.S. on notice on 2014, and the other four nations have since lifted the restrictions or will do so later this year. The European Parliament did not vote to impose new visa requirements on them.
The European Parliament voted for the new visa policy to take effect within two months – that would be in May – but officials in charge of implementation are said to be pursuing a diplomatic solution, which could delay the new requirements indefinitely.
Despite the vote, some European Parliament members warned that the diplomatic row could lead to tit-for-tat retaliation from the U.S. and a drop in American visitors to the E.U., with possible serious economic implications for Europe. Each year, some 30 million Americans visit Europe, spending an estimated $54 billion, according to the U.K. newspaper the Telegraph.