Grab a pen — your next European adventure might require a bit of paperwork.

Beginning in 2021, citizens of the 61 countries (including the U.S. and Canada) currently allowed to enter the EU without a visa will need to register through the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) before embarking on their European getaways. To be sure, the ETIAS authorization is not a visa, and its application process is much less intensive.

The view of the wing out a plane window
Photo by Blake Guidry

Travelers will be required to complete a short online application — which will cost roughly seven euros ($8 USD) — after which, the automated IT system will undergo a detailed security check, cross-checking the individual’s personal information against existing databases to determine any potential security risks. The European Commission estimates that 95 percent of applicants will be approved to travel “within a few minutes”; for the roughly five percent that get flagged, the ETIAS Central Unit will handle the applications manually. Once approved, travelers can utilize their authorization for up to three years and venture freely to and throughout the “Schengen Area” countries without additional applications or fees.

A newly arrived passport
Photo by Sidney Pearce

Under the current system, residents of these 61 nations are permitted to travel through any of the 26 Schengen Zone European nations without any pre-authorization for up to 90 days. The EU says it is instituting the changes in a desire for stronger border security, a decision that comes amid growing worldwide paranoia surrounding immigration.

“The new ETIAS will ensure that we no longer have an information gap on visa-free travellers,” European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said in a press release last year. “Anyone who poses a migratory or security risk will be identified before they even travel to EU borders, while the travel of bona fide travellers will be facilitated.” While Mr. Avramopoulos did not specify what constitutes “bona-fide travel,” any applicant whose authorization is refused will have the right to appeal.

Colorful houses along a riverbank
Photo by Alex Vasey

Until 2021, however, travel to the EU will remain as is: without the need for pre-authorization. So, if you want to jet off to Paris on a whim or head to London for a weekend, we suggest checking those off your bucket list sooner rather than later.

For more information on the ETIAS, click here.

*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article accidentally linked to a false ETIAS website. Any sites currently claiming to offer ETIAS applications are scams — wait until the official announcement from the EU to begin registration (the system is expected to be operational in 2021).

Header image by Jacek Dylag
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Devon Shuman
Devon Shuman is a creator, a storyteller, and a traveler from Boston, Massachusetts. He caught the travel bug at a young age when his family would take camping trips in southern Maine and New York’s Adirondack region. Since then, his adventures have taken him all across the globe. His favorite journeys include island hopping in the Galápagos, thru-hiking Vermont’s Long Trail, and summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. He currently works as an editorial consultant for Passion Passport, helping explorers from around the world tell their stories.