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Americans Traveling to Europe – EU Visa and Entry Requirements for US Citizens

Traveling to Europe has never been easier, for most of the world countries. After most of the European countries have abolished the borders between each other, and require no visa from a lot of nations, their capitals are among the top tourism destinations around the globe.

American citizens and residents, remain just as interested to visit Europe, as Europeans are interested in visiting the 50 North American states. However, due to the bureaucracy that exists in many countries when it comes to traveling, people in the US are often confused whether they need to apply for an EU visa prior to their trip to the Schengen Zone, the procedures they shall follow or the documents they need to obtain.

If you are a US national or a foreigner residing in the US, following in this article, you can learn more about what you need to do to visit Europe, according to your case.

Do US Citizens Need an EU visa to enter Europe?

Citizens of the United States with a valid US passport can travel to 26 European member countries of the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days without having to apply or obtain a Schengen visa for short-term tourism or a business trip.

However, this changes when it comes to US residents of another nationality. Non-Americans residing in the US, that wish to visit Europe, may need or not need a visa, depending on their nationality.

  • US residents coming from countries that have established visa-free regime with the EU do not need to obtain a visa to enter Europe.
  • On the other hand, US residents coming from countries that have not established a visa-free regime with the EU will have to apply for a Schengen visa in the US, in order to be able to enter any of these countries.

Note: (Starting January 1, 2021, US citizens will have to apply for an ETIAS prior to their travel towards Europe, in order to be allowed to enter the territory.)

What Documents do Americans Need to Enter the Schengen Area?

Despite of the fact that US citizens do not need to obtain an EU visa prior to their travel to Schengen, they still need to have some documents with them in order to be allowed to enter Europe visa free zone.

When American travelers show up at the border to enter the Schengen Zone, they will be asked by border guard to present the following documents:

  • A US Passport. It must not be older than 10 years and it should be valid for at least three more months beyond their intended date of departure from the Schengen Area.
  • Evidence on their purpose of entry. Documents that show why the US citizen is traveling to the Schengen Area.
  • Proof of sufficient financial means. Documents which prove that the US traveler has the financial means to support themselves during their whole stay in Europe.

Please keep in mind that the border guard has the final say whether a traveler should be permitted to enter the Schengen Zone or not. If you are rejected from entering any of the EU member states, then you will have to go back to the United States and apply for a regular Schengen Visa.

If your entry is approved, you will receive a stamp with the date indicating your arrival into the country.

Which EU countries can Americans visit without a visa?

Americans are among the lucky world travelers, permitted to enter and travel throughout the whole territory of the Schengen Zone (Including the UK) without having to obtain an EU visa.

The European countries where Americans can travel to without having to obtain a short-term Schengen visa are:

Czech RepublicItalyPortugal

How Long Can a US Citizen Stay in Europe Without a Visa?

Americans can stay in the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days within an 180 day period.

Please keep in mind that:

  • The date of entry is considered as the first day of stay
  • The date of exit is considered as the last day of stay.

Pay attention to the period you spend in the Schengen, since overstaying always results in consequences as fines or deportation, even when it is unintentional.

Many people get confused when it comes to the 90/180 rule. But, the rule is very simple. The 180-day period keeps rolling. Therefore, anytime you wish to enter the Schengen, you just have to count backwards the last 180 days, and see if you have been present there for more than 90 days throughout that period.

Note: Periods of previous stay authorized under a residence permit or a long-stay visa are not taken into account in the calculation of the duration of visa-free stay.

Can a US Citizen Stay in Europe More Than 90 Days?

If you need to remain longer than 90 days in Europe, then you must apply for a residency permit.

Is Travel Health Insurance Mandatory for US Nationals Traveling to Europe?

Travel medical insurance for Europe is not required for US citizens who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen zone. Nonetheless, it is highly recommended to get one in case of visiting Europe.

Travel Insurance in Europe will cover you any medical emergencies as illnesses or accidents, that occur throughout your trip.

US Citizen Rejected from Entering Europe Visa-Free

As previously stated, if you were rejected from entering the Schengen Zone, despite of being a US national or a national of a country that has established visa-free regime with the European Union, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa in the United States.

You can apply for a visa at the embassy or consulate of the main country you wish to visit, located in the US.  Sometimes embassies outsource visa submission to the embassy or consulate of another Schengen country or third parties that offer visa services.

For more information, read the article “How and Where to Apply for a Schengen Visa in the US?“.

Americans to Apply for EU Travel Authorization starting 2021

US citizens will have to apply for an ETIAS prior to their travel towards Europe, in order to be allowed to enter the territory, starting January 1, 2021.

The ETIAS visa waiver stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System, which will require US passport holders to apply online for an entry permit in Europe before entering the area, similar to the ESTA that the United States use.

This process allows EU authorities to pre-screen all travelers and confirm their status before permitting them enter or even to board a flight to Europe, thus improving security measures throughout Europe.

US travelers will have to pay an amount of €7 when applying for an ETIAS. It is estimated that the application process takes around 10 minutes to complete. An ETIAS can be issued for three years, and can be used to enter and remain in Europe for 90 days within a six-month period.

Travel Tips for Americans visiting Europe

Whether this is your first or second time traveling from the US to Europe, some extra tips for the trip are always handy. Listed and explained below, find some of the top tips for US citizens traveling to Europe, that will make your traveling easier and more pleasant.

Travel Off Season

Most Americans visiting Europe want to see the Swiss Alps during winter and the Greek islands during summer. However, that is the time everybody else will be there as well. No overcrowded destination is fun and worth visiting.  That is why, if you travel off-season, you may find less people at the top European touristic sites and you will be able to enjoy them more. You will also be able to find cheaper accommodation and train tickets and tours.

Use Budget Airlines

When traveling from one European country to another try booking Budget Airlines.  Especially if you are traveling in short distances. A few services less, the absence of most of which you will not even notice, will be better for your pocket.

Travel by Train

Though traveling by train is not so popular in the US, Americans traveling in Europe are highly advised to travel by train, especially between the Schengen states and cities. Traveling by train is among the cheapest means of transport in the old continent, and you will be able to enjoy the trip more, since trains give you the chance to see more of Europe.

Befriend the locals

By all means, no one knows the cheapest and tastiest food shops better than the locals do. Try to chitchat with some of the locals, and they will show you where you can have a finger licking meal, without having to spend too much. They will also show you interesting places to see, that not all tourists are aware of.  American tourists are always welcomed in Europe; therefore, you will be quite successful at doing this. In addition, you will make some new buddies that are a must to have a more memory-lasting journey.

Make reservations in advance

They are always cheaper, and not only. If you make reservations in advance as an American in a Europe trip, you will avoid wandering from one hotel to another to find a place to sleep, in case of overcrowded hotels. At the same time, you will avoid the risk of having to lose time, by waiting for the next flight, bus or train, since the previous was full or even in long lines at touristic attractions.

Keep cash with you

If you are planning to use credit cards while traveling Europe as a tourist from US, you should know that there are places in the old continent that only accept cash. In addition, having cash with you to pay taxi rides, tips, and purchases at local markets will save you quite a lot of money on foreign transaction fees.

Not all European countries use the Euro

All US states use the American dollar but not all EU countries use the Euro. Despite of the belief that the Euro is the common currency for all European countries, there are actually a lot of countries that use other currencies. For example, the Czech Republic uses Koruna, Liechtenstein uses the Swiss Franc and Poland uses Zloty.

Bring an umbrella

All Americans visiting Europe are highly advised to take an umbrella, which folds and can be kept in a backpack. In many European cities, especially in those located in Southern Europe as Ljubljana in Slovenia, Naples and Turin in Italy, rain is always forecasted.

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