(CNN) — It’s finally happened: the end of free travel to the European Union.
The EU has announced the launch of its long-awaited visa waiver system, ETIAS, which will begin in May 2023.
Although ETIAS is not the same as a visa – it is faster, done online and does not require any biometric information – there is still a procedure and cost to acquire it, much like the US program ESTA.
ETIAS, which stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System, was previously scheduled to debut in late 2022.
EU travelers are exempt and have freedom of movement within the bloc, allowing them to spend as much time as they wish in many countries. EU residents will also be exempt.
But for anyone entering the bloc from a country that did not require a visa before, ETIAS will be mandatory. This decision concerns around 60 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, which lost their freedom of movement after Brexit. Nothing changes for those who previously needed a visa to enter.
The application process will be through a “largely automated IT system”, with approval granted “within minutes”, for around 95% of applicants, according to a new memo released by the EU. The maximum time needed for approval could be up to one month in “very exceptional cases”. Anyone whose application is refused will have the right to appeal.
The ETIAS authorization is valid for an unlimited number of entries over three years. However, holders must follow immigration and overstay rules. Currently, third-party nationals cannot stay for more than 90 days across the bloc, for each 180-day period.
The cost: €7 ($7.35) for people aged 18 to 70. It is not yet clear whether others will receive a reduced rate or be able to join for free. In comparison, the United States charges $21 for an ESTA authorization.
The start date for applications has not yet been announced.
Top image credit: Artem Kamyshenkov/Adobe Stock