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I have planned travel to Iceland, Germany and Spain this summer, from July 1st to July 21st. I see that EU Commission is now considering visa requirements for US citizens and may come to a decision by mid June.

How do I apply for a visa when there is no current requirement?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Mar 3 '17 at 17:56
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Those discussions do not affect you as a traveller during the middle - late of 2017. Possibly even 2018!

Background. They discovered the discrepancy three years ago and it has taken that amount of time for the vote to be tabled. The European Parliament voted today (3 March 2017) on a non-binding resolution to urge the European Commission to make a decision on it and to implement the various legal measures. The ultimate decision has to come from the Commission, not the European Parliament.

The Commission will reach a decision (likely following the EU-US Summit in June) and if they decide to require Americans to have visas, they will turn it over to the individual member states for implementation. Implementation will take a while, plus the UK and Ireland will negotiate an opt-out.

The implementation will take account of the need for a transition period, and the transition will be phased in. All the transition plans will need to be approved and that will take a while. Then they have to be published with an activation date well in advance. Then they have to hire and train visa officials because bureaucracies always need to staff up when the work load is affected.

The initial design is likely to be something non-intrusive like the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) and that means they will have to staff up developers to write the software and then make an interface to the airline visa checking system.

Meanwhile at any point the US could come along and say something like, "OK, we'll accept Cypriots into the Visa Waiver Programme". And this could send the whole ball of wax back to the Commission for another vote because the circumstances have changed. It is also conceivable that the US could come along and say "Hey, let's set up a joint task force and have several rounds of high-level meetings about this" and it could go in indefinitely.


TL;DR

It will take a long time. Nobody will be stranded, nobody will be compromised, nobody will be unreasonably bounced for not having a visa.

I'm aware that on-going immigration bans taking place in other regimes may create some anxiety due to lack of planning, but the EU is much more deliberate. In other words, don't worry about it.


Notes and comments

From Willeke...

Having seen the UK implement a visa requirement without any forwarning, (apart from the very early 'there might be a visa needed in the future') I do not trust on the visa start date being anounced more than 24 hours before the start of the need of the visa, if that much. If it is anounced earlier you are lucky, it is not a right

Indeed, the UK made a snap decision to require visas for some countries, but your observation compares apples and oranges. The UK (whether right or wrong) was hoping to stop a rapid influx of people from less affluent countries seeking permanent residence and creating a drain on the public coffers. Those people are not volume customers of the airline lobbies and similarly do not noticeably boost local economies. In this situation, we're talking about tourists and business professionals who visit and thereby boost the local economies via hotels, restaurants, local transport, local attractions, and so on. That's a big difference which has not been accounted for in your observation.

From Relaxed...

If the EU really decides to retaliate by requiring visas for US visas, it would do so mainly by amending the relevant regulation. The UK would be free to opt-out using current rules (i.e. no real negotiation, just a notification) and Schengen countries don't have to change anything to their legislation, regulations are immediately applicable. Like you, I fully expect the EU to be more deliberate and provide for a delay but the implementation itself does not need to take more than a few months.

And you're right that the Parliament is basically powerless but the Commission can't decide to change the regulation alone either and its decision will not be final, the Council has to be involved. So the process is not really Commission deciding, state implementing, it's Commission+states (through the Council) deciding and then the relevant state agencies/bureaucracies implementing directly. And if there was a will to go that way (which there isn't as far as I can tell), a partial decision from the US would not necessarily mean the process has to restart from the beginning.

Your technical expertise is always welcome. I see you have added an answer here and would advise those following this thread to read it carefully and with the respect accorded to an expert in the field. It's an evolving event and I'll update as things congeal.

  • 5
    I'll add that by the time the ban is due to be implemented, it will no longer be required. The OP needs to be talking to his representatives now to tell them to let all EU citizens enter the US visa-free so as to avoid inconveniencing American travellers to Europe, and the pressure from others doing likewise will become irresistible. – Mike Scott Mar 3 '17 at 6:13
  • (-1) I think this answer is mostly wrong. – Relaxed Mar 3 '17 at 17:09
  • Having seen the UK implement a visa requirement without any forwarning, (apart from the very early 'there might be a visa needed in the future') I do not trust on the visa start date being anounced more than 24 hours before the start of the need of the visa, if that much. If it is anounced earlier you are lucky, it is not a right. – Willeke Mar 3 '17 at 17:36
  • @MikeScott, to argue the other side VWP eligibility isn't arbitrary, it depends by law on quantitative measures like visa refusal rates and immigration compliance that they take seriously (the 2014 overstay report was never issued since a data transfer problem with KLM would have required them to drop the Netherlands from the VWP). Why isn't the solution that the EU invest in the economies of those countries so that they become eligible on their own, rather than demanding the US waive the eligibility requirements for those countries just because? – Dennis Mar 3 '17 at 18:41
  • OK, a couple of details on my vote (was busy writing my own answer and then having dinner). If the EU really decides to retaliate by requiring visas for US visas, it would do so mainly by amending the relevant regulation. The UK would be free to opt-out using current rules (i.e. no real negotiation, just a notification) and Schengen countries don't have to change anything to their legislation, regulations are immediately applicable. Like you, I fully expect the EU to be more deliberate and provide for a delay but the implementation itself does not need to take more than a few months. – Relaxed Mar 3 '17 at 20:07
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A visa is not currently required so you simply cannot apply for one now. Also, if and when it would be required, there will almost certainly be an explicit delay before implementation so you would have time to apply at this moment.

But I don't think it's actually going to happen. The EU Commission cannot decide this alone and member states whose citizens have access to the US Visa Waiver Program are keen on preserving the status quo and don't want to risk that by confronting the US on this matter. This has been going on for years now, with the EU always finding subtle means to step up the pressure to placate the member states that are (understandably) unhappy about the ways their citizens are treated (and especially Poland) while always finding a way to postpone any actual retaliation.

  • "A visa is not currently required so you simply cannot apply for one now." - are you saying that Americans are completely unable to apply for a Schengen visa? Or simply that it would be useless? – JonathanReez Mar 3 '17 at 19:35
  • @JonathanReez They are, to the best of my knowledge, completely unable to apply for one. – Relaxed Mar 3 '17 at 19:53
  • @JonathanReez Americans cannot "normally" apply for a Schengen. No need for a new question – Gayot Fow Mar 3 '17 at 20:00

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