Visa-free travel : Ending for Americans travelling the EU this summer?

In a world of endless travel and wanderlust, there is a give-and-take policy between countries in order to gain Visa-free for access for American citizens

Photo Credit Houston Library

Visa-free travel for American Citizens

There comes a time when every citizen needs to look up to their government and question what is going on in the world. Recently, many American citizens have been the victims of retaliation against the American Governments polices towards immigration and visa applications. Myself, a loud and proud Canadian, have been verbally accosted as being a “Stupid American – go back where you came from” simply because I look and sound like my neighbors to the south. Once a country that could travel the world with very little in the way of restrictions, is seeing more and more of it’s people facing political backlash for the choices of it’s government. Visa-free travel may be affected.

European Travel Restrictions

In a new development of the recent political climate in the USA, European parliament has voted to end the visa-free travel access for American citizens within the EU.

According to international law, once a person has entered the EU, they have entered the Schengen zone, providing visa-free travel within. Once in the zone, anyone can move across the 26 countries without being stopped, due to it’s border-free access. This means that if you are granted entry into one country, you are essentially granted entry into all countries. The European Commission is in charge of which countries may enter, which may not, and which require special documents like travelers Visa’s; individual countries do not have this power.

On the other hand, countries around the world must select each and every EU member for visa-free travel. According to the Reciprocity agreement, as you would imagine, requires that all countries reciprocate this privilege.

It was discovered that the American government were not “playing ball” three years ago. They have been warned to change their policies to allow for visa-free travel. The two year deadline has since passed and legislation has begun to restrict American travel within the Union.

The European Parliament has voted to end the visa-free travel for American citizens within the EU and are currently waiting for the European Commission to implement the changes. It is unclear how current visitors will be affected by the change, but sources say the Commission will allow for a 2 month grace period.

The member countries requiring US-Visas are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. The US State department has already commented that these 5 countries do not meet the minimum standard for visa-free travel entrance through their borders, though the EU Commission would disagree.

Canada, Australia, Brunei and Japan were also identified as having visa-restrictions on the same 5 EU member countries, but are either lifting or have lifted their visa restrictions. Canada has promised to have their restrictions lifted before Dec 1, 2017.

Opposition to visa-free travel restrictions

There are many that are opposed to this turn of events. Terrorism in Europe has already damaged the tourism industry and such a move could further exacerbate the situation. By the simple act of adding a few weeks delay and a fee of $15 to obtain the visa has led opposition to believe many Americans will forgo their European plans altogether.

Others still, believe that the simple act of requiring a Visa, regardless of time and money, will keep them away from visiting; it’s the principle of the matter, they say.

Worldly Retaliation over Travel Ban

Iraq and Iran have also imposed restrictions on American visitors, banning Americans in retaliation for the US ban imposed by President Trump. This went so far as Iran banning the National Wrestling Team on Feb 3, then allowing them again on Feb 5 once Trump’s ban was overruled by a Federal Court Judge.

Following the reports that British citizens of Middle Eastern decent (with or without dual citizenship) are being denied access to America, or taken off of planes for simply reading text messages from their mother, in English, has made many citizens afraid for their security. Trump has promised that British and Canadian Citizens, even those holding dual-citizenship with any of the 7 named countries, will be allowed in to the US as per “business as usual”, but many are claiming his promises are not being kept during security screenings.

Canadian schools are starting to cancel any and all  trips to the USA in fear that their students will be discriminated against at the border.

What is the Travel Ban?

To put it simply, President Trump’s executive order has now placed a 90 day freeze on all immigration paperwork and visa applications originating from 7 countries. As citizens of those countries, regardless of current address, one is bound by the laws of the destination country and travel has become increasingly difficult for all those affected.

What does this mean for citizens of the 7-named countries? Basically, anyone with a passport from any of these 7 countries, they are not allowed to step foot on American soil, even during a flight transfer. Some countries are even required to hold a transfer-visa just to switch planes in their airports; but this is not applicable to these countries. In order to cross Oceans or travel the world, alternative transfer points must be made or ultra long-haul direct flights must be purchased.

What to expect at the American Border

According to CNN, Customs Officials have the final say on a persons “admissibility” into the United States. This means that even if you are allowed to enter the USA with a Visa, Green Card or Visa-free travel, some restrictions may apply. Upon exiting the aircraft restrictions my become apparent when dealing with Customs Officers.

A persons 4th Amendment rights, usually applicable to citizens, visitors and illegal immigrants, once on American soil, do not apply at the border. This means visitors are not protected from searches and seizures without probable cause. At the border, one does not have the right to call a lawyer once detained if they are not an American citizen, with or without a Visa. A lawyer is only permitted if being questioned for anything other than immigration status, or being charged with a crime.

Anything and everything can be searched, even if you are an American citizen or Green Card holder. Cell phones can be confiscated and demanded to be opened for any number of reasons, including but not limited to incomplete travel documents, your name matches a person of interest, or are “randomly selected” in a search. You can also be asked to provide login information for social media profiles and emails, though lawyers and news sources alike are unclear if you are required to give up this information.

Just because you aren’t legally required to do so, it may be the most practical choice. Failing to comply with border officials could result in being denied entry and you are forced to pay for an immediate ticket home. Green Card holders would be placed in detention pending a hearing. American citizens are required to be allowed in, but when is the truer question; Border Agents are allowed to detain citizens for hours before being released. Agents also have the right to confiscate your devices for “future investigations”

Bottom Line | How to avoid problems

My first bit of advice would be research. Know exactly how your country stands with your destination. Have all of the required documents on your person and keep a digital copy in a Cloud server for easy access.

Secondly, be mindful of what you post on social media before and during your stay. Nothing screams “denied entry” like anti-government propaganda on your feed. Clean your feed, delete posts, delete images, whatever needs to be done to “pass” screening.

And lastly, they can’t search what you don’t bring along. Keep non-essential items at home and clear the hard drive of anything you do bring with you. I would go as far as to say leave all electronics behind, with exception to cell phones.

If you have issue with any of this, I urge you to speak to your local representative and make your opinions known. You voted for them, you have the right to express your disagreement.

And as always, stay informed and stay safe.

Canadian? Did you know you could travel to 172 countries without a VISA? Check out this article about VISA free travel applications for Canadian Citizens.

Léonor - March 4, 2017

I think the travel restrictions voted by the EU are a step backwards but I agree with them. Coming from Belgium, I believe in the EU and I think we have to stand together. If some of our countries are not treated as they have to be, we have to stand for them and do something in order to change the situation.
Regarding the oppositions that you mentioned, I think that they are bullshit (and sorry, I don’t mean to come against you here, as I know you just mention what you heard, regardless of your own opinion :)!). Because :
1) Terrorism in Europe damaging the tourist industry? COME ON GUYS. Where do you want to travel then? In Latin America, where security is way lower than in Europe? Or in Africa and Asia, where it’s basically the same? Or again, in the US where you can either be killed by anyone with a gun or by a terrorist? As sad as it is, nowadays there are only a handful of countries that are in peace. And although, as every normal and not mentally-ill person, I am really hoping that the whole Isis thing will come to an end soon (although I don’t know how it can end soon, but whatever), I think that if we start being afraid of every single thing that could happen to us while traveling, we won’t travel anymore. And it would be a shame not to discover all the amazing things that every continent has to offer. Personally, I still feel safe in Europe and safer on my continent than in a lot of other countries. All the attacks break my heart but there are no more attacks and tragedies here than in the US.
2) If the simple (but annoying, we agree on that) fact of requiring a visa will stop people from wanting to travel to Europe, the EU won’t be the first to lose something; the travellers will. I mean, if as a traveller you decide not to travel somewhere just because you can’t go with only a passport, are you really a traveller and do you really want to discover the world? Europe is an amazing continent and I feel so blessed to be born here because I love it. If people don’t want to discover it, it’s their loss. And honestly, I don’t know what is the percentage of Americans (from the US) amongst the tourists in Europe, but I don’t have the feeling it’s significant.
Anyway, just wanted to react to that part of the article :). Sorry if my English was sometimes broken, I am not native and I am super tired ahah. Thanks for your article!

    Christine Leger - March 4, 2017

    Oh I completely agree with you. If someone isn’t going to visit Europe just because they need a visa, get off your high horse and get one. Everyone else needs on to enter the states. And I live in Europe at the moment, terrorism hasn’t stopped me from visiting and I would hope it doesn’t stop anyone else, because let’s face, that means they have won. I was just trying to state what the opposition in parliament has been saying about the legislation. And your English is perfect, don’t worry. I appreciate the effort. “Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language”

Cris - March 4, 2017

I saw the news and wasn’t surprised. I hold both a Schengen passport and a EU non-Schengen; my case is a happy one cause I can enter US without a visa but I have had to turn down offers to visit b/c I could never get a visa with my non-Schengen passport (some years ago).
From the travel agents point of view (my job up to last Aug), this spells a bit of a disaster as tourism will go down (why bother get a visa when you can go somewhere where there isn’t a need for one).
Let’s see how things pan out and hope that tourism won’t get too many humps to jump over…

    Christine Leger - March 4, 2017

    That’s true. I didn’t even think of the travel agents when they mentioned jobs in the tourism sector. Hopefully it works out. I think they are mainly doing this to get the ball rolling and make the American Government change their rules. I don’t think EU really wants to do this, it really is a step in the wrong direction.

Cory Varga - March 4, 2017

I asked my American friend about this. She said that although she is sad about it, she feels that it’s fair. I think it’s a shame that Europeans have to close their borders, as opposed to Americans opening theirs. 🙁 This is never great.

Kelly Duhigg - March 4, 2017

Thanks so much for a great post. I too saw this article and it concerns me as an American. I am saddened that Trump represents my country and hurts the impression that peoplehave of Americans around the world. Andto be hoest, I don’t blaime the EU for doing this. Current policies towards immigrants are rediculous. I mean, my boss almost did not get back in the US and they are British. This just saddens me and I hope something is done. Thanks for the share.

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