You may have heard that Europe is beefing up its border security arrangements after experiencing an unprecedented wave of refugees and a number of terrorist attacks. Many people who visit Austria or any of the other E.U. countries do not at present need a visa in advance before they arrive. In fact, many people just have to show up at a border, like an international airport and show their passports. As long as their passports are valid and immigration officials are satisfied, they get 90 days anywhere in Europe. Because many visitors to Austria arrive overland from another E.U. country they may not even be asked to show their passport at all. As a result, Austria as well as other EU countries, have been looking at introducing a European visa waiver scheme.
The new system will require non Europeans who, up to now have been “visa exempt” to apply in advance for a “travel authorisation”. This will be like a visa but will be easier to get, as all you will need to do is to make an online application and pay a fee. The new system is called the European Travel and Information Authorisation System or ETIAS. It’s not officially ready yet, but it will be a reality from 2021.
Austria is part of Schengen
One thing about Europe which often confuses people is the difference between the European Union and Schengen. Austria, for instance, is both a member of the E.U. and Schengen. There are 28 member countries in the European Union, which allows free movement of citizens throughout, as well as a common market for trade. Schengen was more specifically set up to make immigration and visa requirements standard. In fact, nearly every member of the Schengen Agreement is also in the E.U.
There are a few countries that are not in the E.U., but are in Schengen, like Norway. There are also some countries that are in the E.U., like Britain and Ireland, but are not in Schengen. No wonder it is a little confusing for outsiders! Basically, if you get a Schengen visa, it will give you 90 days anywhere in the Schengen zone, but if you also want to visit an E.U. country that is not part of Schengen, like Britain, you may need a different visa. The ETIAS agreement is expected to affect travel to the Schengen European countries.
Why visit Austria?
Austria has long been on the European tourist circuit. Most of the country is above 500 metres and consists of beautiful mountain scenery, lush pastures and quaint Alpine villages. There are many places to explore by road, taking you through gorges and over steep mountainsides with plentiful accommodation to satisfy all tastes and budgets.
Austria is also known for its cultural heritage and archaeological splendour. Vienna remains the main draw card and is a beautiful and fascinating city with a long history behind it. It remains an epicentre for music, theatre, the opera and the arts.
Will I need an Austria ETIAS visa waiver?
You won’t need an Austria ETIAS visa waiver if you are a citizen of any of the European Union member states or one of the non E.U. Schengen members. You are unlikely to need to apply for an Austria ETIAS visa waiver if you are a citizen of any country that has needed a Schengen visa in advance up to now. You will probably need to get an Austria ETIAS visa waiver in the future (when the system is officially up and running) if you are not a European citizen, and your country of citizenship has been visa-exempt up to now.
If in doubt, contact us to learn about how ETIAS is likely to affect you.