Liechtenstein is a little bit of an anomaly because it is right in the middle of Europe yet it is not one of the 28 members of the European Union. It’s very similar to its neighbour, Switzerland. You may have heard that that E.U. is beefing up its security procedures by introducing a new travel authorisation system. It doesn’t affect anyone who is in the E.U., but it might affect a lot of non E.U. passport holders when it starts operating in early 2020. Even though Liechtenstein is not in the E.U. it will be affected by the E.U. Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS for short). That’s because Liechtenstein is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement. The ETIAS system is not a full blown visa, but an online authorisation obtained in advance of travel.
So why does Schengen make any difference?
The Schengen Agreement ties in many, but not all, of the European countries that prefer to have a common immigration policy. There are a few countries that are part of Schengen (like Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) that didn’t want to have full blown membership of the E.U. for different reasons. The ETIAS pre travel authorisation, although it appears that it has been developed by the E.U. Commission will basically affect entry to the Schengen group of countries. That’s why in just over 3 years time, if you want to go to Norway, or Liechtenstein, and you are an American (for example), it’s quite likely you will need to apply online in advance, pay a €5 fee and get your ETIAS approval, which will be valid for up to five years depending on the date of your passport’s expiry.
Why visit Liechtenstein?
Liechtenstein is such an unusual little country with an intriguing history and fantastic scenery that it’s definitely worth a visit, although prices tend to be steep. It has managed to retain its independence despite the turmoil that has embraced the surrounding region for so long in the past. It is a mostly German speaking country, but its strongest ties are with Switzerland. It makes most of its money these days by providing banking facilities; again rather like its neighbour.
If you do nothing else in Liechtenstein you won’t be able to miss the castle in Vaduz, the capital. The Vaduz Schloss (castle) is the home to the Royal Family. You might even see them going to and fro out of the front door of the castle. As Liechtenstein is hemmed in by mountains, there are plenty of hiking (summer) and skiing (winter) activities to keep you busy and away from all those tempting Vaduz restaurants.
Will I need a Liechtenstein ETIAS visa waiver?
You might, if you don’t need a visa to travel to Europe at the moment but are not an E.U. citizen or a citizen of any Schengen country. There are around 60 countries whose nationals will need to apply for an ETIAS travel authorisation when it is officially launched. At present if all you want to do is to visit Europe for a short stay (less than 90 days), make sure you have a valid passport and some proof of onward travel or sufficient funds and you will have your passport stamped. You can then visit any Schengen country you want for a total of 90 days in any 180. All that will change with the Liechtenstein ETIAS is that you will have to provide some information about yourself on an online form 72 hours or more before travel.