A visa waiver is basically a way of making travel to a country easier and less bureaucratic but still retaining control over who is allowed into the country and how long a traveller can stay for tourism, business, transit or medical purposes. There are around 60 visa waiver countries whose citizens do not need visas to visit Europe for a stay of up to 90 days. They include passport holders from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan and others. The Schengen entry-and-exit system for these travellers is what will change with the roll-out of the ETIAS. Everyone in this current visa waiver group will need to make an online application in advance of travelling to the Schengen zone from early 2020 onward. The new visa waiver system is called the E.U. Travel Information Authorisation System or ETIAS for short. Any other non E.U. passport holder whose passport is not on the visa waiver list needs to apply for a visa in advance before they travel to the Schengen area.
San Marino is not in the E.U. does that matter?
Like a number of other small but independent European nations San Marino is not a member of the European Union, but it does have a very close association with Italy. This means that for all practical purposes, San Marino is an associate member of the Schengen block because of its Italian connection. Currently, visiting San Marino is just like going to a rather special region of Italy. If you are from one of the visa waiver countries mentioned above, your visit to San Marino is covered by your status in Italy as it is in any other Schengen member country. You will need to have an ETIAS authorisation for travel to San Marino once the system rolls out in early 2020.
Is San Marino worth visiting?
San Marino is one of Europe’s tiniest countries with an area of less than 62 square kilometres. It claims to be the oldest republic in the world, so that makes it an interesting place to have a look at, if for nothing else. Actually, San Marino is still not entirely urbanised and has quite a lot of rural area outside the main city. San Marino, the city, is best walked around. This gives you the feel of the place rather than driving slowly around the narrow streets trying to find somewhere to park. The little streets are full of pleasant surprises. San Marino is quite a hilly place and you will find yourself winding around as you ascend and descend throughout the city.
Will I need to apply for a San Marino ETIAS?
Not yet, even if you are in the group of countries that will need an ETIAS in the future. That’s because the system is not yet operational. The ETIAS deployment depends on improving and installing the sort of infrastructure needed to run the system in every country that will be covered by ETIAS and that seems to be early 2020 according to the latest report from the E.U. Commission in Brussels. The ETIAS will cost €7 and last for 3 years, or until passport expiry, whichever date comes first.