The Vatican City generally uses the same rules for foreigners as Italy, Since Italy will be using the new visa waiver system, called ETIAS, which is short for E.U. Travel Information and Authorisation System, the Vatican is expected to use the ETIAS as well. ETIAS is not expected to be rolled out until the beginning of 2020. Once it is fully operational, it will replace the rather lax system currently in place for travellers who are able to enter the Schengen zone without a visa. The new system will entail making an online application and paying a small fee. Once the authorisation has been granted, the applicant can travel to any of the Schengen countries for a total visit of up to 90 days for the purposes of tourism, business or transit. The ETIAS authorisation is valid for up to five years.
What is the Vatican’s relationship with the E.U. and Schengen?
The Vatican is an independent city state with a close relationship with Italy. It is not a member of the European Union and is only an associate member of Schengen because of its connection with Italy. Schengen’s main purpose is to maintain uniform immigration regulations across the 26 members of the block. That means that anyone who has a Schengen passport can freely travel, live and work in any other Schengen nation. It also means that once a non E.U. non Schengen citizen has permission to enter his or her first Schengen country, he or she can travel through any of the other 25 Schengen countries.
Is Vatican City a tourist destination as well as a centre of the Roman Catholic Church?
Even if you are not a Catholic you will have known how important the Vatican is and that it is the main centre of the Roman Catholic Church. You might think that the Pope lives there but that isn’t strictly correct. He lives at a place called Castel Gandolfo (in the summer at any rate), which is about 40 km away from Rome. The Pope does regularly use the city though and if you are a Catholic you will probably want to go to one of the regular masses. These are usually held in the open air, but may also be held inside one of the buildings and you can arrange to go to a blessing, too.
So will I need to have an ETIAS to visit the Vatican?
This depends entirely on your nationality. Only non E.U. passport holders will be targeted by ETIAS. These are travellers who are currently are on a list of around 60 so called visa waiver countries (e.g. the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan etc). Up to now, these visitors have not needed to apply for a visa in advance before travelling to Europe. If you have been to Europe before you will remember whether you needed a visa to visit any of the European countries. If you didn’t and you are not an E.U. and not a Schengen passport holder, you will most likely need to obtain an ETIAS to travel to Europe from 2020 onward.