Visa requirements will not change for visitors of the Vatican City once ETIAS is live in 2021. Thus, if you currently require a Schengen Visa to enter Italy or the Vatican City, you will still require one to visit after ETIAS is launced. Technically, travellers who currently enjoy visa-free access to the Vatican City will not require an ETIAS to enter the Vatican City. However, since the Vatican City is only accessible through Italy, by default an ETIAS will be required to enter the Vatican City via Italy. ETIAS is not expected to be rolled out until the beginning of 2021. 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 €7 fee. Approved authorizations will be issued for a period of 3 years, or until the date of passport expiry, whichever date is sooner. 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 all the 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 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 ETIAS requirement will depend on your nationality. Only non E.U. passport holders who travel visa-free 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 2021 onward.