U.S. passport-holders have long been able to travel freely throughout Europe.
The European Union parliament voted earlier this month to end the visa waiver program that has allowed U.S. passport-holders to travel to Europe without needing to apply for a visa for stays of less than 90 days.
The vote resulted from a lack of reciprocity between the visa waiver program of the EU and that of the U.S. The U.S. State Department refused to admit five EU member states — Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania — to its own visa waiver program, saying that those countries did not meet security requirements. The EU requires reciprocity for all members of the bloc, and it began putting pressure on the U.S. to change its policy in 2014, Reuters reported.
About 50 percent of 1,200 domestic U.S. travelers polled by Airfarewatchdog.com said that they did not agree with the European Parliament’s move to impose visa restrictions. Approximately 35 percent agreed with the decision, and 15 percent did not have an opinion.
The EU's executive branch can still stop this process from moving forward, and it is unclear whether the measure will be implemented. In any event, members of parliament and travel experts alike agree that the restrictions have less to do with security and more to do with diplomatic reciprocity.
“As far as I can tell the Europeans do not expect to gain anything in the way of added security,” said Ed Perkins, a travel expert from SmarterTravel, the company that helped conduct the survey. “It’s strictly a retaliation move.”
If U.S. citizens are forced to apply for visas, it will likely be a process that takes place upon entry to the country of visitation—a system that is already in place in many countries around the world and involves paying a processing fee, usually less than $100.
“There are lots ways this could be implemented without disturbing much,” Perkins said.