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European Union officials have moved to clarify travel regulations for U.S. citizens, following erroneous reports this week that Americans will soon be required to apply for visas.

Last summer, the European Union announced that starting in 2021, it will require citizens from countries that don’t currently require visas, including the United States, to apply for authorization in order to visit member states. The process will occur through the European Travel Information and Authorization System, an automated online system meant to strengthen security checks on visitors.

An application will cost about $8, and it will “not take more than 10 minutes,” according to the European Commission. Responses will be cross-checked by Interpol and other security databases, and prospective travelers will receive an emailed approval or rejection in as little as a few minutes or as long as four weeks.

Confusion around the rules was caused after some media outlets, including NPR, reported that U.S. travelers will soon need a visa to reach Europe. Some of those reports cited the travel agency ETIASVisa.com, which says on its website that Americans will need to obtain “the Europe visa.”

Molly Montgomery, a former career State Department official focused on Europe, said the authorization procedure is similar to a screening system that exists in the U.S., the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

Europe’s stance should be seen in the context of post-Sept. 11 responses to terrorism threats, Montgomery said.

“I wouldn’t view this as part of tensions between the United States and the EU that have arisen during the Trump administration,” she said. “I would view it as part of the continuing efforts on both sides of the Atlantic to secure borders in light of terrorism and other threats.”

The Delegation of the European Union to the U.S. tried to dispel the myths online, saying in a Twitter post on Friday, “Neither the #ESTA nor the future #ETIAS (EU equivalent) are visas. They carry out pre-travel screening for travellers benefiting from visa-free access.” Read more

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