EU Issues Threat to the U.S. Regarding Reciprocal Visa Requirements

On Friday, the EU Parliament voted to require Americans to apply for Visas prior to traveling to member countries. A controversial fight pits the EU against several countries with visa restrictions which affect one or more EU states. President Trump’s “take no prisoner’s” attitude towards diplomacy has made American citizens nervous about making travel plans. Meanwhile economists are calculating the cost for Europe of denying entrance to the millions of visitors, especially as business opportunities grow following the recent economic recovery.

E.U. proposes visas for U.S. citizens.

The EU Demands Reciprocal Visa-Free Travel

Despite the ease of attributing the current situation as merely a retaliatory measure in protest of Trump’s visa revocations, this issue has been ongoing for several years. Citizens from five European countries, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Poland, Croatia, and Romania, must apply for visas before entering the United States. However, there has been a growing call for reciprocity since 2014. At that time, the EU countries agreed to a clause in the regional travel legislation which resulted in all of Europe being considered as one country for the purposes of international travel.

Canada Was Also Targeted by the EU

The U.S. is also not the only country which faced this issue. Canada required visas from citizens of Bulgaria and Romania, and the EU threatened to remove visa privileges last summer. However, Canada eventually agreed to end all visa requirements for European citizens by the end of 2017. Additionally, while the issue goes through the final stages of a resolution, Canada already eased restrictions for business travel from the two affected countries. Travel was simplified as well as for private individuals who were approved for visits during the last ten years.

Visa Requirements Are Unlikely to be Implemented

Although the European Union Parliament’s vote has caused some anxiety, its actual impact is likely to be minimal. The decision is non-binding, and a change in visa policy would require approval from each of the countries that belong to the EU. Additionally, the EU has already advised that they plan on pursuing a diplomatic solution, which will likely last past the May deadline established in the Parliament recommendation.

Europe Stands to Lose by Making American Visitors Pay

Most importantly, few European countries are willing to face the consequences of hindering the travel plans of the nearly 25 million Americans expected to visit Europe in the coming year. Last year saw an 8 percent increase in travel by Americans visiting the European mainland. Visitors to the U.K. and Ireland do not have restrictions. Travel agencies are looking forward to an even bigger increase this year, thanks to low airfares and a strong dollar, both of which encourage Americans to visit and spend money. In 2016, the amount spent topped $50 billion.

A Handful of Countries Still Require Visas from Americans

Americans tend to enjoy worry-free travel around the globe. Yet there are a few countries which still require visas from those arriving from the U.S., including Australia, Russia, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil. For Australia and the Dominican Republic, travelers can complete the requirements easily. The cost is less than $15 and Americans can obtain visas after completing an online application. However both Brazil and Russia have a lengthy and complicated process costing hundreds of dollars.

Several Travelers of Muslim Descent Also Face Visa Issues

The argument over visas highlights the issues inherent in modern travel, especially for citizens of countries deemed to be undesirable. Muslims born in several Muslim-majority countries lost visa privileges overnight, despite being citizens or permanent residents of a different country in some cases. Several American allies, including the U.K., Australia, Canada, and France denounced the American travel ban as being bad for both individuals and businesses. Several American companies voiced objections to the travel restrictions. A Federal court struck down Trump’s executive order, and the administration is submitting new guidelines.

How Would the E.U.’s American Visa Requirement Affect Trading?

Making it harder for Americans to visit Europe would hurt both American and European business interests. However it would hit the E.U. harder than the States. Travel plans could shift to the U.K. and Ireland, which would not be part of the new visa guidelines. The pound will rise against both the dollar and the euro if the proposed visa restrictions pass. Stock prices in the major air transportation companies will suffer. More Americans would opt to stay home rather than visit Europe.