Starting January 1, 2021, U.S. citizens traveling to European Union countries will need to obtain a visa before travel. But before you swear off the EU, the visa process isn’t as painstakingly awful as you’re imagining. You’ll just have to fill out an online form, pay a fee, and be approved within a few days (God-willing).
The visa, referred to as an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System), is similar to the electronic travel authorization that the United States requires for visitors. The reason for the change is to increase security and screen travelers long before they land in Europe (and maybe some extra cash flow). To obtain a visa, you’ll need a passport valid three months beyond the period of intended stay, a credit or debit card, and an email account.
On a positive note, the visa will be valid for three years and multiple entries, so you won’t have to apply for every trip you take to the European Union. At least not until 2024.