The European Commission is being urged to require U.S. citizens to obtain visas for travel to Europe in an effort to obtain full visa waiver reciprocity for all European Union (EU) nations.

Currently, five EU nations are not eligible to travel to the U.S. under the visa waiver program: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.  Citizens of these countries must obtain visas from a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad before visiting the United States.

In response, the European Parliament has approved a non-binding resolution urging the European Commission to temporarily suspend visa-free travel of U.S. citizens to EU countries.  If adopted, U.S. citizens would be required to obtain visas for travel to Europe until the United States extends the visa waiver program to all EU nations.

The resolution cites a rule requiring the European Commission to take action within two years against any country that fails to provide full visa reciprocity for EU nations.  The European Commission notified the U.S. in April 2014, so the two-year “warning period” has expired.  At the same time, Canada, Australia, Brunei and Japan were also notified of their failure to provide full reciprocity.  Australia, Brunei and Japan have since extended visa-free travel to all EU nations, and Canada has agreed to do so later this year.

The European Parliament has urged the Commission to take action to suspend visa-free travel for U.S. citizens within two months, but it remains unclear if this will happen.  The European Commission has apparently expressed concern that imposing visa requirements on American travelers to Europe will negatively affect both tourism and trade and, as a result, the European economy.  If the resolution is adopted within the requested timeframe, it may be just in time for the busy summer travel season.

Mintz Levin will monitor this situation and provide further updates as they become available.

In an update to our post from January 25, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday further restricted visa-free travel to the U.S. for people who have traveled to Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. If visited in the last five years, since March 1, 2011, an otherwise eligible individual is precluded from using the Visa Waiver Program to enter the U.S. for business or tourism. Those travelers to Libya, Somalia, and Yemen must apply for a nonimmigrant visitor’s visa at a U.S. consular post abroad, where they will be subject to the normal vetting process for U.S. visas. The restriction on people who have visited Libya, Somalia, and Yemen come as part of DHS’s implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act that was enacted as part of the year-end spending bill. Continue Reading Visa-Waiver Program Further Restricted for Travelers of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen