US and Canadian citizens may soon need visas to visit Europe

Visas required.
Visas required.
Image: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen
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Americans and Canadians may soon need more paperwork to vacation in Europe.

Visitors from the two North American countries have long enjoyed visa-free travel throughout the European Union. But not all travelers from the EU are granted the same privilege when visiting the US and Canada. Now, the EU is looking to level the playing field.

Europe’s executive body is considering making US and Canadian tourists apply for visas, Reuters reported today (Apr. 7). The European Commission will debate the issue at a meeting next Tuesday, about a week before US president Barack Obama is slated to visit Brussels to negotiate a free-trade deal.

Citizens of most EU member states, including the UK, Italy, and France, don’t need visas to travel to the US and Canada. But citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, do. So do holders of passports from EU members Croatia, Cyprus, and Poland.

The EU has been pushing for the US and Canada to treat travelers from all its member states equally since Dec. 2013, when a law went into effect requiring EU countries to have a common response to visa matters. The law said that the Commission could temporarily suspend the EU’s own visa exemptions on foreign countries if they didn’t lift their visa requirements within six months.

The Commission threatened to increase scrutiny of US and Canadian travel in Feb. 2014, but has not followed through.

This latest visa debate could cast a shadow over Obama’s trip, Reuters reported. The two sides are under pressure to close the transatlantic trade agreement before Obama leaves office in Jan. 2017.