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The EU is threatening to slap visa requirements on US travelers

Reuters/Mal Langsdon
Off limits?
By Aamna Mohdin
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Americans are currently able to travel throughout the European Union (EU) without much paperwork. But that’s not a privilege the European Parliament wants to keep extending.

The reason is simple. American visitors can enjoy visa-free travel throughout the bloc, but the US doesn’t reciprocate. EU travelers from some member countries still need visas to enter the US, including citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania.

The European Parliament passed a non-binding motion on March 2 to temporarily reintroduce visa requirements for US citizens “within two months.” The dispute has been running since 2014, when the European Commission was first notified that five countries, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, and the US, were failing to reciprocate visa-free travel to all EU citizens. Since then, Australia, Brunei, and Japan have all granted visa-free travel for all EU citizens, with Canada promising to do so in December. The US, meanwhile, hasn’t budged.

The European Commission, the executive decider on the matter, had until 2016 to respond to the first notification, but has yet to take any legal action. Though European lawmakers imposed another deadline for the Commission to respond, they don’t have the power to enforce the request.

At issue is what impact the move would have on EU tourism. According to the European Tourism Association, US and Canadian visitors represent €50 billion ($53 billion) in tourist revenues. As such, visa restrictions on these visitors would put millions of EU jobs at risk.

Over 12 million American tourists went to Europe in 2016, according to the US International Trade Administration, making it the leading international destination for American tourists. However, some European countries are more popular than others.

Far fewer international tourists travel to destinations with visa restrictions like Bulgaria and Romania than, for instance, France and Germany. And that makes the EU Commission less likely to budge.

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