The European parliament has voted to end visa-free travel for US citizens visiting the continent.
The “visa war” has been a hot topic for some time in Brussels and Washington. The US has consistently refused to offer five EU member states (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania) visa-free travel to the USA, as enjoyed by citizens of the other 23 EU nations. European rules require equal treatment for all member states.
Currently, US citizens can travel to all countries in the bloc without a visa. However after last week’s vote, that may all change soon. The US failed to act on a deadline set by the EU to enforce full visa reciprocity, prompting the vote.
Although the vote is non-binding, the result paves the way for a new visa requirement to take effect.
The EU Commission now has two months to reintroduce travel visas for US passport holders wishing to travel to Europe, as MEPs agreed that the EU is now “legally obliged” to suspend the Visa Waiver Programme. Experts, say that the chances of this happening are very slim.
This outcome is not what Europe wants, as a visa requirement for US citizens will hit the European tourism industry. Already some EU nations, for example France, have experienced a significant decrease in visitors in the last couple of years. Ending visa-free travel for US citizens will only worsen this trend.
The US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs says the five EU countries in question do not yet meet security entry requirements.
Although Canada also imposes visa requirements on Bulgarian and Romanian passport holders, they have ensured they will be lifted in December 2017.