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Will American tourists need to pay a fee to visit Switzerland?

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The Local ([email protected])
Will American tourists need to pay a fee to visit Switzerland?

The EU has plans to introduce an authorisation system for non-EU holidaymakers - including Americans when entering the EU and Schengen zone. Here's how it will work for people travelling to Switzerland in future.


There are two big changes afoot when it comes to travel into the EU Schengen zone (full list below), including Switzerland, which will affect arrivals from the USA.

Because the EU loves an acronym, both of them are known by their initials - EES and ETIAS. EES is essentially an enhanced passport check with fingerprinting - find full details of that here.

But the one that will have the biggest effect on tourists and people arriving in Switzerland for short trips is ETIAS. 


In short, it will require all arrivals into the EU and Schengen zone (Ireland is not included) to register in advance online.


The ETIAS requirement applies to all arrivals into the Schengen zone from a non-EU country - including the USA - who do not have a Swiss (or other EU) visa or residency card.

It will therefore mostly apply to tourists, second-home owners or people on family visits.

At present Americans benefit from the 90-day rule, which allows people to spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without the need for a visa.

ETIAS is technically a visa waiver, rather than a visa, but it still spells the end of entirely paperwork-free travel.


Travellers will have to fill out an online application before departure, giving their personal details such as name, age, address.

Once issued, the authorisation lasts for three years, so frequent travellers do not need to complete a new application every time, but it must be renewed every three years.

The online application is set up to give a rapid response, and people would generally not need to fill it in until about 72 hours before travel, although the full details of the system are yet to be revealed.

Anyone who has not completed the online process will be denied boarding at the airport. 

How much?

The exact cost of the application is set to be €7 (so currently around 6.7 Swiss francs), and is free for under 18s and over 70s. It lasts for three years and can be used for multiple trips.



The introduction of the ETIAS system has been delayed several times and is currently scheduled for 2024, with no precise introduction date.

It will come into effect after EES is introduced - EES is currently set to be introduced some time in 2024, but the French government is pushing hard for that to be after the Paris Olympics in summer 2024.

It's therefore entirely possible that the start date of ETIAS will be pushed back again to 2025.

Is this fair?

Ex US president Donald Trump seems to have only recently found out about ETIAS and is very angry about it.

This is a decision made by EU countries in respect of their borders, so it's not within the control of the US government.

It certainly represents a change in travel to Europe for Americans, but the US has made similar demands of EU citizens since 2009. Anyone travelling to the US for a short holiday or trip from a European country must fill in the ESTA online visa waiver.

ESTA is in fact the system that the EU's ETIAS was modelled on.

These are all the EU and Schengen area countries that will require non-EU visitors to provide an ETIAS visa waiver when arriving at the border: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.



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