Another Day, Another Visa Problem: The European Union Passes Resolution Requiring Americans to Obtain Visas Before Going to Europe

TYLER NEWTON – The European Union raised the stakes during the latest round of the ongoing tit-for-tat battle of visa requirements between the E.U. and the United States. On March 2, 2017, the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution which would require Americans travelling to the E.U. to obtain a visa before making the trip overseas.[1] For years, Americans could travel to E.U. countries without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”).[2] Yet, despite the program promising the reciprocal waiving of visa requirements between the U.S. and the E.U., the U.S. has maintained strict travel requirements for a few countries— Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.[3]

While the U.S. was not the only country to limit the VWP for some E.U. nations—Australia, Brunei, Canada and Japan were also accused of violating the program—the U.S. is the only country to not take any steps to honor the reciprocity.[4] In 2014, the European Commission gave Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, and the U.S. two years to ensure that visa reciprocity was upheld between all E.U. member countries.[5] Of those countries, Australia, Brunei, and Japan have completely lifted all restrictions and Canada has promised to do so by the end of the year.[6] Only the U.S. missed the deadline, prompting the European Parliament to take action.[7]

Claude Moraes, a British member of the European Parliament, said the measure was necessary to force the U.S. to respond, “Only when the U.S. fully gets that the European Commission is going to act are we going to get any kind of timetable from the United States.”[8] While many see the non-binding resolution as a necessary show of force for the E.U., the possibility of passing visa requirements would not come without its problems. Eduardo Santander, the executive director of the European Travel Commission warned that “[m]aking it more difficult for US citizens to travel to Europe would certainly deprive the European travel and tourism sector of essential revenue and put thousands of European jobs at stake in one of the few sectors which experiences a strong growth in employment.”[9]

The E.U. is not in an enviable position—whatever route the E.U. decides to take has consequences. Passing a visa requirement would likely lead the Trump administration to adopt visa requirements of its own for all E.U. member countries.[10] Yet, if the E.U. is caught bluffing and decides to keep the status quo, it risks losing credibility both in Europe and internationally.

Americans, meanwhile, are downplaying the problem. “We have maintained an open dialogue with EU officials—as well as officials from those Member States that require visas for travel to the United States—on this matter. It is premature to speculate on an imposition of visas on U.S. citizens,” a U.S. State Department official said.[11] Some articles have stressed the fact that the decision was non-binding and no visa requirements have been imposed.[12] To many, this story is much ado about nothing, [s]till, regardless of breathless headlines, the real story is that Americans don’t need visas to go to the European Union, and certain Europeans still do.”[13] Perhaps Americans have become overwhelmed from all the talk of visas in the news. It would be hard to blame them.[14]

[1] Hugh Morris, EU Escalates ‘Visa War’ With US with Americans Set to Lose Visa-free Travel to Europe, The Telegraph, Mar. 2, 2017,

[2] Id.

[3] James Kanter, E.U. Lawmakers Call for End to Visa-Free Travel for Americans, The New York Times, Mar. 3, 2017,

[4] Morris, supra.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Kanter, supra.

[9] Morris, supra.

[10] Kanter, supra.

[11] Morris, supra.

[12] Emily Tamkin, Robbie Gramer, Americans, Calm Down: You Don’t Need a Visa to Go to Europe, Foreign Policy, Mar. 3, 3017,

[13] Id.

[14] See Yasaman Moazami, H-1B Visa: Taking Away Jobs from Americans or Supplementing the Tech Industry?, Feb. 28, 2017, University of Miami School of Law International and Comparative Law Review,; see also Stephanie Maclaughlin, President Donald Trump’s Travel Ban: What Went Wrong, Feb. 20, 2017, University of Miami School of Law International and Comparative Law Review,

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