Home

Explore. Experience. Engage.

Home Travel Tips Travel Deals Destinations Trip Reviews Blog
The IndependentTraveler.com Blog

The European Commission has delayed making a decision about whether to halt the program that allows American and Canadian tourists to go to Europe without visas.

visa schengen


The commission originally said it would decide in mid-July about whether to suspend the Schengen visa waiver program for citizens of the United States, Canada and Brunei. But the commission’s leaders decided last week to delay a decision until the fall because talks with the U.S. and Canada are still in progress.

As we reported in April, the Schengen visa program allows Americans, Canadians and the citizens of more than two dozen European countries to travel to and between countries in Europe without obtaining a visa in advance.

A key principle of the program is visa waiver reciprocity, but the United States, Canada and Brunei were not abiding by that. The U.S. government requires the citizens of five European countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Cyprus and Croatia) to obtain an advance visa, while Canada mandates such visas for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens. Brunei formerly required Croatians to get them.

A recent statement from the European Commission notes that Brunei has lifted the visa requirement for Croatian citizens. However, there’s been no meaningful progress on full reciprocity with Canada or the U.S. Talks with Canada will continue at a summit in late October, while U.S. government officials indicated to the E.U. that there would be “little chance of evolution” on the subject before the presidential and Congressional elections in November.

The E.U. still could decide not to suspend the program at all, according to the Wall Street Journal. If the E.U. decides there would be significant negative impacts on the European countries and its citizens, then it can keep the Schengen program alive without full reciprocity. The European Commission did acknowledge that the number of U.S. and Canadian visitors to Europe would decrease if visas were required, leading to “a considerable economic loss.”

Stay tuned for further updates.

Quiz: Which European City Are You?
Planning a Trip to Europe: Your 10-Step Guide

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

stamp that says visa“Um. Do Romanians need a visa to go to Canada?” I asked my husband on a Friday afternoon, a sudden pit forming in my stomach. We were scheduled to go to Montreal for the Women’s World Cup the following Thursday, and somehow I’d forgotten to check on what paperwork might be required.

I immediately turned to my phone to Google the answer. Uh-oh. Yes, Romanians (like my husband) do need a visa to enter or even pass through Canada. We had less than a week! Could we get one in time? I clicked on the visa application button and quickly scrolled through to see how hard it would be. And then I spotted an almost-side note at the very bottom of the page: Permanent residents of the United States of America with green cards do not need a visa to visit Canada. Relief washed over me.

The crazy thing was, this wasn’t the first time I’d forgotten about such a small, insignificant little detail like without a visa they won’t let you in!

On our two-week British Isles and Norwegian fjords honeymoon cruise (!) I’d forgotten to check to see if my husband would need a visa to get off in ports along the way. At the time, I’d also been blissfully ignorant of the very existence of transit visas.

In a Rush? This Passport Mistake Could Cost You

Luckily, the immigration officer at London’s Heathrow Airport didn’t give it a second thought, simply stamped in a 24-hour visa for my husband to get from the airport to the cruise ship.

It wasn’t until we were on our ship that we discovered the consequences of not having a tourist visa for Ireland and the United Kingdom. For the Irish ports of Dublin and Cork, my husband was prohibited from leaving the ship.

That was a disappointment, but even worse was the U.K., which threatened to repatriate my husband off the ship before it even left the dock in Southampton. They continued to threaten repatriation through the first few ports (non-U.K. ports, I might add.) By the time we got to Belfast, they had changed tacks, threatening a hefty fine and forcing him off at the last non-U.K. port of the cruise. In the end their threats were empty; they let us stay on the ship through the end and gave him 24 hours to get back to Heathrow. But the stress lasted for most of the cruise.

I swore I’d never make the same mistake again. Ha! Nine years later only a short blurb at the end of the Canadian visa application saved me.

So, travelers, let my story be a lesson. Always, always, always check what kind of paperwork is needed at the same time you check on flight and hotel prices. That way you’re in the know and have plenty of time to get started on whatever you may need.

Five Ways to Beat Pre-Trip Panic

— written by Dori Saltzman

australia Australia is one of those epic destinations — a vast place we need plenty of time to explore. But a weeks-long Australia trip isn’t cheap (especially for travelers who must purchase airfare from the U.S.), and if you want to spend any kind of extended time there without the aid of a trust fund, you’ll either need to save significant cash before your trip — or find a way to make some money while in Australia. Enter the working holiday visa.

If you’re a resident of the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K., Germany, Italy or one of several other countries and are between the ages of 18 and 30 at the time of your application, you can secure an Australia working holiday visa, which grants permission to stay in the country for up to 12 months, paying taxes at a rate of 29 percent (some of which can be recouped once you leave). And if you end up finding a job you love, no worries, mate. Your employer can help you stay for an additional four years after your initial visa expires.

The visa — which generally costs a few hundred dollars — doesn’t guarantee you a job, just the right to work and live in Australia for up to a year. You’ll still need to arrange your flights to Australia and find your own work. Some companies will set up a few nights’ accommodations for new employees, but after that, you’re on your own in Oz.

What are your job options in Australia? You can stay in a major city, working in a hostel or restaurant, or make your home in a picturesque country spot like one of Australia’s wine regions, where you can help with the annual harvest. You can work on a cattle ranch in the Outback, or take a job at a ski resort in the mountains. You’ve got some choices to make.

If you meet the requirements to get that visa, a working vacation can help you fund your extended stay in Australia, giving you the time and money to explore the beautiful land Down Under.

— written by Katie Hammel, the editor at BootsnAll.com, where you can search for cheap flights to Australia or learn more about the best places to be an expat.