As we welcome the arrival of a fresh new year, Americans are keen to move forward from the long-suffered constraints of the pandemic era. For many, that means taking bucket-list-type trips overseas.
But, some sweeping changes are coming to the global travel scene in 2023, with new regulations, systems and services slated to take effect that will affect American trippers. Here is a look at some of the major developments that U.S. travelers need to know about this year.
U.S. Passport Renewal Available Online
The U.S. Passport Agency is finally upping its game, following a few pandemic years of serious processing delays, office closures and heavy backlogs. After a successful pilot program in 2022, the State Department is expected to fully launch its online passport renewal portal for use by the general public.
To increase efficiency, President Biden ordered the development of the new system back in December 2021, mandating that the department, "design and deliver a new online passport renewal experience that does not require any physical documents to be mailed."
So, you'll soon be able to forego finding a place to take a passport photo, filling out piles of paperwork or waiting in line at passport offices. Instead, the digital service will allow you to enter your renewal information online, upload a photo from your own mobile device and pay fees electronically, Lonely Planet reported.
While the new renewal option will be more convenient and expedient for applicants, unfortunately, processing won't be any faster or more affordable than the old-fashioned method. The State Department says that wait times will be the same as mailed-in applications with routine turnaround times being six to nine weeks and expedited processing taking three to five weeks (not counting mailing times). Fees for online renewals will also be the same as for traditional applications.
Fees for Travel To Europe
The European Union (E.U.) will soon begin charging a visitor fee for travelers seeking to enter member states that comprise the E.U. and broader Schengen area (the E.U.'s 22 nations, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). But, fear not, it isn't an exorbitant amount.
Starting in November, a new and largely automated visa-waiver program called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be rolled out and non-E.U. citizens, including Americans (between the ages of 18 and 70), will need to fill out a form and pay an entry fee of €7 ($7.25) upon arrival in any of the bloc's member nations.
ETIAS clearance may not be required by every single E.U. nation, but it will be necessary if you plan on entering any of the Schengen Area's 26 countries that have eliminated controls at their shared borders.
Travelers will need to submit their ETIAS application and procure an entry authorization (which in most cases is issued almost immediately) ahead of their trip. Holders are allowed to visit the region for up to 90 days without a visa and the authorization is considered valid for multiple visits over a three-year period.
Fingerprints and Facial Scans in Europe
Also in Europe, a new Entry/Exit System (EES) will take effect in May 2023, an automated IT system that registers third-country (non-E.U.) travelers' personal information, biometric data (i.e., fingerprints and captured facial images), and entry and exit dates when passing through the bloc's external borders.
The EES is intended to replace the current system of manually checking and stamping visitor passports, "which is time-consuming, does not provide reliable data on border crossings and does not allow a systematic detection of over-stayers, according to the European Commission's website.
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