Millions of people from across the globe travel to Europe each year. France, Spain, and Italy are some of the most popular EU tourist destinations whilst others arrive on business.
With so many foreigners crossing the external borders, Europe has certain entry restrictions in place to keep residents and visitors safe.
Depending on the country of origin, a visa may be required to enter Europe. Visa-exempt nationals will also soon need to apply for an ETIAS travel authorisation. More information about the EUs visa policy can be found below.
Additional restrictions can be introduced when necessary. Most recently, the coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of Europe’s borders. However, COVID-19 limitations are now being relaxed for people arriving from certain third countries.
COVID-19 entry restrictions in Europe
External EU borders were closed in March to control the spread of coronavirus. Although some restrictions remain in place, borders are gradually being reopened to travellers arriving from certain nations.
The EU has drawn together a set of criteria that non-EU territories must meet to be included on the safe list. These criteria are designed to keep the public safe whilst permitting international tourism.
Internal borders were temporarily reintroduced during the height of the pandemic. Most checkpoints have now been removed and internal travel in the EU is largely unrestricted. Anyone considering travelling between Schengen member states should check the latest EU information.
Criteria for making the EU’s safe country of origin list
The European Union has introduced a set of requirements that third-countries must meet to be considered safe.
- The number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants must be close to or lower than the EU average over the last 14 days
- A decreasing or stable number of infections
- Satisfactory precautionary measures in place such as social distancing
Current safe countries of origin for travel to Europe
The list is regularly updated with nations added to or removed from the list in response to the evolving situation.
The latest version of the list was published in August 6th 2020 and included the following nations:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- China (dependent on reciprocity)
The most recent information should be consulted before any plans are made.
Which European destinations are affected by entry restrictions?
The list is a recommendation from the EU to the 30 countries that make up the EU + area: 26 EU Member States plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
Individual European states are responsible for deciding who they want to open their borders to. Travellers must check the safe list of the specific EU nation to be visited.
Exemptions from COVID-19 entry restrictions
People who wish to go to Europe from a country not currently on the list above may be able to do so if they are in one of the exempt groups:
- EU citizens and their families
- EU member state long-term residents and their families
- Essential workers such as transport personnel, diplomats, and seasonal agricultural workers
Residents of the European microstates Andorra, San Marino, Monaco, and the Vatican are considered EU residents for this purpose and are therefore also exempt.
EU coronavirus safety protocol for travellers
Everyone arriving in Europe during the pandemic must follow the safety protocol.
Health and safety measures differ from country to country, depending on the decisions taken by individual nations. Travellers arriving in Europe from overseas may be tested for COVID-19 on arrival.
Mandatory quarantine is in place in some countries, visitors should review the specific requirements for their destination before departure.
Regular European entry restrictions
Normal EU visa policy will resume as soon as possible. The EU’s visa policy aims to facilitate travel whilst keeping residents and visitors safe.
Citizens of more than 60 third countries do not need a visa for Europe. From 2022, visa-exempt foreigners will also require an ETIAS visa waiver to cross the external border.
ETIAS is not a visa. It will work instead as an electronic travel permit similar to ESTAs or eTAs used by the USA and Canada respectively.
Passport details and other information will be cross-checked against international databases, this way potentially dangerous individuals can be prevented from entering Europe legally.
The application is fully online and most requests are approved instantaneously. The ETIAS is linked to the applicant’s passport and verified when crossing the border.
Free movement in the Schengen zone with ETIAS
As there are no internal borders, ETIAS holders can travel around Europe freely and visit all 26 ETIAS Schengen countries using the same permit.
Visitors can stay in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
Schengen visa requirements and entry restrictions
To enter Europe from other third countries, a visa is required. Non-visa-exempt travellers must request the Schengen visa at an EU Member State embassy or consulate.
Visitors who require a Schengen visa face additional entry restrictions, for example, they must be able to provide proof of sufficient funds and take out medical insurance.
Limits on duty-free items when entering the EU
These are the maximum amounts of VAT and excise duty-free products that can be brought into the EU from a third country:
- 4 litres of still wine
- 16 litres of beer
- 1 litre of spirits over 22% vol or 1 litre of undenatured alcohol of 80% vol or 2 litres fortified/sparkling wine
Depending on the EU nation to be visited, there is a higher and a lower limit on tobacco products:
- 40/200 cigarettes or
- 20/100 cigarillos or
- 10/50 cigars or
- 50g/250 g tobacco
When arriving by air or sea, passengers can carry goods up to the value of €430 per person. Other passengers are allowed up to €300.
Cash above the equivalent of €10,000 must be declared when entering and leaving the European Union.