The U.S. and Canada are embroiled in a conflict with the European Union (EU) over visa policies which could impact citizens of both countries and their ability to travel to Europe. In an effort to get full reciprocity of visa rights, the EU is considering ending a waiver program that allows citizens of the U.S. and Canada to travel to any of the 28 countries in the EU without a visa for up to 90 days.
Member countries of the EU see this change as mirroring the fact that the U.S. and Canada do not fully reciprocate waivers. The U.S. requires citizens from five countries—Poland, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia—to obtain visas to visit the U.S. Similarly, Canada has no visa waiver for Romania and Bulgaria, also requiring citizens of those countries to obtain visas before visiting.
“Visa reciprocity is a fundamental element of the EU’s common visa policy,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU’s commissioner for home affairs, migration and citizenship, in a public statement. “EU citizens rightly expect to travel without a visa to any third country whose citizens can enter the Schengen area visa-free.”
Although a decision was delayed until July 12, these possible changes come as Europe is on high alert after terrorist attacks like those in Paris and Brussels.
However, the U.S. and Canada have claimed that not reciprocating enhances their security as well.
“We don’t do it in terms of reciprocity,” said Canada’s Immigration Minister John McCallum. “We do it according to the conditions in each particular country, with a view to Canadians’ security and Canada’s well-being.”
McCallum also stated that Romania and Bulgaria do not meet their requirements for a waiver.
The U.S. also claimed security concerns; attacks involving a foreigner on a visa such as the San Bernardino shooting—in which a terrorist entered the U.S. legally with a K-1 visa and obtained a conditional green card—have increased the demands for tighter visa policies.
Because of these concerns the U.S. changed several visa policies in January, now requiring visas from foreign nationals who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria, as well as anyone who has dual Iranian, Sudanese, Iraqi or Syrian citizenship.
Other countries like Japan and Australia have complied with the EU’s demands for reciprocal visa waivers.
Freshman economics major Joe Munson plans to travel abroad to France this summer.
“I’m definitely concerned that this could impact future plans to travel abroad,” Munson said. “I have had to get a visa for going to China so I know the process can be long.”
As the decision has been delayed and would not be enacted until 2017, no study abroad trips sponsored by Seattle University in the near future will be impacted.
“Visa issues do not affect our trip,” said Sean McDowell, one of the professors leading the Writer’s Workshop trip to Ireland this July.
The United Kingdom and Ireland do not participate in the EU’s common visa policy and would not be affected even if these changes are enacted.
If the EU does vote to enact these changes later this summer, not only could travel plans be impacted but trade could also suffer.
The U.S. and the EU are currently negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a controversial trade agreement that has been highly confidential.
TTIP aims to reduce trade barriers between European countries and the U.S. by eliminating tariffs imposed by both parties. It also hopes to boost transatlantic foreign investments.
The agreement has been being negotiated by both sides since July 2013. There is a new urgency to get the agreement solidified before President Barack Obama leaves office in 2017.
The Bulgarian government holds that it will not ratify the agreement until getting waiver reciprocity from the United States.
While talks in the EU of ending visa reciprocity have been delayed, if these changes were enacted at a later time it would make it harder for U.S. and Canadian citizens to travel abroad
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