Detrimental Effects of Potential EU Travel Restrictions by Mikkela Blanton
Many globetrotters were dismayed to learn that the European Union Parliament voted recently to reintroduce visa requirements for Americans. Up until this point American travelers were allotted 90 days of visa-free travel to EU countries. Only those interested in staying for longer than three months were required to partake in the laborious process of obtaining a visa in the United States.
That’s not to say that aspiring tourists should panic just yet. To be sure, enacting this policy would “require the agreement of all EU members, which would probably take years” according to The Economist. And we shouldn’t necessarily blame the current administration for instigating the EU Parliament into taking this action. Indeed, while the Trump administration has certainly engendered widespread criticism due to his controversial travel ban, the EU vote has deeper roots.
As the same Economist article explains, the “EU says it notified the United States in April 2014 that it was not meeting EU visa rules, and had given the country two years to comply.” Specifically, citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania must all obtain a visa to travel to the United States, while the rest of the EU is exempt. Now that the two-year period has ended, the EU Parliament has decided to take action.
Nationwide, some may view this only as a small nuisance, while others, namely those with no intentions of traveling, may not care at all. In reality; however, it’s important to consider the negative ramifications this will likely have on future American generations.
First, it is necessary to understand the complexities of the visa application process. Countries that lie within the Schengen Area, the zone that allows for passport-free travel across borders, require visa applicants to gather required documents, such as sufficient funds, health insurance forms, and proof of accommodation, and personally hand them into the consulate that covers their jurisdiction. This may not be that difficult for Los Angeles residents who wish to travel to Spain, for example, since their consulate is located within the city limits. The process becomes difficult, however, for those without a consulate nearby.
Consider the burden placed on Alaskan residents interested in seeing France. This requires a visa appointment at the French embassy in San Francisco, a journey that many would likely be unwilling to take solely for permission to enter the country. Ultimately, requiring visas for any travel to the EU would likely deter many Americans who don’t live within a short drive of a consulate associated with their destination of choice.
But does this mean that Americans, and namely American youth, will simply have to forego eating French cheese and drinking Spanish wine for a few weeks and look elsewhere, or even stay home?
Perhaps, but the potential consequences lie beyond gastronomical deprivation. Take, for instance, the results of a study published by the Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA) in their Student & Youth Travel Digest, titled “A Comprehensive Survey of the Student Travel Market,” which drew from a global survey conducted from August 2013 to November 2015. The report contains data from “1,432 U.S. teachers representing over 43,000 U.S. students,” and includes responses from educators nationwide.
The report asserts that educators believe travel to have a positive social impact on participating students; specifically, that travel provides students with an increased willingness to know/learn/explore; an increased sense of independence, self-esteem, and confidence; more intellectual curiosity; an increased tolerance for other cultures and ethnicities; better adaptability and sensitivity; increased tolerance and respectfulness; better cooperation and collaboration; and better self-expression, among others.
Other sources have offered more concrete benefits, as well. According to an October 2013 article reviewing a survey by the World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation, youth travel led to tangible rewards, both immediately and later on in life. The survey, titled “Travel Improves Educational Attainment & Future Success,” found that out of survey respondents, 80 percent thought educational travel sparked greater interest in what they were taught in school, 57 percent of people who traveled as children went to college, and more than 50 percent of children who traveled achieved better grades.
It is safe to assume that instituting travel restrictions on Americans to EU countries would likely lead to a decrease in trips taken over the Atlantic, at least partially due to the difficulty of applying for and obtaining a visa. And, in turn, as highlighted by these data, this could rob American youth of fulfilling experiences that could help them develop into highly functioning, compassionate, and resilient human beings.
For now, we can only wait to see what will come of this unfortunate vote taken by the EU parliament. Hopefully, though unlikely, our current administration will find common ground with our neighbors across the ocean to help ensure future American generations are able to explore the world and learn from these experiences.
Mikkela Blanton is a freelance writer and editor.