Q: Dear Playground: Maybe you can solve a mystery for me. I just made a reservation to fly to Paris next month and the United agent said I need a visa. My friend that I am traveling with said I don’t need one. The French Consulate website seems to indicate both yes and no. Any input? Thanks, Sarah.
A: Hi Sarah, Great question, and not as easy to answer as it initially seems. Ultimately, the short answer is “no,” you don’t need a visa to visit France. However, a current political situation has made the question incredibly confusing.
Here’s what’s going on: Currently, US citizens do not need a visa to visit any of the The Schengen region countries which comprise the 24 European nations that make up the European Union (EU). You should be allowed free movement throughout the region for vacation or leisure for up to 90 days. That’s the law as it currently stands
BUT, the EU is pressuring the US to let all of its member nations have the same visa waivers when they visit the US, namely Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, who at this time are not extended those privileges. To pressure the US into letting these countries have visa waivers, the EU is threatening to impose visas on all North American travelers. (That’s the very short version of the problem, you can read more details at the New York Times, here.)
So, IF the EU decided to impose Visa restrictions on US and Canadian citizens to prove a point, they would have gone into effect on April 12 — which is where I think the confusion in your travel plans comes in. However, the decision has now been postponed 90 days. That would put us squarely into the middle of summer travel season, July 12. Read an update on the situation, here.
Personally, I don’t think that the EU will implement these restrictions, it would be incredibly detrimental to both diplomacy and for tourism. But for anyone traveling to Europe this summer, definitely keep an eye on the situation.
On a more practical note, take a look at your passport. Is it expiring soon? It must be valid for at least 3 months after the date of your visit for entry to France and other European countries.
Hope this helps!
Bon voyage and happy travels!