Visa-free travel throughout the world is one of the biggest perks of carrying a U.S. passport. Today, you can visit 154 countries without the paperwork, but that could change this summer. The European Union may slam the door on traveling freely, a decision with consequences beyond tourism.
On April 12, the European Commission met to consider altering visa requirements for U.S. citizens, 15 years after establishing the program that allows Americans to travel to EU countries for up to 90 days without a visa. The move is an attempt to pressure the U.S. government into adding Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and Romania—all EU member states—to the list of countries entitled to visa-free travel in America. But the U.S. has held out on extending the same program to all EU members, citing security concerns. (Canada faces a similar threat over Romania and Bulgaria.)
While European national parliaments are unlikely to ratify an end to the program given the value of U.S. tourism, the issue could impact negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement three years in the making.
“There’s no doubt that if the EU were to slap a visa requirement on the U.S., it would be very, very bad news for the European tourism industry,” said Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. "It would also quite frankly send the wrong political signal in the middle of TTIP negotiations.”
On the other hand, the U.S. State Department hasn't expressed concern over the repeal of the visa waivers.