EU considering requiring visas for Americans

EU considering requiring visas for Americans
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The European Union is considering changing rules to require that Americans and Canadians obtain a visa before traveling to the 28-nation bloc, according to a report on Thursday. 

By next Tuesday, the European Commission must decide whether or not to impose new visa requirements for foreign countries that have similar measures in place for European travelers — and there is a “real risk” that the U.S. and Canada could be subject to new demands, an EU source told Reuters.

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“A political debate and decision is obviously needed on such an important issue,” the unidentified source added.

A State Department official said that the possibility was a topic of discussion among U.S. and European diplomats.

“We have been engaging with EU officials — as well as officials from those member states that do not enjoy visa-free travel to the United States—on this matter,” the official said.

New visa requirements would amount to a dramatic change for North American travelers going to the EU, and would likely be met with severe pushback from Washington.

Extra requirements would also likely be opposed by business groups, because visa obligations would surely dent European tourism.

The U.S. excludes multiple European nations from a program allowing tourists from 38 countries to enter the country for a period of 90 days. Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus are all not covered under that arrangement, known as the visa waiver program.

That American tourism program has become the focus of intense debate in recent months, following congressional action to narrow the window of travelers receiving visa waivers due to security concerns. Under new rules, dual citizens from nations considered hotbeds of terrorism or travelers who have visited those countries recently will need a visa.

Many rights groups and European nationals protested the changes, due to the large immigrant communities in some nations.

In Washington, many Republicans were equally frustrated with carve-outs created by the Obama administration, which GOP lawmakers said were illegal.

Updated at 5:01 p.m.