Passport and visa requirements for Europe
are some of the friendliest in the entire world if you hold an American passport. U.S. passport holders need only a valid passport for most short stays in European countries. American travelers to Europe require visas when they plan to stay abroad for an extended period, want to work in Europe, or are conducting any business in Europe that requires a business license.
Americans must carry a valid U.S. passport when they visit Europe. The passport must be in their current name, must show a photograph that they resemble, and must not be expired. Some European countries require that the passport be valid for at least 6 months past the date the traveler plans to leave their country. If your passport is nearing expiration while you are in Europe, it is a good idea to get it renewed at an American embassy.
Children younger than 16 years old must carry special child passports. These are identical to adult U.S. passports except they are valid for only 5 years instead of 10 years. Child passports can be obtained only with permission of all people who have parental rights over the child. A parent must sign the child passport if the child is too young to sign her own name. If the child is traveling to Europe with just one parent, a signed and certified "permission to travel" letter from the other parent should be presented upon entry into a European country.
Twenty-eight countries in Europe do not require U.S. passport holders to obtain a visa to visit. The one major exception is the Russian Federation. Visa requirements to visit Russia are complex and arduous. Contact the Russian embassy directly for an application and instructions if you are visiting Russia. (See Resources.) Do this several months before your departure as the process can often take months.
American travelers who stay in a European country for more than 90 days continuously must obtain a visa. Many travelers get around this requirement by simply going to a neighboring country, getting their passports stamped, then returning to stay 90 more days worry free. Those who wish to work or do certain types of business in Europe must also have a visa. Contact each country's embassy for specific information on these visa requirements.
Kent Ninomiya is a veteran journalist with over 23 years experience as a television news anchor, reporter and managing editor. He traveled to more than 100 countries on all seven continents, including Antarctica. Ninomiya holds a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences with emphasis in history, political science and mass communications from the University of California at Berkeley.