EU proposes limiting free visa travel for US citizens, which could affect students studying abroad

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Aurora Fulp and other UNC students currently in Sevilla took a program excursion to Madrid Feb. 16-18. Photo Courtesy of Aurora Fulp

Visa-free travel for U.S. citizens traveling in the European Union could be subject to change after the European Parliament passed a new measure Thursday.

A press release by the European Parliament said the United States and four other countries were not meeting E.U. obligations with regard to reciprocity of visa-free travel.

“Citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania still cannot enter U.S. territory without a visa, while U.S. citizens can travel to all E.U. countries visa-free,” the press release said.

John Pickles, a professor of international studies at UNC, said in an email that this is largely in symbolic retaliation for the fact that visa requirements for E.U. citizens coming to the U.S. have been tightened in recent weeks.

“The vote is probably symbolic, with uncertainty as to whether the E.U. Commission will implement policy,” he said. “Several countries require E.U. citizens to have visas to enter, and the issue is one of reciprocity ... Why should the E.U. allow visa-free access, if specific countries like the U.S. do not reciprocate?”

The proposal could affect students studying abroad who wish to travel to different countries within the E.U. — but Bob Miles, associate dean for Study Abroad and International Exchanges at UNC, said many commentators think it extremely unlikely that there would be any change in the near future.

“If you’re going to transform the relationship between the European Union and the United States by removing the current visa waiver, you’re going to need to have in place a whole series of procedures of bureaucracy to allow people to apply for and be issued with a visa,” he said.

Nell Ovitt, a junior currently studying abroad in Ireland, said many students who study abroad in Europe travel extensively.

“I would imagine that for anyone who was looking at a school in Europe, that might affect them visiting those countries and learning about those countries,” she said.

Junior Aurora Fulp, who is currently studying abroad in Spain, said the countries mentioned in the resolution appeal to students, as they are often cheaper places to travel.

After her program in Spain ends, Fulp said she has considered traveling to Romania.

“I would be concerned about if I can go or not, especially because I haven’t bought tickets or planned anything yet, because June still seems pretty far away for me,” she said.

Fulp said she would be upset if she had already planned and paid for travel, lodging and tickets before discovering she needed to fill out additional paperwork for a visa.

“It wasn’t something I could do from Europe, so I would have to either just accept that I had lost all that money or I would have to fly back to the United States and deal with all of the visa process, which takes forever and costs money,” she said.

Miles said the study abroad office is following the issue closely but does not foresee an implementation of the measure passed by the European Parliament.

“If our analysis proves to be incorrect, in the light of whatever new procedures are in place, we will provide advice to students in the way that we normally do when there is a change in visa or immigration policy,” he said.

@beccaheilman

state@dailytarheel.com

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