At present, international travel is effectively on hold because of the coronavirus. That said, in normal circumstances outside of the pandemic, a number of nationalities are eligible to visit the Baltic States (plus the rest of the Schengen Zone) without a visa.
These nationalities include Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians, Japanese and around 55 others worldwide. Citizens of these countries can come to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the rest of the Schengen members, for up to 90 days (3 months) in each 180-day (6-month) period.
However, as of late 2023, these rules look set to change somewhat for these visitors to the Baltic States. In particular, the European Union (EU) is introducing its new ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) visa waiver for nationalities who up until now have been visa-exempt.
What is the ETIAS? Well, it’s an electronic travel authorisation system that, if you’re eligible, you’ll have to apply for online before visiting the homes of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. The EU is introducing the system to more effectively check who’s entering and exiting its borders. Here’s more information via travel visa website Byevisa.com.
ETIAS to be Valid for 3 Years, Allow 90-Day Visits
The ETIAS will allow you to visit for up to 90 days in a 6-month period, the same as at present. Moreover, fortunately, the EU’s visa waiver will be valid for 3 years from the issue date, or until your passport expires, so you won’t have to apply each time you plan to visit the Baltic States’ UNESCO World Heritage sites or medieval towns. You must be visiting for the purposes of tourism, business, medical treatment or transit.
It’s thought that the visa waiver will cost just €7 per applicant, although adults over 70 and children under 18 will be exempt, which is useful if you’re visiting with family.
ETIAS Application to Be Online, Approval Usually Instant
The EU is taking steps to make applying for the ETIAS as straightforward as possible. To explain, you’ll just need a passport that’s valid for at least six months from your date of entry, so there’s no need to supply any cumbersome supporting documentation.
You’ll apply by entering your personal details and passport information into a simple online form and, in the majority of cases, approval will be virtually instantaneous. Then, you’ll receive confirmation that you’re approved by email, and you don’t have to print any paper documents. Instead, your ETIAS is electronically linked to your passport, which you’ll show at customs when you go travelling as usual.
So while the ETIAS adds some bureaucracy for travellers to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, applying for and obtaining your visa waiver should be simple. Moreover, although this system is still to be introduced, it’s useful to be aware of these changes for when you plan your upcoming journeys.
Schengen Visa to Remain in Place for Eligible Nationalities
It’s useful to note that the introduction of the ETIAS only affects the citizens of countries who up until now have been visa-exempt to visit the Schengen Area. Instead, if you’re from any of around 105 countries worldwide, then you’ll continue to be eligible for the EU’s Schengen Visa. Nationalities who can apply for this travel authorisation include Russia, India, China and the Philippines.
Similarly to the ETIAS, the Schengen Visa allows you to visit the Schengen states for 90 days in a 180-day period. You apply by visiting the embassy of the Schengen member country you first plan to visit. So for example, if you first intend to travel to Estonia on a tour of the Baltic States, you apply for your Schengen Visa at the Estonian embassy.
With this information in mind, you know everything you need to visit the Baltic States in the foreseeable future, once the pandemic is resolved. Whether you’re applying for an ETIAS or Schengen Visa, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania offer a bounty of top things to see and do for visitors.