Business travelers to Europe could face new visa restrictions unless a dispute between the U.S. and the EU from 2014 gets resolved. Currently, the U.S. and the EU allow tourists and business travelers to enter for 90 days without the need for a visa under a reciprocal visa waiver program, according to the U.S. Department of State. However, a vote by the European Parliament in early March 2017 has called the arrangement into question, asking the European Commission to impose visa requirements for U.S. business travelers, reports CNN and The New York Times. New visa requirements for business travel to Europe may add complexity to your organization's business travel plans, leaving you navigating some new, tricky waters with (or on behalf of) traveling employees.
Background to the Dispute
The U.S. and the EU have been allowing its citizens to travel into each other's territories without visas for 90 days under a reciprocal visa waiver program. However, since 2004 the U.S. has imposed visa restrictions on citizens of five EU member states — Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Poland and Cyprus.
The EU views the visa restrictions imposed by the U.S. on the five EU member states as a violation of reciprocity, according to the European Parliament. For this reason, the European Parliament voted to ask the European Commission — the EU's executive branch — to ramp up negotiations or consider revoking the reciprocal visa waiver. Canada had a similar dispute with the EU when it imposed visa restrictions on citizens from Bulgaria and Romania. However, Canada announced that it will lift its visa restrictions on those countries in December 2017, reports Reuters.
The U.S. could follow Canada in defusing tensions and resolving the dispute, but it's currently unclear how the Trump administration will respond. There's no requirement that the European Commission act to impose visa requirements on U.S. travelers, but the vote of the European Parliament has placed increased pressure on the dispute.
4 Ways to Prepare Your Organization
New visa restrictions could affect your organization. Here are four ways you can prepare.
1. Monitor the dispute
Keep track of the news and share information with impacted employees. For instance, Reuters reports there's a planned meeting on June 15, 2017. The New York Times reports that the European Commission is expected to issue a report on progress with the U.S. by the end of that month as well.
2. Plan business travel with greater consideration
If U.S. business travelers are going to be required to obtain a visa, the U.S. could retaliate by requiring the same for EU business travelers into the U.S. This may add complexity and increased cost and time for any planned business trip.
3. Develop contingency plans
If necessary, consider seeking alternatives to European business travel, such as videoconferencing. Or, you may have to integrate a process for applying for an EU visa into your organization's business travel procedures.
4. Familiarize yourself with requirements for obtaining an EU business visa, called a Schengen visa
Understand the application process for a Schengen visa. If you're unable to manage the complexities on your own, a travel and expense management provider can help.
It's unclear what will happen. But if you follow the four steps listed above, you can prepare your organization to effectively handle any implications of this ongoing travel dispute.
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