Americans and Canadians might need visas for Europe

Praying at the 'visa' temple in India
Praying at the 'visa' temple in India

Be prepared! You might need a visa for your next European holiday or business trip.

The European Union is considering requiring Americans and Canadians to apply for visas, even if they only want to come for a short break.

So why the tougher line? European officials say they may suspend a visa waiver program for the U.S. and Canada because they still require citizens of some EU countries to apply for a visa.

While Americans and Canadians only need a passport when visiting the EU, visitors to the U.S. from Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania need a visa. Romanians and Bulgarians also need visas for Canada.

"The objective here is to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all member states and this is a priority for the European Union," said Mina Andreeva, a spokesperson for the European Commission.

The U.S. government said the countries in question had not yet met the requirements for its Visa Waiver Program.

"We maintain an open dialogue with each of these countries about the program's requirements and how each of the five countries is progressing," a State Department official said.

Canada's visa policy is also not based on reciprocity.

"Rather, Canada must be satisfied that countries meet its criteria for a visa exemption," said a spokesperson from the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada..

Related: Prepare to be fingerprinted on future European vacations

Under EU rules, the European Commission must propose reciprocal visa requirements for countries that don't allow visa-free travel for EU citizens two years after being notified of the situation.

That deadline will pass on Tuesday. The Commission will discuss the issue at a meeting next week. If it decides to press ahead with the change, it would take effect four months later -- provided a majority of EU member states and the European Parliament agree.

Americans would still be able to travel visa-free to Ireland and the U.K., the only two member states that have opted out of the EU's common visa policy.

Citizens of 38 countries can travel to the U.S. visa-free. That includes 23 European Union countries, Australia, Andorra, Brunei, Norway, Iceland, San Marino, Singapore, Japan, Chile, Liechtenstein, South Korea, Switzerland, Monaco, Taiwan and New Zealand.

This is the second proposal to toughen Europe's border controls in just a week. European countries are also looking to introduce a new system that will log visitors' photos and fingerprints. That plan is part of a push by European countries to fight terrorism and enhance security.

-- Milena Veselinovic contributed to this article.

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