According to a recently-released European Commission staff working document, the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is not “tantamount to the … visa … process” required for admission to the European “Schengen Zone”, and therefore does not give cause for the imposition of reciprocal visa requirements for US citizens seeking to enter Schengen countries.
That’s may be correct. But the EC appears to have asked the wrong question: the ESTA is not an entry permit but an exit permit scheme — which is a much more fundamental violation of human rights, U.S. treaty obligations, and the sovereignty of European and other countries from which people might wish to travel to the U.S.
The same is true of other U.S. travel control schemes (including the APIS and Secure Flight regulations), the proposed European PNR regulations, and the “carrier responsibility” rules in both the U.S. and the E.U. Regardless of whether it is referred to as “travel authorization”, “pre-departure clearance”, or “permission to transport”, the only meaningful way to construe a “travel authorization” that isn’t an entry visa is as a de facto exit visa. Read More