A Visa By Any Other Name

It is unclear why governments in the contemporary era seem so intent on not calling things by name. At what point did it become too much to simply call a spade a spade, or a visa a visa? When one reads the official EU commentary on the future travel requirements to enter the European Union by Americans–and similar information is provided for those from other countries–it is very clear that the EU does not want Americans (or others) to think that the new visa-waiver requirement that will be starting, at present guess, in 2024, is a visa, but rather a waiver. Indeed, the typically bureaucratic word salad acronym ETIAS stands for: European Travel Information and Authorisation System. And even though this is apparently not a visa, it is apparently something that will be required for Americans and others to fill out and pay for before entering the country.

So, what is a visa anyway? If we look up the definition of a visa, we get the following: “an endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country.” It is true that this new hoop to jump through in order to reach Europe is not an endorsement on a passport, as a visa is. It is designed to be entirely electronic, which would almost certainly require any traveler into Europe to have a smart phone in order to demonstrate to the border guard that one is interacting that one indeed has said waiver. The waiver costs money to obtain, like a visa does, and though it does not come from a consulate, it does come from some part of the EU bureaucracy. It requires personal information from the person requesting it, including passport information, and for it to be given, the passport must be valid for three months after entering the European Union. Indeed, the document does not guarantee entry into the EU, which is still left to the discretion of the border agent, so we may even say that the ETIAS has all of the annoying features of a visa in terms of being a pain to obtain, require filling out forms and other similar ridiculousness and paying fees, all for something that may not work if the border agent is having a bad day or just takes a dislike to the would-be tourist, which makes it less desirable than visa would be, it would appear, in some respects.

What does Europe hope to gain by adding another hoop to jump through for tourists who wish to enter into the EU? As is often the case with burdensome and often worthless bureaucratic hurdles that make the travel experience less enjoyable, security is the ostensible motive behind this and many other procedures that do not in fact make people safer, except to increase the illusion of safety and also increase the intrusiveness of government on the behavior of people. For their part, the EU claims that this requirement will streamline the experience of entering into the EU and make it go faster for travelers, but such claims are promises in the dark, not considering the waste of time that must be spent filling out the information online and waiting for the visa waiver to arrive as well as process it that would otherwise be spent having a brief conversation with a border agent before moving along.

One of the most curious aspects of the contemporary world is the way that there has been increasing hostility to restrictions on the travel of goods from one country to another, even given the obvious security risks that are involved in logistics, while people themselves have been increasingly burdened with restrictions in their own travel. We have already witnessed in recent years the attempts to push vaccine passports for Covid as being necessary as a proof of good health despite the fact that the vaccine has, as many rightly predicted would be the case, done more harm than good to those who received it and has been largely entirely ineffective in combating Covid. Who knows what other manmade horrors are in mind as ways to prevent people from moving around in the face of completely senseless and pointless future public health regulations? I suppose we will have to wait and see, though apparently not wait very long.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in International Relations, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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