The European Union is an economic and political grouping of twenty-seven countries that cooperate with each other to improve commerce and security within the member states. The concept of neighbouring countries working with each other to improve trade originated in 1951 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. This saw six neighbouring European countries establish the European Community of Coal and Steel (ECSC) with the six countries being France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands and West Germany.
The ECSC proved a tremendous success as each of the member states benefited from relaxed cross-border trading, travel and tourism and other European countries soon applied for admission to the group. Over the following decades, the ECSC added new member states and went through several name changes before becoming what is now known as the European Union in 1993.
The EU has headquarters in Brussels and Luxembourg, and the majority of member states use the euro as the unit of the currency, although there are exceptions to this standard in the following countries:
- Poland (zloty)
- Hungary (forint)
- Denmark (krone)
- Czech Republic (koruna)
- Croatia (kuna)
- Romania (leu)
- Sweden (krona)
- Bulgaria (lev)
Although these countries have retained their own currency, the euro is (or should be) accepted in all of them. The euro is generally accepted in larger towns and cities and by bigger shops and vendors. However, there is no legal obligation to accept euros in any of these countries despite EU membership.
Little and Large
Seven countries have applied for EU membership, or are currently close to becoming members of the European Union. Of the current 27 member states, France has the largest land area while Germany has the most inhabitants. Malta ranks as the smallest EU country both in population and size.
In total there are almost 448 million people living in the European Union which covers just over 4 million sq km (slightly over 1.5 million square miles), stretching from Spain to Cyprus along the southern edge to Sweden and Finland in the north.
According to 2022 figures, Germany has the highest population, with a total of 83.3 million inhabitants. In the early 1970s, the annual national death rate in Germany exceeded the birth rate, and the overall number of citizens began to drop accordingly. In the last fifteen years, however, this trend has been reversed, and the opposite is now true.
Germany is also one of the world’s most popular destinations for immigrants who have arrived in the country in ever-increasing numbers in the last decade. Recent immigration and the rising birth rates have meant the German population has been steadily increasing in recent years.
France sits in second place with a population of 67.8 million, followed by Italy at just under 60 million.
Malta is not just a small country, it also has very few inhabitants. The total population of just over 500,000 is comprised mainly of Maltese natives, but there is a large minority of Britons, mainly retirees, who call the island home. However, the smallest EU country with the lowest population, Malta, has one of the highest population densities in the world, with approximately 1,300 people per square kilometre (3,320 per square mile).
Luxembourg has the second-lowest population in the EU at 650,000, and Cyprus is the only other EU country with a population of less than a million with a 2022 count of 905,000.
France, covering more than 640,000 sq km (248,000 sq miles), is the biggest EU country by some distance and ranks in the top twenty most populous countries in the world. With an unusually high birth rate, France was solely responsible for all EU population growth in 2006, and the country continues to exceed the average live births statistics regularly. Due to France’s colonisation of countries in the past, the country is now multicultural as millions of immigrants have relocated in the past century, mainly from African countries.
Spain ranks as the second biggest EU country with a land area of 505,000 sq km (195,000 sq miles), with Sweden, rather surprisingly, in third place, covering 440,000 sq km (170,000)
Malta has the distinction of being, by some distance, the smallest EU member country. The island nation is tiny, with a land area of just 315 sq km or 122 sq miles. Malta is actually an archipelago, but only the three biggest islands of Malta, Comino and Gozo, are inhabited. It is the only European Union member state where abortions are illegal except in cases of incest or rape. Luxembourg and Cyprus, in that order, are the next smallest EU countries.
Demographic Future of EU
Future rises or decreases in population levels across the 27 current European Union member states are problematic, if not impossible, to predict with any degree of certainty. Four main factors will affect future population growth (or decrease), which must be taken into account:
- Average life expectancy
- Ageing population
- Fluctuations in immigration
- Fertility rates
According to figures in 2020, the average life expectancy of EU citizens was 80.4 years. Women averaged almost six years longer than men at 83.2 years, with males at 77.5 years. This was a decrease of almost one year on the previous year’s statistics, but the figures will have been skewed somewhat by fatalities due to the coronavirus pandemic, which struck in 2020.
The highest figures were found on Corsica and the Balearic Islands, with both regions approaching an average life expectancy of 84 years. Bulgaria recorded the lowest average lifespans of 72 and 73 years across the country.
Even allowing for the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, average life expectancy has been decreasing slightly across the EU over the last ten years. This trend is expected to continue in the immediate future.
In 2023 there will be an estimated 100 million EU citizens aged sixty-five or more. This equates to around one-fifth of the total EU population and poses a real problem for Europe. If the average life expectancy remains the same, then there will be almost 150 million older EU citizens by 2050, constituting almost a third of the entire EU population.
With birth rates down, a life expectancy of eighty years or more and health care constantly improving, the European Union will face serious problems with an ageing population and huge pressures on pension funding and healthcare.
In the past decade, the number of legal and illegal immigrants arriving in virtually all of the EU member countries has been increasing dramatically year upon year. In 2021 more than 2.3 million immigrants arrived in the EU from countries outside of the European Union. This was balanced, to some extent, by the estimated one million EU citizens who emigrated to a non-EU country but still represents a significant increase in the overall EU population.
2021 Statistics show that Germany received the highest number of immigrants, with almost 875,000, followed by Spain, with 530,000. Since 2020 virtually all EU member states have reported increased numbers of immigrants entering their countries either as asylum seekers or economic migrants. Today in 2023, the numbers continue to increase steadily, and whether the immigrants remain or leave, the substantial influx of people is bound to affect the total EU population and demographics.
From a historic low of an average of 1.47 children per female, the fertility rate across the EU has now risen to over 1.6. This means that more children are being born in the EU than was previously the case, and the upward trend has been observed in all but three EU member states: Portugal, Malta and Luxembourg.
However, 1.6 children per female is still a fairly low average rate and is insufficient to replace current workers as they reach retirement age. This means that the EU will face problems (if not a crisis) in funding retirement pensions as income taxes steadily decline.
Expanded European Union
With seven countries currently candidates to join the twenty-seven existing European Union states, an expanded EU is a certainty within the next few years. This will mean that EU citizens will have an additional seven countries they can visit, work, study or live in without any special form of visa or documentation.
Non-EU nationals, however, will also benefit as the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) will also be valid in any new EU member state. A Schengen Visa will not be required unless, or until, the new member states sign up to the Schengen Agreement, which, though a possibility, is unlikely to happen for some years.
Will you need a visa to travel to Europe in 2023? ›
Once implemented in 2023, each and every traveler entering Europe without a visa will need one. The purpose of ETIAS is to enhance border security to the EU. It is designed for short-term (90 days or less) visits to the EU and will be required for entry to the EU after the projected ETIAS launch date of November 2023.Which European country has highest visa ratio? ›
- Lithuania: In 2021, Lithuania granted 98.7% of visa applications, making it easy to obtain a visa. ...
- Estonia: Estonia has a high visa approval rate of 98.4% and a processing time of up to 15 days, but may take longer in exceptional situations.
The Schengen visa is the most common visa for Europe. It enables its holder to enter, freely travel within, and leave the Schengen zone from any of the Schengen member countries. There are no border controls within the Schengen Zone.What is the common visa policy? ›
Main elements of the common visa policy
Generally, a short-stay visa issued by one of the Schengen States entitles its holder to travel throughout the 27 Schengen States for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visas for visits exceeding that period remain subject to national procedures.
- Czech Republic.
Europe delays visa waiver scheme till 2024
But it has been pushed back to 2024. It'll be a fast online authorization for non-EU nationals from the 60 or so countries that don't currently need a visa to the EU – such as the United States and the United Kingdom – and will work a lot like the United States' ESTA program.
North Korea is by far the most difficult country to get a visa to visit as a tourist. To get a visa to North Korea, you have to apply for the visa through a tourist agency that has state-approved tours.Which is the hardest country to get Schengen visa? ›
- Sweden rejected 30.6 per cent of the 22,260 applications it received.
- Norway rejected 26.2 per cent of the 9,895 applications it received.
- France rejected 21.1 per cent of the 652,331 applications it received.
- Denmark rejected 21.1 per cent of the 26,469 applications it received.
You'd be better off staying away from France, Germany and Spain when applying for your Schengen visa. These three Schengen Area Member States were responsible for 66.5% of the total number of short-term visas rejected in 2021, according to recently released visa application statistics.Which countries can travel to USA without visa? ›
- Andorra (1991)
- Australia (1996)
- Austria (1991)
- Belgium (1991)
- Brunei (1993)
- Chile (2014)
- Croatia (2021)
- Czech Republic (2008)
What countries can enter EU without visa? ›
- Antigua and Barbuda.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Remember that to be eligible for visa-free entry, you must be visiting Europe for no more than 90 days per 180-day period. As an American, you must hold a valid visa to stay in a European country for more than 90 days or for reasons such as work or long-term study.What are the 4 types of visas? ›
|Type #1:||Tourist visa (pleasure travel visas)|
|Type #2:||Immigration and naturalization visas (including by marriage)|
|Type #3:||Student visas (for studying abroad)|
|Type #4:||Business or work visas (for working, which include both non-immigrant and immigrant types)|
While there are about 185 different types of U.S. visas, there are two main categories: Nonimmigrant visa, for temporary stays such as for tourism, business, family visits, study, work or transit; Immigrant visa: for permanent residence in the United States.What is the 10 year US visa called? ›
The U.S. 10-Year Multiple Entry Visa is a temporary visa that allows holders to engage in business and tourist activities within the U.S. This visa is officially known as the B1/B2 Visa.Do U.S. citizens need a visa for Italy 2023? ›
Americans must have an entrance visa which should be obtained at an Italian consulate before coming to Italy, in order to remain in Italy more than three months and gain resident status. This procedure will take several weeks to complete so it is advisable to apply well in advance of the departure date.What countries do not accept U.S. passport? ›
Visa Requirements for US Citizens.
|Republic of the Congo||South Sudan|
For US citizens, Switzerland is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Switzerland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.How long can a US citizen stay in Europe without a visa? ›
With a valid U.S. passport, you can stay up to 90 days for tourism or business during any 180-day period. Do not overstay! You must wait an additional 90 days before applying to re-enter the Schengen area. To stay longer than 90 days, you must have a visa.How long can you stay in the US without a visa from Europe? ›
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries* to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
Do Americans need visa for France? ›
American passport holders are not required to obtain a visa prior to visiting France for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.Which US visa is most powerful? ›
O-1 Visa: Individuals of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement.Is US visa powerful? ›
The powerful US visa is often granted for 10 years and it allows multiple visits to the US, which in itself is a great thing.Which country receives the most US visas? ›
|Rank||Country||Immigrant Visas Issued (2021)|
|#3||🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||17,941|
- Luxembourg – with a rejection rate as low as 1.2 percent out of total 2,383 Schengen visa applications received.
- Slovakia – 2.7 percent out of 3,886 applications.
- Lithuania – 2.8 percent out of 24,764 applications.
Iceland remains the country with the lowest rate of visa refusals in 2017 with only 0.96% of applications rejected, or 73 out of 7,610.What is the easiest Schengen Visa to get? ›
In general, Lithuania is the easiest country to obtain a Schengen Visa from, with officials granting 98.7% of applications. The nation also receives fewer applications than countries such as Germany or France, as they are extremely popular with tourists and business travellers.Which country has easiest immigration process in Europe? ›
The easiest country for obtaining a residence permit in Europe is Portugal. There are options like a D7 visa for financially independent persons, a StartUp visa, a visa for retired persons, and the Golden Visa for investors.Why is it so hard to get a Schengen visa? ›
Applying for a Schengen Visa in 2023 is not an easy task, as it has never been. There are lots of documents to be collected, an interview to be attended and even a fee to be paid, which right now is 33 per cent higher than it was before the pandemic.Which country needs the least visa? ›
In 2023, the most powerful passport in the world in terms of travel freedom is the Japanese passport, according to the HPI. A passport issued by Japan allows the holder to enter 193 different countries and territories without having to get a visa in advance. Singapore and South Korea are tied for 2nd place.
How many U.S. citizens have passports? ›
|Year||Valid U.S. Passports|
Mexican nationals are required to present a valid passport and visa or diplomat require a visa to enter the United States. BCC when traveling to the United States by land. For travel by sea, Mexican nationals will need to present a valid passport and visa or a valid passport and BCC.Where do Americans need visas? ›
Americans can travel to most European, Caribbean, and Central and South American countries without a visa, along with many other popular tourism destinations. Countries that U.S. passport holders need visas to enter include Russia, India, China, Vietnam, Turkey, and more, and others require e-visas to visit.How do I get a Schengen visa from the US? ›
- Visa application form – completely filled with the required information. ...
- A valid passport or Travel document. ...
- US residence permit. ...
- Photo – taken within the last three months. ...
- A cover letter. ...
- Round-trip Flight Itinerary.
Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom are EU states that are not, or not yet, part of the Schengen area.Do I need a visa for Germany? ›
As a general rule, all foreigners staying in Germany for more than 90 days wanting to work or study in Germany need a visa before entering Germany.What is a golden passport? ›
A golden passport is a passport you can obtain by investing in a country. Many countries provide a golden passport through Golden Visa and citizenship by investment programs. These countries are predominantly Caribbean and EU countries.What is golden visa in Europe? ›
EU Golden Visas are immigration investment programs aimed at investors and those with the financial means to invest in the economy of countries in the European Union in exchange for residency.Is ETIAS required for U.S. citizens? ›
ETIAS Requirements for Americans. To visit the Schengen Area of Europe from 2024, it is mandatory to register for an ETIAS for Americans. This online visa waiver grants visa-free access to over 25 European countries for 3 years.Do U.S. citizens need a visa? ›
The Visa section of this website is all about U.S. visas for foreign citizens to travel to the United States. (Note: U.S. citizens don't need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit.
What is the most common visa? ›
US Visitor Visa (Business Visa USA and US Tourist Visa)Which US visa is easy to get? ›
A citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must, in most cases, first obtain a visa to do so. This can be either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. For many, a "B" visitor visa is the easiest and most appropriate one to get.What is the longest visa for USA? ›
It is also called the maximum stay. One of the most popular tourist visas is the US B1/B2 visa, which allows for a maximum stay of 180 days Per Entry. However, the amount of time you can spend in the US is at the discretion of the consular officer who interviews you at the US embassy.What percentage of visas are approved? ›
The approval rates for nonimmigrant visas rose sharply between FY 2020 and FY 2021, according to State Department data just analyzed by the Center for Immigration Studies. In FY 2020, 74.9 percent of these visa applications, of all categories, were approved by foreign service officers; in FY 2019, it was 74.5 percent.Is the US still giving visas? ›
The coronavirus pandemic led to the suspension of U.S. visa services around the world. As restrictions start to ease, most U.S. embassies and consulates have resumed certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments.How long can you stay in America without a green card? ›
When you enter the U.S., a customs officer will give you authorization to stay in the U.S. for up to six months. If you'd like to stay for longer, you may be able to apply to extend this for up to one year.How many years US visa expires? ›
The B1/B2 Visa is valid for 10 years after issued, but for each entry, you are allowed to stay in the United States of America only for 180 days Per Entry or 6 months** (at most).What is the 2 year rule for US visa? ›
It requires you to return home for at least two years after your exchange visitor program. This requirement is part of U.S. law, in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e). If you cannot return home for two years, you must apply for a waiver.Do I need a ETIAS in 2023? ›
When does ETIAS launch? Starting in 2024, travellers that currently do not need a visa to visit EU member countries will require an ETIAS. The ETIAS proposal was finalised November 2016.Do I need a visa to go to Italy in 2023? ›
Americans must have an entrance visa which should be obtained at an Italian consulate before coming to Italy, in order to remain in Italy more than three months and gain resident status. This procedure will take several weeks to complete so it is advisable to apply well in advance of the departure date.
Do I need a visa to go to France 2023? ›
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS visa waiver) for Europe will allow visitors to travel between all the Schengen countries, including France. Applicants will be able to obtain an ETIAS for France by completing an online application form.Will Europe charge for entry in 2024? ›
The long-awaited European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be implemented in 2024, adding an entry fee of a little under $8 for non-European passport holders. The ETIAS was initially set to go into effect at some point this year, but guidelines around it have some European countries at odds.Will US citizens need ETIAS? ›
ETIAS Requirements for Americans. To visit the Schengen Area of Europe from 2024, it is mandatory to register for an ETIAS for Americans. This online visa waiver grants visa-free access to over 25 European countries for 3 years.Will travel to Europe be possible in summer 2023? ›
Europe is a great destination to visit in summer 2023. Consider visiting destinations like Tenerife, Montenegro, the Azores, Rome, Ponza, Italy, Budapest, Istanbul, Warsaw, and many others.Do US citizens need ETIAS for Germany? ›
Key information about ETIAS for US citizens
You need ETIAS to visit any of the countries in the European Schengen Area. This includes France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other popular destinations for American tourists. ETIAS is valid for 3 years or until the US passport expires (whichever comes first).
The Italian Government announced the number, nationalities and professional profiles of non-eu nationals that can enter in Italy for working reasons according to the 2023 so-called Flow Decree. Specifically, the quota set is 82,705 workers, broken down by country of origin and type and sector of employment.What do Americans need to visit Italy for ETIAS? ›
The main document needed to apply for an ETIAS Italy is a valid passport. Upon arrival in Italy a passport should be valid at least 3 months beyond the expected date of departure. The passport not only needs to be valid when completing the ETIAS Italy application, but it should be valid to travel to the country.How long can a US citizen live in Italy without a visa? ›
Americans who intend to stay in Italy for less than 90 days don't need to worry about visas. However, if you plan to go for an extended period, you'll have to apply for a long-stay visa. This is a crucial step because you can't apply for an Italian residence permit without this long-stay visa.Do US citizens need a visa for Spain 2023? ›
Please visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for more information on the specific entry/exit requirements. Spain is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Spain for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa.Can a US citizen enter France without a visa? ›
Visa requirements for American passport holders
American passport holders are not required to obtain a visa prior to visiting France for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
Do Americans need visa for UK 2023? ›
The scheme is set to be fully implemented by the end of 2023, the "permission to travel" requirement will apply to travelers visiting or transiting the U.K. without a visa or special immigration status – including visa-free nationalities like the United States.How long can a US citizen stay in Europe as a tourist? ›
With a valid U.S. passport, you can stay up to 90 days for tourism or business during any 180-day period. Do not overstay! You must wait an additional 90 days before applying to re-enter the Schengen area. To stay longer than 90 days, you must have a visa.Can a US citizen move to Europe permanently? ›
Yes, Americans can move to Europe. There are a variety of options available, with Golden Visas, Digital Nomad Visas, and other residency schemes available.Which country will join Schengen in 2024? ›
Croatia has become the 27th country to join Europe's Schengen Area - a zone with no internal border controls, including passport checks. It spans more than 4 million square kilometres and is home to about 420 million people.