As in the rest of Europe, Latvia should use the new ETIAS travel authorization system in three and a half years. The European Commission has just announced that the ETIAS proposals should be finalized and that the infrastructure should be ready by early 2020. The Commission has also agreed on a uniform fixed fee for each candidate. It will be 5 €, which will make it cheaper than the American equivalent, ESTA. The Commission also announced that the ETIAS online application, once approved, should last five years before another is needed.
Latvia is part of Schengen
Latvia, like most EU members, is a dual member of the EU and Schengen. Schengen is designed to provide uniform border rules for all its members, while EU membership involves much more than just immigration. Every Latvian can travel freely to any other country in the EU and the Schengen area, as do the citizens of these countries in Latvia. But any non-EU citizen is limited in one way or another and, in most cases, is only allowed to stay for 90 days throughout the Schengen area.
Until now, it was not necessary for many holders of a non-European passport to apply for prior authorization, but this will change with the introduction of ETIAS. It is hoped that the ETIAS system will allow authorities to take a closer look at who arrives in Europe in advance to deter criminals and potential terrorists in particular.
Why visit Latvia?
It would probably be fair to say that Latvia is not overpopulated with tourists; but that does not mean it's not worth visiting. One of the attractions is that it is off the tourist circuit! Latvia is a small country on the Baltic coast, wedged between Estonia, Belorussia, Lithuania and Russia and its geography has determined its history, like so many other small European states.
The capital of Latvia, Riga, is probably the main attraction. The city is a World Heritage Site with its well-preserved medieval buildings. There are also other urban areas of interest, such as Cesis and its castle and Karosta with its secret military history. Many visitors do not realize how beautiful the beaches of Latvia are. Due to the low number of tourists, they remain little frequented, although they are better appreciated in summer. Latvia also has a lot of forest and a huge waterfall in Kuldiga (the largest in Europe).
Who will need a Latvia ETIAS visa waiver in 2020?
The ETIAS arrangement is not a full visa, it is rather a "visa waiver". In reality; It is very similar to other travel authorizations such as the one you need to enter the United States, Canada or Australia. You apply online in advance (72 hours is the quoted figure) and pay the fee of € 5 and, assuming you are allowed to enter, get the ETIAS authorization that will last 5 years. It will only apply to passport holders from countries outside the European Union who do not currently require a visa to travel to Europe. If you hold a US or Japanese passport, for example, you will need to obtain ETIAS approval once it has been officially introduced. There are also many other people who will still have to apply in advance for a full Schengen visa. Their status does not look at this point that it will change.