European Travel for UK Citizens After Brexit
How travel between the UK and EU countries
The United Kingdom left the European Union at midnight on January 31st, 2020. Now, halfway through an 11-month transition period, many are starting to think about how travel between the UK and EU countries will change from 2021.
Since joining the EU in 1973, UK passport holders have enjoyed freedom of movement in Europe, with the right to visit, reside, and work in other EU nations visa-free. Whilst such conditions remain in place during the transition period, once the 11 months have elapsed things will change.
So, what exactly does Brexit mean for European travel and what will British holidaymakers need to do going forward?
Will UK Citizens Need a Visa for Europe?
Whilst UK tourists will no longer be able to cross the exterior EU border using just a passport, it is not excepted that they will be required to apply for a visa. The European Council announced in February 2019 that:
“Following Brexit, UK citizens coming to the Schengen area for a short stay (90 days in any 180 days) should be granted visa-free travel.”
A reciprocal visa-free agreement between the UK and the EU is considered beneficial for both parties. For this reason, Brits will not need to apply for the Schengen visa like many other non-EU nationals. Passport holders from the United Kingdom will still be able to enter EU countries for activities such as tourism, study, research, and training.
So, does this mean that nothing has changed? Not quite. Although British nationals don’t need a Schengen visa, they won’t be exempt from ETIAS, the new visa waiver to be launched at the end of 2022, find further information here about ETIAS and its requirements.
What is the ETIAS Visa Waiver for Europe?
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is being introduced by the EU to boost safety and security across the Schengen Area. Currently, travelers from numerous countries are able to cross the exterior Schengen Area border using just a passport. Whilst this has made visiting Europe easy for tourists from visa-exempt nations, calls for greater safety measures have led to the development of ETIAS.
Once the program is up and running, people from non-EU countries will be required to register with ETIAS before heading to Europe.
The ETIAS system will cross-check passenger data against several international security databases: the Schengen Information System (SIS), Europol, and Interpol data will be consulted. There’ll also be an ETIAS watchlist containing the names of persons of interest to law enforcement agencies.
By pre-screening arrivals from outside the EU, potentially dangerous individuals can be prevented from entering Europe legally and therefore cross-border crime and terrorist activity can be prevented.
As non-EU citizens, visitors from the UK will need to complete the ETIAS screening process before being able to cross the Schengen Area’s external borders.
Applying for ETIAS with a UK Passport
The good news for travelers from the UK is that ETIAS will be quick and easy to apply for. The system is fully online and the permit can be obtained without leaving home, 24 hours a day.
To register, all visa-exempt non-EU citizens will need to fill in the online ETIAS application form with basic personal information such as name and date of birth, plus passport details There’ll also be a few extra security and health-related questions, mainly concerning infectious diseases. It’ll be essential to provide an email address to receive notifications and any correspondence.
Once the form has been completed the applicant will pay the ETIAS fees using a debit or credit card, and submit the request for review. It is expected that most UK applications will be approved at this stage.
If there is a hit in the system, the application will be processed manually, first by the ETIAS Central Unit, and then by the relevant ETIAS National Unit before a decision is made. Anyone who is refused an ETIAS will have the right to appeal.
The approved ETIAS visa waiver is linked to the applicant’s biometric passport digitally and will be scanned before crossing the border.
How long will it take to process an ETIAS visa application?
UK nationals concerned about lengthy application processes and delays needn’t worry. ETIAS is not a visa and is much quicker and more straightforward to obtain. Providing there are no hits in the automatic system the ETIAS visa waiver will be granted almost immediately.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to apply well in advance of departure from the UK in case of any complications.
How Long Can British Citizens Stay in Europe After Brexit?
One of the key differences after Brexit is that the time a British passport holder can remain in the Schengen Area visa-free will be limited. Anyone entering the travel zone with an ETIAS authorization will be granted a stay of up to 90 days in a 180-day period in any of the 26 Schengen countries.
Whilst this is ample time for an annual holiday to Spain or a skiing trip in the French Alps, UK citizens who wish to spend longer than 3 months in the Schengen Area need to apply for a visa.
ETIAS is valid for 3 years, or until the passport expires, and is multiple-entry, so there’s no need to reapply before each trip to Europe.
Can UK Citizens Work in the EU after Brexit?
It’s important to remember that the ETIAS visa waiver is valid for tourism and business, and for transiting through an airport in the Schengen Area.
From 2021, UK nationals wishing to work in the EU may require a permit to do so.
Brexit Negotiations are ongoing and more information about movement between the UK and the EU is expected as the transition period nears its end. Travelers should keep up to date with the latest developments and be prepared for the changes to come into effect from the beginning of 2021.