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Brexit: How travelling within the EU will change for UK citizens

by Tester

With the UK having finally left the EU, many are left wondering as to how exactly their lives will change in the post-Brexit era. One of the primary concerns being: the extent and scope of travelling within the European Union after Brexit for UK citizens.

Three decades of being EU citizens has spoilt the UK populace with an endless array of European holidays without so much as a thought as towards issues of visas or permits. Luckily, travelling after Brexit won’t change much for tourists, although workers will have to get used to a much stricter regime.

What will travelling after Brexit be like?

As of now (in the Transition period), UK citizens can still exercise their freedom to travel between EU member states as they wish. Even post 2021, UK residents will be provided with considerable convenience. In spite of their ‘third-country national’ status, they will not need to apply for a Schengen Visa. The European Council has agreed to grant UK residents sufficient freedom with regards to coming to the Schengen area for a short stay (90 days in any 180 days) without a visa.

However, UK citizens will no longer be able to enter the Schengen Area with only their passports. They will be required to pay a fee whenever they visit an EU country as well as complete the online ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) application form.

What is the ETIAS?

The ETIAS is similar to the US ESTA Scheme, where prospective visitors to the EU from the UK will be required to complete an online form that would include questions on employment, health and criminal convictions.

A fee of seven euros will buy you a permit that would remain valid for three years. Your answers will be verified at the EU border along with your fingerprint or picture being taken.

The ETIAS is essentially a visa-waiver, which would save travelers the hassle of having to obtain more conventional Schengen visas.

However, the implementation of this system is still conditional and not guaranteed.

The European Parliament has provided that this system will be subject to the UK’s reciprocity. For the regime to continue, the UK must also extend the same benefits to the citizens of the EU.

What would then be the likelihood of visa-free travelling?

The Home Office has indicated that EU tourists will be able to travel to Britain and Northern Ireland with a similar ETIAS-like visa waivers in the future. Until such a system is implemented, EU citizens are able to travel to UK without their passports.

 So, what can you do now in the transition period?

For now, all UK travel documents will be considered full EU passports up until the date of expiry or 1st January 2021, regardless of whether they were issued before or after Brexit.

However, if you are hoping to travel to the EU in the period following 1 January 2021, you should ensure to take necessary steps to ensure smooth travel.

All UK citizens are recommended to act now to renew their passports if: 1) their passport has less than 6 months left to expire or 2) you’ve had your passport for more than 10 years (even if it has more than 6 months left to expire).


What else should you look into?

Health Insurance: The European Health Insurance Card will remain valid until 31st December 2020. If you are looking to travel after this time, you must ensure that you get the necessary travel insurance with the proper cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition. This is critical, as the previous EHIC had covered pre-existing conditions, but many travel insurance policies now do not cover such areas.

Travel Insurance: Certain travel insurance policies only cover specific types of disruption. You must double check your provider’s terms and conditions to ensure that you have the relevant cover for your travels. Consumer rights will not change, so you will still be able to claim a refund or compensation in the event that your travel is cancelled or delayed.

Driving: Whilst it was relatively convenient for UK citizens to drive to other EU countries, this convenience may be somewhat hindered in the year 2021. In order to drive to the other EU countries and Ireland, citizens will need an international driving permit, a separate GB sticker and an insurance green card (certificate extending travel insurance to the minimum legal requirements in EU countries).

Pet Travel: Following 1 January 2021, the existing pet passport scheme will no longer be in use. Hence, travelers who wish to travel with their dog, cat, or ferret are recommended to contact their vet at least four months before they plan on travelling.

Mobile Roaming: After the implementation period is completed, UK citizens will no longer be provided free roaming guarantees. The UK Government will then place a cap for maximum mobile data usage at £45 per month unless the user positively agrees to pay more.

Declarations: As an individual you would need to declare all cash of 10,000 or more (or its equivalent in another currency) when travelling to the EU>

Visa-free, but not stress-free

Upon reaching the EU border, you may need to: 1) show a return or onward ticket, 2) prove that you have sufficient funds for your stay, and 3) use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swizz citizens when queuing. However, Ireland and Portugal have announced that they will be providing a special ‘fast-track’ lane for British travelers in the future.


In conclusion, whilst travelling after Brexit for a short-stay in the EU will no longer be a hassle-free that it was, UK citizens have managed to avoid the more dreaded visa-based regime.


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