British citizens travelling in Europe after Brexit

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Last udpate: 15/01/2021

The United Kingdom has now completed its Brexit transition period and has fully left the European Union (EU). This means that UK citizens will no longer EU privileges when traveling to European countries.

Although UK Prime Minister and Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen finally managed to come to a deal on a trade and security matters just hours before the December 31st deadline expired, British nationals will still find that the experience of traveling to EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries has changed.

There are a number of new rules and regulations to bear in mind when planning a trip to Europe. UK passport holders will need to ensure that they meet the new entry requirements.

European flag at Downing Street

Do UK Citizens Need Visas for Europe?

British nationals traveling as tourists do not need a visa for a short trip to an EU or EFTA country following the end of the Brexit transition period.

It has been confirmed that travelers from the UK can stay visa-free for a maximum of 90 days within any 180-day period, as long as the purpose of visiting is leisure.

Note: The 90-day limit for visa-free stay in EU or EFTA countries does not apply to destinations such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, meaning that UK nationals can spend up to 90 days in any of these counties and it does not affect their 90 day limit for stays in other EU members.

Those traveling to the EU as a business visitor for less than 90 days also do not need a visa to conduct certain activities such as to participate in a conference or business meeting, but a visa or residence permit will be required for the following activities:

  • Providing services in an EU country as a self-employed person
  • ‘Intra-corporate transfer’ (transferring from the UK branch of a company to a branch in a Eu country, even for a short period of time)
  • Carrying out contracts to provide a service to a client in a European country in which your employer has no presence

For any stays longer than 90 days within a 180-day period in EU destinations and for other purposes of traveling, a visa will also be required.

ETIAS for British Citizens

It is worth noting that in 2022, the EU will introduce an electronic travel authorization called the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). This will be an additional entry requirement for visa-exempt travelers, most likely including British citizens.

While the ETIAS is not a visa, strictly speaking, it will involve the traveler registering their details before traveling for security purposes. The difference is that this can be done quickly via an online form.

The streamlined process means that the ETIAS application will be completed and processed rapidly. The system is being modeled on the US ESTA.

Can I Work in Europe After Brexit

As citizens of a non-EU country, UK nationals no longer enjoy the European Union policy of free movement of workers. British citizens who wish to go and work in an EU or Schengen country will have to apply for a visa.

Similarly, EU countries will require British business visitors and students to obtain business and study visas respectively, depending on the intended period of stay and the activies they will engage in during their visit.

In order to move to an EU state, British nationals need a residence visa or permit.

Visa policies for UK citizens vary depending on the country. It is important to check visa requirements before booking a trip.

Are British EU Passports Still Valid?

K passports issued while it was still a member of the EU are still valid. However, it is important to check both the issue date and expiry date.

Non-EU nationals, which now include Uk citizens, must have a passport that continues to be valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel.

The passport must also be less than 10 years old to be acceptable.

The only EU country these rules do not apply to is the Republic of Ireland, which continues to accept any valid UK passport under the agreements of the Common Travel Area.

European Health Cover After Brexit

Healthcare is no longer covered automatically. UK citizens with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will find that it has now become invalid following the end of the Brexit transition period.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that Brits traveling to Europe buy health and travel insurance to ensure they are covered in the EU.

The EHIC covered pre-existing medical conditions, but many basic insurance policies do not. Therefore, it is vital that Uk nationals choose a policy that covers their potential medical needs.

Nevertheless UK students already on EU courses, as well as UK state pensioners living in the EU before 31st December 2020,will be able to use their EHIC after 2020 if they apply for a new card.

Can I Drive in Europe With My UK License?

Driving in EU countries has also become more complicated. Policies on driving vary from country to country, but in general British citizens are required to take their UK driving license and a V5C log book, as well as valid insurance documents.

UK travelers also have to check if they require an international driving permit (IDP) or any other additional documents in their destination country if they plan to hire a car or drive there in their own vehicle.

Pet Travel to Europe After Brexit

Existing EU pet passports have become invalid as the UK is no longer part of the scheme.

The new process for taking pets such as cats, dogs, or ferrets to the EU or Northern Ireland involves:

  • Having the animal microchipped
  • A valid rabies vaccination certificate
  • Tapeworm treatment for dogs (only if traveling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta)

The pet will also need an animal health certificate (AHC) issued within 10 days of traveling.

Please note that these requirements also apply to assistance dogs. Travelers should begin making sure their pet meets all the requirements at least 1 month before their trip to ensure they do not face problems at EU borders.

How Has Traveling to the EU Change for British Nationals?

Arriving at border control in EU countries will be a different experience for UK citizens now that the Brexit transition period has come to a close.

Firstly, they are no longer able to use the lane for EU/EEA/Swiss passport holders and must instead queue with arrivals from outside the EU.

Passing through passport control may take a little longer and Brits will now be asked to show the following:

  • A return or onward ticket
  • Proof of funds to cover the trip

Customs regulations have also changed. Brits carrying £10,000 or more have to declare it. The same is true of any goods that are intended to be sold or used for business purposes.

Do UK Travelers Still Get Free Roaming in the EU?

As of January 1, 2021, free roaming for UK mobile phones in EU and EFTA countries is no longer guaranteed, including for employees of UK companies traveling for business to the EU.

Although mobile phone companies have said that they do not plan to change current roaming policies, this could well change in the future.

Nevertheless, the UK government has introduced legislation that requires mobile operators to apply a financial limit of £45 per monthly billing period ( €50 under EU law) to protect mobile users from unexpected charges.

Legislation has also been passed that requires operators to send users alerts when thier data usage reaches 80% or 100%, and information about how to avoid inadvertent roaming in border regions, including those shared with Northern Ireland.

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