WHAT DOES BREXIT MEAN FOR BRITISH PASSPORT HOLDERS?

The Brexit Transition Period officially ended at midnight Central European Time on 1 January 2021 and a host of new regulations came into force. If you’re a British passport holder and want a simple low-down on how the changes impact you when travelling, working or studying in Europe, we’ve got you covered in this article.

As a British passport holder, which countries are impacted for me by Brexit?

As a British passport holder the Brexit changes will affect you when travelling, working or studying in:

  • All 27 European Union (EU) countries
  • Three members of the European Economic Area (EEA), Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein
  • Switzerland

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries that share a common external border with a single set of entry clearance rules. Once you’re inside the Schengen Area, you’re free to travel to any other Schengen Member State without passing any border controls.

schengen_area_eu_countries_brexit

Schengen Member States issue Schengen visas to people who need a visa to visit for a short-stay. The Schengen visa is valid for travel to all Schengen Member States, not just the Member State that issued the visa.

Sometimes there are geographical restrictions on which Schengen Member States you can travel to, but these are rare. Any restrictions are clearly stamped on your Schengen visa.

Do I need a visa to travel to Europe?

No, British passport holders don’t need a visa to travel to Europe but there are restrictions on how long you can stay visa-free. 

You can travel to any EU or EEA countries without the need for a visa for any purpose, but if you intend to stay in Europe for more than 90 days in any 180-day period, you’ll need to apply for a visa.

Is my passport valid for travel to Europe?

Yes, providing it meets EU and EEA requirements. Now that the UK is out of the EU, you’ll need to check other pieces of information to make sure your British passport is valid for travel as the requirements have changed.

The two biggest changes to passport validity requirements for British passport holders are that your passport must:

  • Be valid for at least 6 months from your intended date of arrival in Europe
  • Have been issued less than 10 years ago, even if it has more than 6 months validity

You can read about passport requirements in more detail in our article 5 crucial passport checks you need to do before travelling to Europe.

How long can I stay in Europe?

You can stay in an EU or Schengen Member State for up to 90 days within any 180-day rolling period visa-free for any purpose. If you intend to exceed this period, you’ll need to apply for a ‘national visa,’ also known as a ‘D visa’.

Can I visit Europe on business without a visa?

Yes you can, as long as you don’t spend more than 90 days within any rolling 180-day period in the Schengen Area, Croatian, Bulgaria or Hungary.

Can I work in Europe without a visa?

This depends on how long you intend to stay in Europe. You can work in Europe for a maximum of 90 days within any rolling 180-day period visa-free. If you intend to work in Europe for more than 90 days within any 180-day period, you’ll need to apply for a visa.

You should check the official UK government guidance for the country or countries where you intend to work to make sure you comply with the requirements.

How do I apply for a long-term visa to Europe?

You only need to apply for a visa if you intend to stay in an EU or Schengen Member State for more than 90 days within any rolling 180-day period.

If you need to apply for a visa, you do this through the embassy or consulate-general of the country where you’ll be staying. If you’re staying in more than one country, you’ll need to determine in which country to make your visa application. This is usually the country where you’ll claim residency and where you’ll be spending the most time, where your employment contract is located or where your educational establishment is based.

All European countries use visa application centres in the UK, so when you make your visa application you’ll submit it in one of these centres. You’ll be applying for a ‘national visa’ – also known as a ‘D visa’ – which will allow you to stay in Europe for more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

If I have a national or D visa issued by a European country, can I travel to other European countries?

Yes you can, unless there’s a specific restriction placed on your national visa you’ll be free to travel through the EU and EEA without the need to apply for another visa.

Do British passport holders need to use the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS)?

When it comes online for members of the public in 2022, yes, British passport holders will need to register and pay the ETIAS fees before they can travel to Europe.

The ETIAS is a similar system to the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and the Canadian e-Travel Authorization (eTA) systems. ETIAS requires travellers from outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland to pre-register their details and pay a fee before they can enter the country and is done entirely online.

Can I study in Europe without a visa?

If you’re doing a short course where you’ll be in Europe for less than 90 days, you don’t need a visa.

If you’ll be in Europe for more than 90 days within any rolling 180-day period, you’ll need to apply for a student visa.

Can I do an Erasmus Exchange Programme in Europe?

The UK has now withdrawn from the Erasmus Exchange Programme but student exchange programmes will be available through the new Turing Scheme that is being launched soon. The Turing Scheme will let students study abroad in Europe and the rest of the world.

What restrictions are there for me travelling to Europe due to COVID-19?

COVID-19 travel restrictions change several times per week so you should always check the latest official travel advice while making your travel plans to Europe.

You should check both the UK government’s travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as well as your destination country’s own travel advice on the Re-open EU website.

Is my European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) still valid?

Possibly, yes. The rules are complicated but the EHIC is still valid under many circumstances for emergency medical care if you fall ill in the EU or EEA. We recommend you check the official UK government guidance on EHIC validity to make sure you’re still covered before you travel.

You should be aware that a valid EHIC is not a replacement for private travel insurance, which is recommended by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Do I need travel insurance to travel to Europe?

Having travel insurance isn’t a legal requirement to travel to Europe, however you’re strongly advised to purchase a private travel insurance policy before you travel. This will ensure you can get covered for any eventuality, which is especially important if you’re planning to do winter sports, water sports or you have pre-existing medical conditions.

You do need to make sure you have adequate medical insurance if you’re planning to stay in Europe on a national visa. The rules differ by country and you can find the relevant information on the Department of Health and Social Care website.

Is my UK driving licence still valid in Europe?

In most cases yes, your UK driving licence will still be valid to drive and hire a car in Europe

If you hold a paper UK driving licence, or your driving licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Mann, you should check with the embassy of the country you’ll be driving in to see if there are any restrictions.

Do I need an International Driving Permit to drive in Europe?

In most cases no, your UK driving licence will be valid. 

You may however, need an International Driving Permit if you’re staying long-term in Europe, if you hold a paper UK driving licence or if your driving licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Mann. You should check the official guidance on the UK government website for more details.

Will I have to pay mobile phone roaming charges when I travel to Europe?

While mobile phone operators are no longer legally bound to remove European roaming charges for UK-registered mobile phone contracts, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have all stated that they have no intention to re-introduce roaming charges.

Got any more Brexit-related questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll add the answer to this list.

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