Travel after Brexit: Everything you need to know about passports and visas

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The UK is set to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019.

Brexit has profound implications for travellers. This is the latest on what we know, what we think we know and what we still don’t know.

First up: passports and the new “Etias” travel authorisation.

My passport bears the words “European Union” in gold at the top of the cover. Will I need to get a replacement non-EU passport after Brexit?

No, unless it is nearing the end of its validity. All British passports issued up to and including 29 March 2019 are full European Union travel documents. After Brexit your passport will continue to be valid as a British travel document, but it will lose its EU power.

Ireland will continue to be a special case and passports will not be required for travel between the UK and the Republic.

What happens if we leave the European Union with a withdrawal agreement in place?

“If the UK leaves with a deal, travel to the EU will remain the same as now until at least 31 December 2020,” says the government. 

That is not strictly true: British travellers will no longer be able to use the “fast track EU/EEA” lanes after 29 March. But your passport should continue to be valid for travel anywhere in the European Union up to and including the date of expiry.

And after that?

Starting in 2021, British travellers will certainly need to apply for online permission to visit the Schengen Area – which includes almost all European Union countries plus a few more. The “eurovisa” is intended to address the “lack of information related to visa-exempt third-country nationals arriving at the Schengen external borders”. 

The new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias) is like America’s Esta programme. The idea is to find out more about prospective visitors’ health, employment and criminal convictions. At present 1,200 people a day turning up at the borders of the European Union are denied entry. The EU wants to reduce that number by assessing prospective visitors in advance.

A €7 permit is valid for three years (no charge for under-18s or over-70s). On arrival at an EU border, there is still no guarantee of admission. “Travellers would have their data verified, their picture or fingerprint taken and a set of questions asked.”

If there’s no deal, will I need a visa immediately after Brexit?

No. Every indication is that the European Union will classify British visitors as having “third country, visa-free” status. So from 11pm British time on 29 March 2019, UK travellers will become subject to the standard rules of admission for citizens of nations such as the US, Japan and Australia. That means your passport must have “at least six months validity remaining on the date of arrival”, according to the British government.

But after the UK leaves, strict European Union rules on non-EU documents means that a passport expiring in 14 months, 29 days might not be deemed acceptable. A passport is regarded as expired 10 years after its issue date. The government has provided an online service to assess your travel document. 

How long will I be able to stay in Europe?

In the event of no-deal, you will no longer be automatically entitled to stay as long as you like. The government says: “You would be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.” If you were planning to spend four months this summer in your second home in France, you would need to get a visa before you travel.

Any other hurdles?

There is no longer any guarantee of entry. The government warns: “You may be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay.

“As non-EU nationals, different border control checks will apply, and you may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket.”

When can I get a blue passport?

Passports issued after 29 March 2019 will have the words “European Union” removed from the cover and the first inside page. Travel documents with blue covers, the same shade as Croatia and North Korea, will begin to be issued from the autumn.



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