Now that the UK has left the European Union, travelling to the continent is going to be a little different for British passport holders and is likely to go through some major changes over the next few years.
The transition period is set to come to an end at the end of 2020, finally bringing the Brexit saga to a close. In 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in a referendum that ended with 52% in favour of exiting the union.
After four years of negotiations, the UK officially left the EU at the start of 2020. However, the country has continued to be subject to some of the union’s policies until the end of the year as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has continued its negotiations with European officials. It is still unclear whether any trade deal will be made.
Meanwhile, the EU freedom of movement policy still applies to the UK until the end of 2020, meaning that British citizens can still travel to EU countries without restrictions or visa requirements.
In 2021, the rules will change, with UK nationals being treated as non-EU visitors. In 2022, the situation will take another turn as the EU launches its new ETIAS system. See more information.
Travelling to Europe in 2020
Although the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has thrown the world of travel into chaos, the rules for Brits going to EU countries officially remain unchanged. Anyone with a UK passport can enter any EU member state without requiring a visa and is entitled to move to and find work in any of these countries until the end of December 2020.
Many EU countries have introduced additional rules due to COVID-19, such as completing a form online before boarding a flight or requiring incoming travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.
These rules vary from country to country and are constantly being updated.
Brits in the EU in 2021
2021 is when everything changes. UK nationals will no longer be EU citizens and will no longer enjoy the perks that come with it.
British citizens will not be automatically entitled to live and work in the EU; instead, they will have to apply for residence permits and work visas through the normal channels.
Brits already living in the EU will be able to apply for residency to preserve their rights to live and work in the country that they currently call home. However, the process of applying for residency varies depending on the individual country and in some places it is more complicated than in others.
It is still unclear whether Brits who are official EU residents will still enjoy freedom of movement throughout the whole union or whether EU rights will only apply in their country of residence.
The good news for British holidaymakers is that the EU has agreed to add the UK to its visa waiver list. This means that UK passport holders will still be able to travel to EU countries with only their passport, avoiding long visa applications and the associated fees.
However, the maximum length of time that Brits will be able to spend in the EU visa-free will be limited.
The only other noticeable difference for UK citizens will be standing in a different queue at border control.
2022 and ETIAS for UK Citizens
Towards the end of 2022, the EU plans to introduce a new travel authorisation system. This will affect visitors from all countries that currently do not need a visa to visit the EU and will almost certainly apply to British citizens for that reason.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System, or ETIAS, is based on the US ESTA. Designed to improve security by pre-screening visa-free travellers, it will be completely electronic and visitors will be required to register online.
Many countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US have similar systems in place for foreign visitors in their visa waiver programmes and the UK government has also talked about implementing its own electronic travel authorisation system.
Once ETIAS is launched, it is likely that all Brits heading to the EU will have to register their details in an online form and pay a fee before travelling to Europe.