Almost three years after the Brexit referendum in which the British people voted by a narrow margin to leave the EU, much uncertainty remains. The new official date for the UK to leave is 31 October but it remains to be seen whether this will be replaced with yet another extension. Amongst the many questions that remain unanswered is the status of Gibraltar. Will British citizens need an ETIAS visa waiver for Gibraltar or to travel anywhere else in the Schengen Zone?
The Schengen Zone, the Schengen Visa and ETIAS
The Schengen Zone is a visa-free travel zone comprising of 26 European states. This includes most EU states with the exception of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom. There are also some non-EU countries in Schengen including Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Thanks to Schengen it is possible for EU citizens to travel from Portugal to Finland without needing to go through any passport control.
There are currently 62 countries whose citizens are entitled to enter Schengen without a visa. From 2021 onwards visitors from these countries will require the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). This is fast and easy and the application form takes just minutes to fill out. Once your ETIAS visa waiver has been approved, you can print out the visa at home.
In the case of countries that are not entitled to visa-free travel to the EU, ETIAS will not be an option. Just as now, they will require a Schengen visa. The Schengen visa is applied for at the embassy of the country that the visitor intends to enter the zone by.
Provided you are from one of the eligible countries, all you will require to apply for ETIAS is a passport valid for at least 6 months, a working email address at which to receive your visa, and a credit or debit card to make the payment with. You will be asked basic information such as your passport details, travel plans and contact details. There form includes questions about medical history and criminal activity.
Gibraltar: One Small Rock, One Big Disagreement
Gibraltar has been a source of tension between the UK and Spain since it fell into British hands in 1713 under the treaty of Utrecht. Gibraltarians have always voted overwhelming in favor of remaining part of the UK but this holds little sway with Madrid.
The Rock, as Gibraltar is also known, has been classed as a British overseas territory since 2002. The Spanish government strongly disputes this status, despite no other EU member states appearing to have previously had a problem with it. The Spanish government has insisted that Gibraltar be referred to as a colony, something that London views as totally unacceptable.
If Brexit ends with a negotiated withdrawal agreement, as had always been the intention of Brussels and the outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, then UK citizens would most likely continue to enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen Zone not only during the withdrawal period but also after.
Any country, however, could veto such an agreement, including Spain. If no withdrawal agreement is reached then there is a real possibility that UK citizens would require an ETIAS visa waiver to travel in the Schengen Zone from 2021 onwards. In such a scenario it is highly likely that the British government would, in the name of reciprocity, require EU citizens to obtain a visa to travel to the UK. This possibility has set alarm bells ringing in Madrid given the thousands of Spaniards who travel across the border each day to work on The Rock.
Like all visitors, visitors from the UK need a passport to go to Gibraltar from the UK. What is highly unlikely is that UK citizens would require ETIAS to travel to Gibraltar as it, like the rest of the UK, has never been a part of the Schengen Zone. Like so much else surrounding Brexit, however, the final outcome is still far from clear.