How to travel between the UK and the EU from 2021?

Travelling between the UK and EU

Now that the United Kingdom has left the EU, there are new rules for travellers. British passport holders are no longer EU citizens which means that several factors need to be taken into account when planning a holiday to a European destination.

Similarly, EU citizens visiting the UK should be prepared and take all the necessary steps.

This article explains each of the key changes and what travellers need to do to ensure a hassle-free trip after Brexit. The issues that will be addressed are as follows:

  • Passport requirements for travelling between the EU and the UK
  • Visa requirements after Brexit
  • What to expect at border control
  • Travelling with pets after Brexit
  • Health care overseas from January 2021

Travellers are advised to stay up to date with all the latest changes and developments.

Passport requirements after Brexit

Citizens of European countries who are used to travelling to the United Kingdom using a national ID card rather than a passport will be able to continue doing so until 1st October 2021.

From this date onwards, however, a passport will be required to cross the border. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival in the United Kingdom.

British travellers heading to the EU also need to check that their passport was issued in the last 10 years and is valid for at least 6 months to be considered valid for travel to Europe.

Previously, passports only needed to be valid for the length of stay, this is still the case if travelling to Ireland.

Is a visa required to travel between the UK and EU?

For short stays in either the UK or Europe, there will be no visa requirements. Tourists can continue to enjoy their annual holiday in Europe or Britain without applying for a visa.

As third-country nationals, the 90/180 rule now applies to British citizens visiting the Schengen Area. This means that UK nationals will be permitted to stay in any of the 26 Schengen nations for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

This 3-month limit applies to all countries in the travel zone. A UK passport holder who spends 10 days in Spain will then have 80 days remaining to visit other Schengen countries. British passport holders will not need a Schengen visa.

EU citizens will also be able to spend up to 90 days in the United Kingdom without a visa.

ETIAS and Brexit

The EU will introduce a new visa waiver for visa-exempt non-EU citizens towards the end of 2022. As British passport holders will now fit into this category, they will need to apply.

ETIAS, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System is an electronic permit which is electronically linked to the traveller’s passport.

British passport holders will be able to register online. The electronic ETIAS application will request a few personal details and passport information which will be checked against international security databases.

The approved ETIAS is valid for 3 years or until the passport expires, whichever occurs first. This means that British travellers will not need to apply every time they head to Europe.

With the ETIAS, UK passport holders can stay anywhere in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days per 180-day period, the same permit is valid for the entire border-free travel region.

Visa waiver for EU nationals travelling to Europe

The UK is expected to require Europeans to obtain a permit for visiting the country without a visa. The UK already has a visa waiver programme for citizens of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Any new UK visa waiver for EU nationals is likely to be similar to this and will provide 90 days visa-free travel to the United Kingdom.

Border control at UK and EU airports

Crossing the border may take longer than before Brexit. This is because travellers in both directions will no longer be able to use dedicated EU fast-track lanes that had previously allowed for swifter passport and customs clearance.

Border officials may also ask to see a return ticket and/or proof of financial means to cover the entire trip, passengers should have this information to hand.

Taking food and plant products across the border

There are new regulations on taking certain goods across the border. From January 1st, it will not be possible to take meat or milk products into the EU. Certain exceptions do apply, such as food for infants and pets.

Similarly, there are now limits on taking plants and plant products to Europe. A certificate is required for carrying certain species.

Travelling with pets after Brexit

Another concern for some people is the additional paperwork that will be required to travel between the UK and EU with pets.

People are being advised to allow at least 1 month to make the necessary arrangements for taking their pet overseas after Brexit.

Existing pet passports will no longer be valid. Instead, owners need to get an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) for their pet, these are issued by a vet and valid for 4 months.

Travellers must also check the vaccine requirements for the country they are visiting. In most cases, animals must be microchipped and have a rabies injection. Treatment against, Echinococcus multilocularis, a type of tapeworm, is also required by some EU nations.

Travel Health Insurance after Brexit

The UK government has announced that EHIC cards issued before the end of 2020 will remain valid until their expiry date. EHIC cards are valid for 5 years.

After this, a new card will be issued. The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will cover existing illnesses, maternity care, and emergencies. More details are expected in the coming months.

Taking out travel health insurance is now recommended when visiting the UK or an EU nation.

Other post-Brexit travel considerations

As well as those changes mentioned above, travellers should also make sure they understand the new rules regarding:

  • Driving in the UK and Europe with a foreign licence
  • Phone roaming charges
  • Duty-free shopping allowances

Tourists are assured that by preparing adequately, travelling between the United and the EU will continue to be enjoyable and stress-free after Brexit.