UK reveals US-style visa waiver for EU Citizens

new uk visa waiver

The UK’s Conservative Government has proposed a US-style visa waiver system for EU citizens after Brexit has been completed. The new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system announced on the 2nd of December 2019 by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel would require EU visitors to apply for an electronic visa waiver prior to entry into the UK.

The Home Secretary suggested that new rules would help the country improve its border security, noting that the current arrangement with the EU was “limiting border capability” for the UK.

“The consequence of EU law limiting our border capability is brought home to me every day. It is a sad fact that drugs and guns reach our streets from Europe, fuelling violence and addiction. People traffickers don’t think twice about risking people’s lives for profit. And most shockingly of all we know that terrorists have been able to enter the country by exploiting free movement.”

The proposed new measures, however, have been criticised by both parliamentary and expert sources who indicated that the UK would be more at risk by losing access to major EU crime databases and the European Arrest Warrant system. They have also warned that reciprocal measures could affect UK citizens travelling to the Schengen Area after Brexit.

How the new rules will affect European citizens post-Brexit

At present EU citizens are able to travel to the UK with just a national ID card or a valid passport. However, this is set to change after Brexit if the new rules proposed by the Home Secretary are finalised and rolled out.

One of the biggest changes is that citizens of EU countries would be required to apply for an electronic visa waiver up to 3 days before travelling to the UK for short trips. They will also have to gain appropriate security clearance and pay an administration fee.

Another major change is that in addition to holding a valid visa waiver, EU citizens will need to travel with a full passport instead of an ID card.

The system itself is expected to function in a similar way to the US ESTA visa waiver which has been in place since 2010. This allows visitors from around the world to enter the US after obtaining online authorisation from US homeland security prior to travel. It also permits multiple trips for up to 90 days over a 2 year period.

Online travel authorisation systems like these are distinct from visas – the waivers are much quicker and simpler to apply for and avoid the need to go to an embassy.

Will UK citizens need a visa to visit Europe after Brexit?

It is not expected that British citizens will need a visa to visit EU countries. However, the European Union is also to launch its own ETIAS visa waiver towards the end of 2022 for third-country nationals visiting the Schengen area. It is therefore expected that this will become a requirement for UK passport holders too.

UK passport holders with ETIAS will be able to visit all 26 Schengen countries for a period of up to 90 days at a time.

In order to register for an ETIAS visa waiver, visitors will need to apply online by filling in their identifying information, indicating their travel plans, submitting details on supporting documentation (such as a passport) and, finally, paying a fee.

In addition to obtaining an ETIAS travel authorisation, UK citizens will be subject to further requirements when going to Europe from 2022. Details of these changes have recently been released and cover the following topics:

  • Passport validity and issue date
  • Driving in EU countries
  • Going to EU countries with a pet
  • Coverage for medical care
  • Mobile roaming charges

How long should a UK passport be valid for?

UK citizens heading to Europe from 2022 should check that the date of travel their passport is:

  • Valid for at least 6 more months
  • Less than 10 years old

Visitors must renew their passport if both of these conditions are not met.

Can UK citizens drive in the EU after Brexit?

There is still no clarity regarding how driving overseas will change after the Brexit transition period.

So far the British government has said that extra documentation may be required to drive in Europe from January 2022. An international driving permit (IDP) may also be necessary for some countries.

It is also possible that motorists taking their own vehicle to Europe will need to get a ‘green card’ or proof of insurance and display a GB sticker.

Do British nationals need health insurance for Europe?

Until December 31st, UK nationals in Europe are covered by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

After this date, the EHIC will no longer be valid, visitors are advised to take out appropriate health cover, particularly those with a preexisting health condition.

How to travel to Europe with pets after Brexit

British pet owners will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme from January 1st, 2022. There will be a new process in place that will take at least 4 months to complete.

The government has released more detailed instructions for taking a pet to Europe, rules are yet to be finalised but will include certain vaccinations and other tests.

Will there be mobile roaming charges for UK citizens in the EU?

The EU’s ban on roaming charges will no longer apply to British citizens after January 1st 2022.

Travellers should check roaming charges with their phone operator in advance, although there is a new law in place which will prevent people from spending over £45 (€49) a month unknowingly.

Other changes for UK citizens in the EU after Brexit

It will be necessary to declare cash of over £10,000 (€11,000) or the equivalent in any other currency, taken between the UK and EU countries.

There will be some additional changes for business travellers, including the need to make a customs declaration to take goods abroad to sell or to use for business purposes,

As the end of the transition period draws closer, rules and regulations will be finalised. UK passport holders should stay up to date with the latest guidance.