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 Authorization (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 criticized 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 traveling 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 finalized 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 traveling 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 authorization from US homeland security prior to travel. It also permits multiple trips for up to 90 days over a 2 year period.
Further details are not yet known as to how long the UK’s proposed visa waiver will be valid for, what the fees will be and what the necessary security requirements are to be. These details are likely to be revealed as the new system is developed.
Will UK Citizens Need a Visa To Visit Europe After Brexit?
It is quite likely that in the event of Brexit that EU countries affected by the changes would implement reciprocal immigration checks and extra travel document criteria on UK citizens.
The European Union is also soon to launch its own ETIAS visa waiver in 2021 for third-country nationals visiting the Schengen area. It is therefore expected that this will become a requirement for UK passport holders too.
Getting an ETIAS will be a requirement for citizens of over 60 countries. On arrival in the EU, it will also permit travelers 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.
The new UK visa-waiver system is however far from finalized. The country is due to go to the polls on Thursday 12th December and its implementation will depend very much on the result of this General Election. Nevertheless, if the ETA is brought in it will likely lead to changes in the way both UK and EU citizens travel.