Destination Europe? All change!


18 December 2020

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has put many people’s travel plans on ice over the winter, if you are planning ahead for 2021, you need to understand how Brexit and the end of free movement rights will affect your trip.

Whilst the UK was part of the EU, it was relatively straightforward for British citizens to travel to Europe. However, following the end of the Brexit transition period, travelling to countries within the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein will change from 1 January 2021.

British citizens seeking to enter an EU country will need to ensure that their British passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry. The passport must also be less than 10 years old.

Any individual seeking to stay in an EU country for longer than 90 days, or who wants to work, study or travel on business for any period, may require a visa.

British citizens will not require a visa for short holidays to the Schengen Area, which includes most EU Countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Tourists will be permitted to visit this group of countries for up to a total of 90 days in any 180-day period. However, if visiting non-Schengen countries, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or Romania, different rules will apply.

At border control, you may be required to show a return or onward ticket, demonstrate that you have sufficient funds for your stay and may also be required to join a separate queue from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. You need to make sure you have the supporting documentation ready in your hand luggage and should be prepared for longer queues at the border.

Before travelling abroad you should obtain travel insurance with healthcare cover that includes pre-existing conditions. For individuals who currently have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), this will be valid until 31 December 2020. If you are visiting an EU country over the Christmas and New Year period, the good news is that UK EHIC entitlements will continue until you either return to the UK or visit another EU country.

Despite these changes, travelling to Ireland has not been affected, as the Common Travel Area remains in place. This means British citizens can continue to travel and work in Ireland without a visa or any limit on their stay.

This article is from the December 2020 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For more details regarding any of the matters covered in this update, please contact Janice Leggett in our Immigration Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at December 2020.

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