If you intend to travel within the EU post-Brexit transition period, you may need to check your passport is valid and apply for a visa before your European holiday. Information about vehicle requirements are in our related post: How to Drive Legally in Europe after the Brexit transition
Is my British passport still valid in Europe after Brexit?
If Britain leaves the transition period on 31 December 2020 without a deal, passport requirements for UK citizens will change. You need to ensure there is 6 months travel available from your date of arrival on any passport issued by the UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey. Apply for a new passport if you would have 6 months or less left on your passport before your European trip. This applies to all visits to EU countries within the Schengen Zone and Iceland and Norway. Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are within the EU, but outside the Schengen Zone and will have their own entry requirements.
There is currently no requirement for UK citizens to surrender EU passports after Brexit. These rules may change depending on the Brexit negotiations, keep informed here: www.gov.uk/guidance/passport-rules-for-travel-to-europe-after-brexit
Do I need a visa to visit the EU?
Currently, as EU citizens British people have the right to free movement throughout the EU. After 31 December 2020 this will change, but currently visa requirements and time limits are unknown. According to France Diplomatie, www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/, there are two possibilities: 1) Travel will remain the same and UK citizens will just need a passport; or 2) The European Union may require British citizens to have a passport and a visa. The site also states: ‘On 13 November, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation exempting British citizens from visa requirements to enter the EU, if the United Kingdom grants a reciprocal exemption for all EU citizens.’ Read the article at www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/country-files/united-kingdom/brexit/i-am-a-british-citizen-living-in-the-uk-and-wish-to-visit-france/.
Travellers from many countries can travel to and within the Schengen Zone, which is within the EU, for 90 days without a visa; this may apply to British citizens in the future. The 3-month (90 days) maximum stay applies to the entire Schengen Zone, not to individual countries within it. The day you enter the Schengen Zone the 180-day period begins. You can be within the zone for up to 90 days within that 6-month period; please note, the 6-month period does not restart if you leave and re-enter the Zone. If you spend your allotted 3 months within the Schengen Zone, you have to leave the Zone and will not be able to re-enter until 90 days have elapsed from the date of last exit. After this point, your next entry into the Schengen Zone will start a new 180-day period. See a list and map of schengen countries here: www.schengenvisainfo.com/schengen-visa-countries-list
Sounds simple enough, however the Regulation (EU) No 610/2013 of 26 June 2013 amended the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement, the Schengen Borders Code and the Visa Code and re-defined the concept of "short stay" for third-country nationals in the schengen area. The key element in this legislation is the addition of "90 days in any 180 day period".
This means if you are stopped and checked the official can look at the 180 days preceding the check, not 180 days from first entry. While this is simpler for the checking official, removing the confusion about first entry date, it is more complicated for the non-EU visitor. The only way to be sure not to fall foul is to leave a 90-day gap between 90 day trips. Therefore, without applying for a different visa you can only stay for 90 days in any 180-day period.
Information on EU visa requirements can be found at https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/entry-exit/non-eu-nationals/index_en.htm. Visitors to the EU from some countries are required to have a Schengen visa. According to www.schengenvisainfo.com, the visa applies to ‘All nationals of third-world countries, which have yet not reached a visa-liberalization agreement with the Schengen member states’. This visa costs €60 and limits the traveller to a 3-month visit to anywhere in the Schengen zone.
The EU is currently setting up ETIAS, an online visa application process, which will be required by all non-EU travellers visiting the EU from 2021, except nationals from Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This European visa process should be relatively easy, although it must be filled in online. Each visa will last for 3 years and cost around €7 for adults aged between 18 and 70. Children and people over 70 will require a visa, but no payment is required. It will require personal data and criminal records to be disclosed. More information on ETIAS can be found at https://etias.com.
Will my EU visa only last 90 days? Can I extend my EU visa?
It is likely that after the transition period visits to Europe, specifically within the Schengen Zone, by British tourists will be limited to 90 days in any 180-day period; roughly 3 months in every 6 months. For the average British traveller this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you like to overwinter in your motorhome in southern Europe and usually stay for 4-6 months, you may want to apply for an extension. According to www.schengenvisainfo.com, while it is possible to extend an EU visa, ‘It is very hard, but if you have a strong reason in which you base your application then you have quite a chance to get that visa extension’. It is unlikely that extending your motorhome holiday in the EU will be seen as a valid reason. For any visa extension you will have to prove you have financial means to support yourself. Alternatively, student visas are available – perhaps you could join a course to learn the language of the country you are visiting – and people under 30 can apply for work visas to extend their EU travels – don’t worry, you don’t have to work!
Will my EHIC European Health Card still be valid post-Brexit?
The plastic EHIC grants the holder state medical care at reduced cost, or for free, in the EU, EEA and Switzerland. After the transition period, if there is no deal, the NHS advises that this card will no longer be valid. The NHS states, ‘If you're planning to travel on or after ..., you should continue to buy travel insurance so you can get the healthcare treatment you need.’ Keep up-to-date here www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/healthcare-when-travelling-abroad/travelling-in-the-european-economic-area-eea-and-switzerland/.
I’m going on a road trip, do I need any additional paper work for my car, campervan, motorhome?
If you want to drive in Europe with your car and caravan or in a motorhome you may need additional paperwork. Read our helpful blog How to Drive Legally in Europe after the Brexit transition. Don’t forget your maps and travel guides, and check out our Road Trip Europe tours. If you are travelling with a tent or caravan, check out these campsite guides. Motorhome and campervan travellers can also use guides to Aires for cheap or free overnight stopovers.
Are pet passports still valid post-Brexit?
After the transition period your existing pet passport will not be valid if the UK is treated as an unlisted country. In this case you will need to begin your pet preparation 4 months before you intend to travel. Gov.uk has full details on the travel requirements for a pet entering the EU after Brexit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pet-travel-to-europe-after-brexit.
About the author
Meli is an experienced and adventurous traveller specialising in road trips. She is the author of numerous travel guides, including Go Motorhoming & Campervanning, Road Trip Europe and All the Aires France. She has toured Europe extensively since 2000 in various vehicles including campervans and motorhomes and she still spends at least 3 months every year touring in Europe.
Vicarious Media is a specialist travel retailer, focusing on European travel. Vicarious Media has a proven history of finding, evaluating and providing the best travel guides for campers, motorhomers, caravanners and road trippers. Since 2006 they have improved the tours of thousands of travellers, and hope to transform your holiday too.