The UK government has chosen to end freedom of movement for people from the EU and therefore its own citizens as a result so there will be changes to travel rules that will kick in on January 1st 2021.
These changes will impact certain things such as passport validity, border checks, EHIC cards and of course entry requirements.
First of all Covid-19
Most countries in Europe have now at least partially reopened their borders to travellers from the UK after the 'mutant Covid' scare, but some are limiting travel to essential trips only and most are insisting on Covid tests or quarantine for all arrivals from the UK – regardless of nationality, so check the situation in your destination if you are coming from the UK.
Secondly, at the end of the transition period Britain becomes a “third country” which means it will be subject to the EU's ban on non-essential travel to the bloc and Schengen area that was imposed back in March 2020 because of the pandemic.
That means tourists and visitors coming from the UK are not allowed to visit the EU from January onwards. Essential travel will be allowed so that means anyone resident in the EU can return home and family members of EU residents can travel. Exemptions are also made for those travelling for work reasons. More info here.
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And now for Brexit…
Before December 31st British nationals could travel freely throughout Europe and only needed to make sure their passport was valid for the duration of their trip.
However the rules are stricter after January 1st.
“From January 1st 2021, you must have at least six months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland),” the UK government says.
This requirement “does not apply if you are entering or transiting” your EU country of residence, however. So Britons returning to their homes in France, Spain, Germany etc in the New Year should be able to enter if they have less than six months validity on their passport.
“If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed,” the UK government says.
“You will need to renew your passport before travelling if you do not have enough time left on your passport,” the UK government says.
After December 31st things might not be quite as smooth for Britons arriving at ports and airports around Europe. Until December 31st, British travellers can join the EU queue when arriving at borders but from January 1st they will likely have to join different lanes.
“As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. You may need to show a return or onward ticket and that you have enough money for your stay.
“You may also have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. Your passport may be stamped for visits to these countries,” the UK government says.
Certain countries that receive large numbers of Brits like France, Spain or Portugal may make exceptions and allow UK travellers to join the EU queue.
However by law border officials are required to ask non-EU travellers extra questions, so don't be surprised if you are grilled a little on arrival.
The 90-day rule for entry
And of course with Britons stripped of the right to freedom of movement around the EU and the end to onward freedom of movement for Britons residents in Europe, the main impact will be on how long Britons can stay in an EU country.
There will be limits and Brits will likely need to apply for visas if they want to stay beyond those deadlines.
“From January 1st 2021, you will be able to travel to other Schengen area countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa for purposes such as tourism. This is a rolling 180-day period,” says the UK government.
“To stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel, you will need to meet the entry requirements set out by the country to which you are travelling. This could mean applying for a visa or work permit. You may also need to get a visa if your visit would take you over the 90 days in 180 days limit.
“Periods of stay authorised under a visa or permit will not count against the 90-day limit. Travel to the UK and the Ireland will not change.”
Most European countries are set to treat UK residents as third-country nationals, so like all other non-EU citizens, for the purposes of entry requirements unless new deals are struck.
The 90-day limit is for the whole European bloc, not 90 days per country.
It's unclear what kind of checks there will be on how long Britons stay in the EU, especially for those already resident here in the Schengen area and therefore are not subject to border checks.
So officially a British national living in France is subject to the same rules as a British resident of the UK when it comes to spending time at their second home in Spain, however they are unlikely to be subject to border checks.
British citizens can stay as long as they like in the Republic of Ireland.
Overstaying the 90-day rule
Those who breach the 90-day rule by staying longer could be subject to a fine and/or a ban from the Schengen area. Different countries impose different penalties and there is normally a three-day grace period.
British EHIC cards
Certain categories of people living in the EU (pensioners and students) can continue to use EHIC cards although they will likely have to apply for a new one.
The new one will be different from the old EHIC or new GHIC because they will show that the holder is covered by the “Citizens' Rights Agreement” (CRA).
UK health authorities have said previously that old EHIC cards were only valid until December 31st 2020 but it's not clear if there is now leeway given that old EHIC cards are now still valid until expiry date. Nevertheless pensioners living in the EU are advised to apply for a new one.
Anyone with a European Health Insurance card issued by their EU country of residence (which in France is known as a Carte europeenne assurance maladie or CEAM) can still use it for health cover when visiting other EU, EEA countries or Switzerland.
The UK government has told The Local that Britons living in the EU (who are not pensioners) before the end of the transition period that their locally issued EHIC card will be valid for any treatment they need while visiting the UK.
The UK government's site says: “If you live in the EU or move there before the end of 2020, your rights to access healthcare in your host country will stay the same from January 1st 2021 for as long as you remain resident.
UK residents living around Europe are officially obliged to exchange their British driving licences for one issued in their country of residence.
However different countries have different rules and the deadline for doing this depends on which country you live in, so it's worth seeking out info in the Brexit sections of our websites.
For example in France the deadline for exchanging driving licences is December 31st 2021.
For UK travellers to Europe the government says: “You might need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries.”
“If you’re taking your own British vehicle, you will also need a ‘green card’ and a GB sticker,” the government says.
It is not clear however what the same advice would apply for a British resident of France driving in another EU country on a British licence.
Bringing goods into the UK
Previously there were no limits on the value of goods you could bring in to the UK from European Union nations unless you planned to sell them – to the delight of many Brits visiting the wine warehouses of northern France.
But from the start of 2020 there will be now restrictions on the amount you can bring into UK.
For alcohol, the limits are: 42 litres of beer, 4 litres of spirits or 9 litres of sparkling wine and 18 litres of still wine.
Arrivals to the UK will also qualify to bring in 200 duty-free cigarettes.
If you exceed any of these limits, you will pay tax on the whole lot.
There is a limit of €430 – roughly £400 – for all other goods.
The government states: “The beer allowance of 42 litres will equate to three crates of 568ml (pint) cans. If passengers prefer to buy 330ml bottles of beer this would equate to five crates.”
Travel documents needed for British residents in EU
Britons around Europe are currently in the process of either applying for residency status or officially registering in their adopted EU countries to ensure they are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and can make the most of the rights it protects.
But there are concerns about what documents some will need to prove their residency in the country if for example if, as for example will be the case in France, they won't be in possession of the official residency card by January 1st.
Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement Brits have until six months after the end of the transition period (so until July 2021) to apply for residency in those countries such as France and Germany where it will be required to do so.
However certain countries like Sweden and Austria have decided to extend the deadline to give more time to Britons to apply for residency.
In the absence of any clear rules on what documents Britons without a residency card will need, they are being advised to be prepared to carry various proofs of residency such as bills, work contracts, insurance documents etc as well as email confirmation of their application for residency.
Other things to note…
British citizens travelling from the UK to the EU will have to take note of other changes from January 1st 2021.
For example from January 1st 2021 Britons travelling to the EU will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme. Instead they'll need to follow a different process, for new paperwork. Follow the government guidance about pet travel to Europe from January 1st 2021.
Going from Europe to the UK is easier, because the UK has stated that for the moment it will continue to accept Pet Passports.
Your Pet Passport and microchip information will be checked at the border.
“If you have a pet passport issued by an EU member state, you can use it to bring your pet to Great Britain.
“You can also use it to return to the EU, as long as your pet has had a successful rabies antibody blood test,” the UK gov says. For more details on rabies tests CLICK HERE.
And anyone using a British phone number after January 1st needs to be aware of roaming charges.
The guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end on December 31st.
Customers are advised to check with their phone operator to find out about any roaming charges.