2021 marks the start of a new era for the United Kingdom and its citizens. The Brexit saga is finally over — as of the end of last year, the country is no longer part of the EU, the common market, or any of the rules or systems governed by the European Commission.
Brits travelling to European Union countries now do so as citizens of a third country, no longer enjoying the status of being an EU citizen. This means that the entry requirements for British nationals travelling to a country like France have changed and are set to change even further in the near future.
These changes are far more than simply joining a different queue at passport control. The EU plans to introduce further security measures for travellers from third countries, which now includes the UK.
If you are a UK citizen, one big entry requirement for the EU that you may have to contend with in the near future is the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
This is a digital visa waiver system modelled on the US ESTA, which requires visa-free travellers to register their details online before making the journey to the destination.
If you want to visit France without going through the hassle of getting a visa, you will have to register with ETIAS France after the system is launched in 2022.
Until then, Brits can visit France, Hungary, and other EU countries without any sort of travel authorisation or visa. However, it is important to check the current coronavirus travel restrictions, as some countries may bar entry to those arriving from the UK if cases in Britain and Northern Ireland are high.
If you are travelling to France or elsewhere in Europe on a British passport, you should check that it meets the new criteria for entry to the EU.
Firstly, the passport must have at least 6 months left in terms of validity. If it is set to expire in less than 6 months, you will not be able to enter an EU or Schengen Area country with it. In this case, you should apply to renew your passport.
Secondly, your UK passport should be less than 10 years old. Documents older than this are not accepted for entry. Again, if this applies to your passport, you must renew it before travelling to France.
The same applies for travelling to Hungary or any other country in the EU and/or Schengen Area, with the exception of the Republic of Ireland.
If you are a British citizen heading to an EU country, you will be glad to know that you can continue to use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) if you need medical treatment during your trip.
The EHIC does not cover treatment in the non-EU members of the Schengen Area (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein), so Brits heading to these nations should get the travel insurance that covers any potential healthcare they may need. For France, however, the EHIC will do the job.
If you do not have an EHIC or if yours has been lost or expired, you will most likely be unable to apply for a new one. Only British students studying in the EU and some British State Pensioners who live in the EU (along with their families) are allowed to apply for an EHIC since Brexit. Brits with dual citizenship who are also a national of an EU member may obtain an EHIC via their other nationality.
EU nationals living in the UK also maintain the right to apply for a new EHIC and use it throughout Europe.
If you do not have an EHIC, you will not be covered for any healthcare while in the EU. Therefore, health insurance is highly recommended when visiting France or any other EU/Schengen member state.
If you want to drive to France, taking your car on the ferry, there are a couple of items you will need. You will need a physical copy of a “green card” to prove that your vehicle is insured. Your car must also have a “GB” sticker on it.
Depending on your licence, you might need to get an international driving permit to drive in some EU countries. This may be the case if you have a paper licence or if your driving licence was issued by Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man.
EU policy includes free roaming data throughout all member states. However, since the UK is no longer part of the bloc, Brits no longer have this guaranteed.
If you are heading to France or any other EU country, check with your phone operator whether you will get free roaming during your trip to avoid getting any surprise charges.
If you forget to do this, the good news is that you will be notified once you accrue a charge of £45 and will need to opt in to spend more on roaming.
As well as using a different lane, Brits entering EU countries may now be asked to show a return or onward ticket as proof that they intend to leave after a short stay. It might also be necessary to show proof of sufficient funds to pay for your trip and support yourself while staying in the country.
There are also bans on bringing certain products into the EU from third countries that now apply to the UK. These include meat, milk, and certain plants, among other things.
The UK still enjoys visa exemption for EU countries for short trips as a tourist. However, British citizens are no longer allowed to live, work, study, do business, or stay long-term in any European Union country apart from Ireland unless they have the relevant visa or permit.
If you are travelling for any of these reasons, make sure you have the relevant paperwork when you arrive at border control or you might find yourself on a flight back to the UK.