Travelers Face New Requirements Post-Brexit

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(January, 2021)

Effective January 1, 2021, the United Kingdom officially severed ties with the European Union, and U.K. citizens faced new travel regulations as a result.

The U.K. is now considered a “third country” with limitations put on the free travel between countries. As each of the EU states remain sovereign nations, each country has control over its own borders, and will be able to make exceptions for UK citizens should they wish. Travelers should be aware these guidelines will continue to evolve over the next few years, and may be different for each country within the European Union.

Limited Stay Duration: 90 days within a 180-day period

The U.K. and the EU have agreed on visa-free travel for short visits, allowing business travel to visit countries in continental Europe for a combined total of up to 90 days within any 180-day period without needing a visa or work permit.

  • Travel managers will need to track how many days their travelers with U.K. passports spend in EU countries to make sure the 90 day limit is not exceeded without proper documentation.
  • The exception to this rule is for travel to “non-Schengen” countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania) and Ireland. Travelers to these countries are not limited to the 90- day travel restriction.
  • EU passport holders are allowed to travel within the U.K for up to six months at a time.

Visa Requirements

Visa requirements for U.K. passport holders will vary depending on the destination country. Business travelers may need a visa, work permit or other documentation if they are planning to stay for longer than 90 days in a 180-day period, or if they will be doing any of the following:

  • Transferring from the UK branch of a company to a branch in a different country, even for a short period of time
  • Carrying out contracts to provide a service to a client in another country in which your employer has no presence
  • Providing services in another country as a self-employed person

A more specific list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors are outlined in the Trade Agreement. It is recommended that business travelers between the U.K. and EU carry a letter outlining the duration of their trip, what activities will be conducted, proof of financial support for travel costs and details of their employer.

This rule is currently in effect until an unspecified date in 2022. After that time, British travelers will be required to buy a visa waiver for holidays and short stays in the EU. This waiver will be issued under the European Travel Information and Authorization System, and is similar to the “Esta” permit currently required to visit the US.

Changes to Traveler Health Insurance

Travelers’ European health insurance cards will remain valid in the EU until they expire. After they expire, U.K. citizens can apply for a new Global Health Insurance Card – which is still in development. Currently, this new card is expected to cover travelers for all EU countries except for Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Any travelers planning to visit those countries should buy private insurance coverage as a precaution.

Passport Restrictions

Before Brexit, U.K. travelers could visit EU countries right up to the point that their passport expired. However, the UK government is currently advising travelers to have at least six months left on their passport when traveling. This rule does not apply to EU travelers entering the U.K..

New Expectations in Airports

U.K. travelers will no longer be able to use special passport and customs lanes reserved for EU citizens. Travelers should plan ahead for possible delays and longer line waits at some airports. EU Passport holders will still be allowed to use automatic gates in U.K. airports.

When travelers arrive in an EU country (except Ireland), they should be prepared to show their return ticket and proof of enough currency for the duration of their stay.

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