Briefing: will I need a visa to go to the EU after brexit? by Charlotte Rubin

The UK government is currently finalising Brexit talks with the EU before the end of the transition period in just under two weeks, on 31 December 2020. After that, EU law will no longer be applicable in the UK, and UK citizens will no longer fall under the scope of EU rules. This has significant effects on the movement of people, with which we are concerned.

From 1 January 2021, it will no longer be as straightforward for British people to move, live or travel in the EU.

For British citizens who want to reside in the EU after this date, everything will depend on when they move to the country in question. If they move before the end of the transition period, they will be able to retain broadly the same rights they had at the time they moved there, when EU law was still applicable in the UK. This is the case even if there is no UK-EU Trade deal by the end of the month, as this is guaranteed under the Withdrawal Agreement which became effective on 1 February 2020. It becomes more complicated if a British citizen wants to move to the EU after 1 January 2021, as their automatic right to live and work in the EU ceases after the transition period. They will then need to apply in accordance with that country’s existing immigration rules.

Those looking to work in the EU after 31 December 2020 will need to make sure that their professional qualifications are recognised in the EU.

To travel to the EU for a visit, British citizens will not need to apply for a visa initially, as the EU has agreed to waive the visa requirement and add the UK to their list of visa-exempt countries. Until the end of 2022, this means that all a British national needs to travel to an EU country is a valid passport.

Effectively, this means that British citizens can spend up to 90 days out of any 180 day period in the EU for business, tourism or to visit friends and family without having to apply for a visa. This is contingent upon the UK returning the favour, and allowing citizens of all EU member states to visit the UK under similar circumstances. If the UK introduces a visa requirement for nationals of at least one member state, the EU will reciprocate by introducing EU-wide visa requirements for UK nationals. The visa waiver will be applicable in all EU member states except Ireland, which has a specific bilateral arrangement which provides for visa-free travel between them. The Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) also have a separate arrangement with the UK.

However, even if British citizens are not required to fill out a visa application, they will still face increased administrative burdens when traveling. From 1 January 2021, EU border guards may ask people travelling from the UK for additional information including the duration and purpose of their stay, and might then check their passports. In contrast with the current rules, under which a passport is deemed valid as long as it has not expired, traveller’s passports will have to be valid for at least six months after the end of their trip in order to be considered valid travel documents. Additionally, the British citizen traveling will need to have a valid travel insurance.

From 2023 onwards, the conditions for British citizens to enter the bloc will change, as the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias) is set to come into operation then, introducing visa-style fees forms for people wanting to travel to the EU not unlike the American ESTA-system. Under Etias, visitors to the EU's Schengen Area will have to obtain a travel authorisation before their trip and pay a €7 fee. Those who have to pay the fee include people from countries on the visa-exempt list, and therefore British citizens. Other countries not on the visa-exempt list already have to obtain a full visa to travel to the EU, which is much more complicated and costly.

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