Note: As of this writing, the information below is up-to-date, but because of ongoing developments, you may wish to check the UK government’s website for the latest updates.
After nearly half a century of membership and four and a half years of working out the withdrawal details, Britain has officially left the European Union. While the two parties have been able to avoid the complexities of a no-deal Brexit through the Trade and Commerce Agreement (TCA) they signed on Dec. 24, 2020, there are several new rules travellers from the UK and EU will need to be aware of when travelling to the other region.
What does this mean for your corporate travel programme and business travellers? Our Brexit Readiness team, which has been monitoring the Brexit negotiations since the referendum in 2016, breaks it all down in the Q&A below.
Is there visa-free travel between the UK and EU?
UK citizens, now considered third-country nationals under the Schengen Border Code, do not need a visa to travel to the EU states for short-term leisure trips and most business trips. UK business travelers may need a visa or work permit under circumstances, which you can read about here.
EU, European Economic Area (EEA), and Swiss citizens can enjoy visa-free travel to the UK for short-term holidays and most business trips, but there are some restrictions surrounding business activities. For full details and the latest updates, check the UK Government page.
UK citizens, take note: The European Commission has announced the launch of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which is expected to take effect in 2022. Under this system, British travellers would need to request prior authorisation to visit any of the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Zone.1 This ETIAS visa waiver will cost €7 (for anyone between the ages of 18 to 70) to register for three years, allowing unlimited entries into the region during that time, each for stays of up to 90 days in 180-day period.
Tip: Need to obtain a visa (or passport) quickly for an upcoming business trip? American Express Global Business Travel offers expedited services through our third-party supplier CIBT.
Are there any new passport/border considerations for UK citizens travelling to EU countries?
When travelling to an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, UK nationals will need a passport that has been issued within the last 10 years and has at least six months’ validity remaining on the date of arrival. Even though UK nationals don’t need a passport when travelling to Ireland since the Emerald Isle is part of the Common Travel Area, we still recommend bringing yours if travelling by plane. Irish immigration officers at the airport will ask to see your ID.
One last thing to note: When travelling to the EU, UK nationals may need to show a return or onward ticket and that they have enough money for their stay.
Tip: Not sure of your British passport status? Use this tool to find out whether you will need to renew your document before your trip.
Are there any new passport/border considerations for EU citizens travelling to the UK?
EU nationals travelling to the UK also must have a passport that is less than 10 years old and has at least six-month validity remaining on the date of arrival.
The UK Government is allowing EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens to enter and exit the UK using their national identity card until Oct. 1, 2021. An exemption applies for those who started living in the UK before Dec. 31, 2020 with status under the EU Settlement Scheme. These individuals can use their national identity card to enter the UK until at least Dec. 31, 2025.
Because of the Common Travel Area that exists between the UK and Ireland, Irish travellers do not require a passport to travel to the UK but may wish to bring theirs anyhow as a form of identification.
Tip: EU citizens should make sure they have a biometric symbol on their passport to continue using the ePassport gates at UK airports.
How are driving licence rules affected?
UK motorists taking a road trip to an EU country will need to carry their driver’s licence, a green card from their insurance provider, and a GB sticker displayed on their vehicle if driving a UK-registered automobile. If they have a paper licence or if their licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man, they also may need an international driving permit to drive in some EU countries and in Norway.
Those who are taking their own vehicle will need to carry their V5C logbook. If it is a hired or leased car, drivers will need to get a VE103 form to show they have permission to take it out of the UK.
Similar rules apply for EU citizens driving to the UK. They will need their driver’s licence, a green card, and proof of insurance issued by their vehicle insurance provider. If the EU traveller’s country is not a member of the green card system, their vehicle then requires UK vehicle insurance.
Tip: We suggest allowing up to six weeks to obtain a green card from your motor insurer. Better yet, avoid the hassle of obtaining a green card by forgo driving and using our Ground Transportation platform to book yourself a ride.
Do UK nationals still have health insurance coverage in the EU? How about EU nationals when visiting the UK?
As part of the Brexit deal, all European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) issued before the end of 2020 will be valid in the UK and the EU states until their expiry date.
The UK is issuing a new card, the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), so Brits can access emergency and medically necessary care while visiting EU states. Since UK travellers cannot use a GHIC or an existing EHIC in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, they should get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare coverage before their trip.
UK travellers can use their passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway, and the same arrangement is in place for Norwegian travellers visiting the UK.
If you are a citizen of an EU country visiting the UK, your EHIC will cover the costs of treatment if you get ill on the visit.
Tip: Companies should check with their health and travel insurance providers to make sure they are providing sufficient coverage for their travelling employees.
Will UK consumers be charged mobile phone roaming fees when traveling to EU countries?
The surcharge-free roaming arrangement, known as “Roam Like at Home”, that was established throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway no longer applies for UK consumers. While this means free mobile-phone roaming is no longer guaranteed for UK citizens when travelling to these above-mentioned areas, some mobile operators have stated they have no current plans to reintroduce roaming fees. However, this could change in the future.
The same applies for EU travellers visiting the UK: how much you pay for calls, texts, and mobile data in the UK will depend on your operator.
Tip: Companies based in the UK or EU should speak to their mobile providers about any roaming charges that now may be charged to their account.
American Express Global Business Travel continues to monitor the situation for any updates. If you have questions about how the new rules may impact your program, please reach out to your account manager.
1 The Schengen Zone area includes: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.