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Brexit - Border Checks on UK Nationals

Friday 04 December 2020

The European Commission have issued guidance on border control practices to be applied from Jan 2021.  UPDATED Oct 2022.

From 1st January 2021 UK nationals will be considered ‘third-country’ nationals by the EU, losing the right of automatic admission to Europe.

UK nationals will, therefore, be in the same position as nationals from, say, Australia, Japan, the USA, South Korea, Canada, and New Zealand.

As such, they will no longer enjoy the right free movement under EU law which they have enjoyed since 1973.

When travelling to and from Europe Schengen* border rules will apply, so what do they mean for households?

British Nationals NOT Covered by Withdrawal Agreement

Britons entering France will be able to stay visa-free in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days in 180 days. The 90-day period applies to the entire Schengen zone, not a single country. For stays of longer than 90 days it will be necessary to apply to the French Embassy in the UK for a visa. The EU Commission advise that the 90-day limit can be used on a complementary basis to a visa.

At the border, the passport presented must be less than 10 years old have a validity period of at least six months remaining. The passport will be stamped on entry to France and on exit.

You will also be subject to conditions of entry, when you will be required to state your proposed purpose and length of stay and that you have sufficient funds for which you may need to provide proof – tickets, credit cards, pre-paid accommodation and cash. If in doubt, bring a pay slip or similar.

In practice, it is unlikely the inteview will be substantial, due to time constraints, with border officials having more important priorities than strict enforcement of the new rules on visiting UK nationals. However, you should be properly prepared for it.

In the event of refusal of admission, an appeal procedure is in place in France, but such instances are likely to be rare.

UK nationals will not be able to use automatic border control gates (e-gates) into the Schengen zone, which are reserved to passengers from the countries of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. The channel to use will be 'all passports' or 'visa not required' lanes at terminals in Europe.

Nevertheless, a Member State can authorise the use of e-gates upon exit, if the passenger has entered the Schengen area in the same country and the passport is stamped.

From 2022, however, the introduction of the electronic Entry Exit System (EES) will make the use of e-gates possible without the need to stamp passports.

In 2022, the EU will also introduce the European Travel Authorisation and Information System (ETIAS), a screening process for all non-EU nationals, being developed to improve security in Europe. It has nothing to do with Brexit. UPDATE: Since delayed to November 2023. You can read a more recent comprehensive article on the issue in France Insider at Visa-Free Travel in Europe and 'ETIAS'

The system will require visa-exempt non-EU citizens to apply for a travel authorisation online before their trip and pay a fee of €7. To gain entry to Europe, therefore, you will need not only your passport, but your ETIAS travel authorisation.

For those from the UK passing through airports in the Schengen area to beyond the area, a Airport Transit Visa (ATV) will also be necessary.

British Nationals Covered by Withdrawal Agreement

Under the WA British nationals living in France prior to 2021 are entitled to rights protection.

That means they are not subject to the 90/180 rule, and neither will they be subject to entry checks at the border or have their passports stamped.

The French government is organising the issue of a residence permit (carte de séjour) by the local prefectures which can used at border control.

Until they receive their card, UK nationals will need to produce other evidence that demonstrates they benefit from the WA.

That may be the certificate of application they received when they applied for the residence permit, or tax notices, such as their taxe d’habitation or avis d'impôt sur le revenu.

Those who have relocated to France in 2020 will not have either of these tax notices, in which case they may wish to consider making an early application for a residence permit. In the absence of proof of protection under the WA your passport will be stamped. That in itself will not have any significance if you can later demonstrate you have WA rights.

British beneficiaries of the WA will also be exempt from EES and ETIAS, but they will still have to use the 'all passports' or 'visa not required' lanes at terminals.

*The Schengen area comprises 26 countries. Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria are not Schengen members, while Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are part of it, even if they are not in the EU.

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