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How Long Will British Nationals Be Able to Visit the EU For From 1st January 2021?

Depending on when you read this article, the Brexit transition period may have already ended, or it may be imminent. If recent press is to be believed, some British nationals have only just realised what Brexit means for their rights and freedoms in Europe. The Daily Mail recently ran an article entitled, “Furious British ex-pats blast EU’s new post-Brexit travel rules which will ban them from spending more than three months as a time at their holiday home from January”. The main complaint raised by British nationals interviewed in the article is the disparity between the amount of time they can spend in the EU without a visa compared to how much time EU nationals can spend in the UK without a visa. While this is the case, it does beg the question after over years of discussions about the ending of free movement, why is this only being realised now? In this article, we will discuss how long British nationals can spend in the EU post-Brexit, and when a visa will need to be applied for.

The End Of Free Movement

The reality is that with the end of free movement, the UK has lost its say in how long British nationals can spend in the EU. Ultimately, this is a decision for the EU, and while some may demand parity, this is the flip side of not being a member of the trading bloc. The current rules state that for short trips to the EU, British nationals will not need a visa if they are a tourist staying for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. This means theoretically that a person can spend 185 days in a year – 90 days in the first 180 days of the year, 90 days in the second 180 days of the year, and five days in the remaining days of the year.

If you are visiting Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or Romania, the rules state, “If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total”.

Free movement doesn’t just mean that UK nationals need a visa if they are staying longer than 90 days in the EU, it also means that more border checks will be required. The Home Office states that travellers to the EU may need to show a return or onward ticket, show they have sufficient money for their stay and use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing at borders.

What Are The Other Impacts Of Brexit On UK Nationals Visiting The EU?

There are several consequences of Brexit which will impact on UK nationals visiting the EU from 1st January 2021, as follows:

  • Travellers will need to check they have at least six months left on their passport and are not more than ten years old
  • UK nationals will no longer be eligible to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme, meaning they will need to purchase health insurance to cover the duration of their stay in the EU. As the Home Office guidance explains, if you have a pre-existing condition, it is vital that you disclose this when purchasing insurance to ensure you are covered (the EHIC scheme covered pre-existing conditions).
  • UK nationals will not be allowed to take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries from 1 January 2021. The Home Office explains “There are some exceptions, for example, certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons”.
  • Depending on which countries you are visiting in the EU, you may need an international driving permit (IDP). Those taking their car to the EU by train or ferry will need a ‘green card’ and a GB sticker.
  • The Pet Passport scheme in place pre-2021 will no longer apply. For pet owners, this will entail a more lengthy and complex process starting four months prior to travel to the EU. At this stage, we still do not know whether the UK will have unlisted, Part 1 listed, or Part 2 listed status when it comes to taking pets to the UK. The exact process and rules depend on which category we are placed. Until we know, travellers will most likely need to follow the strictest rules which apply to unlisted nations, which require a sample of each pet’s blood to be sent to an EU approved blood testing laboratory, and then a three-month wait before travelling. For those making regular trips with their pets to the EU, the rules advise that “Pets do not need a repeat blood test before travelling again if they have had a successful blood test and an up-to-date subsequent rabies vaccination history”. For detailed information on what you will need to do if you are travelling to the EU with your pet from 1st January 2021, it is recommended you read the Home Office guidance for pet travel and contact our local vet for more information.
  • Mobile phone free roaming may end – the Home Office is advising travellers to check what will happen with their own network provider. They do also point out that a new system is in place in the EU which mandates that you are protected from incurring mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing. They also say that once you reach £45, you will then need to opt in to spend more than this amount.

Wrapping Up

It is a reality that Brexit will bring changes and inconvenience for British nationals travelling to an EU country. That said, we still don’t know if there will be a trade deal with the EU, and whether any additional concessions will be offered as possible ‘sweeteners’. With careful planning and by checking the latest guidance, the changes can be managed and not cause too much disruption for those going to the EU for work or travel.


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"Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing, as a lawyer myself I can categorically say tha...

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Kiran Sardar

"I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this profes...

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Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was ou...

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Isaac .T

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