- 22 November 2023
- Sam Taylor
- 5 min read
Travel has changed now we've left the EU. We’ve sifted through the rules to explain the new passport, visa and EHIC rules for travel to Europe now and in the future.
Travelling to Europe – top tips for travel organisers
- Everyone in the group needs to check their passport’s issue and expiry date and allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport if required
- All travellers will either need a valid EHIC card, or apply for a new GHIC, before travel
- Ensure the trip has adequate travel insurance with medical cover
- Remind travellers to check their mobile phone provider’s roaming charges for your destination
- From 2024 travellers will need to apply for a digital ETIAS pass to enter the EU
- Be prepared for additional checks at the border when the EU entry/exit system is introduced in 2024
Travelling to Europe
Check the rules on passport expiry and issue dates for your travel destination
Before Brexit, British citizens could travel to EU countries on a passport right up to the point it expired. Now, each EU country sets its own entry rules relating to the validity of British passports.
For most EU countries—including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium—your passport:
- Date of issue must be less than 10 years before the date you enter the country
- Expiry date must be at least 3 months after the day you leave the country
To check the passport requirements for your specific destination visit the Foreign Office website.
Allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport if required.
Collective (group) passports may not be accepted
Now we've left the EU, some countries have stopped accepting collective passports. To check the countries you can travel to, or through, on a collective passport click here.
EHICs and travel insurance
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in the EU and Switzerland. The EHIC can help reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses in the event that someone falls ill or has an accident while on a school trip to EU.
The good news is that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid in the EU until it expires. You’ll be able to replace your EHIC with a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) up to 6 months before your current card expires.
Applying for a GHIC is free of charge on the NHS website. Beware of unofficial websites that charge you a fee to apply.
Whether or not you have a GHIC or EHIC, your group will need travel insurance to cover emergency healthcare costs.
Don't get caught out by mobile roaming charges
The guarantee of free roaming throughout the EU ended on 1 January 2021. This means that if your operator has reintroduced roaming charges you may now be charged more for using your mobile device in the EU, Switzerland or Iceland.
EU visa rules for non-UK nationals in your group
Some EU countries currently offer their own visa exemptions for ‘third-country nationals’. You can find a country-by-country list of visa exemption schemes for other EU destinations on the European Commission website (under “2 exemptions Article 6(2)”).
ETIAS checks delayed until May 2025 at the earliest
You may have heard about new EES and ETIAS systems being proposed for non-EU nationals travelling to Europe. The good news is that both systems have been delayed until May 2025 meaning that groups travelling to Europe next year will not be affected.
Here's what you need to know about the proposed entry systems:
- The Entry/Exit System (EES) is expected to collect biometric data, such as face recognition and fingerprints, at the EU border using booths similar to the passport machines you see at airports
- The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is a visa waiver scheme for UK citizens, similar to ESTA in the USA. An ETIAS is expected to cost €7 (free for under 18s) and be valid for 3 years
- EES and ETIAS rules do not apply to travel to Ireland as the UK currently maintains a Common Travel Area with Ireland
- The much-delayed systems are not expected to be operational until May 2025 at the earliest