Everything UK travellers need to know about new EU travel rules

Planning a holiday is more stressful than usual now, thanks to Brexit complexities, strike action, COVID-19 uncertainty and flight cancellations.

But for UK travellers looking to visit an EU country in the coming months, the process is about to get a lot more complicated. You’ll most likely need to apply for travel authorisation in advance and be subject to extra controls at border security like facial and fingerprint biometric scanning from May 2023.

Before Your Trip

To help explain the new rule changes coming into effect and minimise disruption to your travel plans, Jacob Wedderburn-Day at travel company Stasher, answers the questions the public wants to know…

  • How do I apply to travel to Europe?

Etias is not a visa but rather travel authorisation for short-term stays in Europe. Travellers can complete an application form on the Etias website. The application is designed to be quick and should take about 10 minutes to complete.

  • What details do I need to give to receive travel authorisation?

The only official document you’ll need to apply for Etias is a biometric passport. You’ll be required to provide your UK passport details, basic personal information like your name and gender and an email address. You’ll also need to ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 more months at the time of travel.

  • When should I apply for an Etias visa?

It is estimated that most applications will be approved in minutes. However, on the rare occasion that details raise a red flag, the application will be reviewed by the Etias central and national units before a decision is reached. If denied a travel permit, this can be appealed which may delay your travel plans.

  • How long will the Etias be valid for?

Once you have been approved, the Etias travel authorisation will be valid for three years. This means you can travel to any EU country covered by the document within this time period without the need to reapply.

  • Who is Etias-exempt?

Citizens who possess an EU passport will be allowed to enter Europe freely without Etias travel authorisation. Those who already have a residence permit from an EU state will not need to obtain an Etias.

At The Border

  • How does facial biometric scanning work?

The new Entry/Exit System will be introduced at Schengen country borders toward the end of September. Each time you cross the border in one of these countries, the system will register your name, type of travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and captured facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. This will replace the stamp on your passport.

  • Can I refuse fingerprint and facial biometric scanning?

Technically, yes although you may be denied entry to a country. The new Entry/Exit System is more advanced than standard checks and stamps and aims to prevent or detect criminal activities. Refusing these checks may lead to additional questioning and denied entry.

  • Will these extra checks at the border delay my arrival?

The House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee has raised their concerns that this new system will cause sustained disruption and delays – on top of the chaos we’ve seen recently at ports and airports. There is also concern that large numbers of passengers or technical system glitches could create longer delays.

  • What if I am travelling by car to Europe?

It is expected that these delays will be significant for those travelling by car because it is impossible to carry out biometric checks while travellers are in their cars at ports. Passengers will have to step out of their cars to do facial recognition and fingerprint checks before returning to their cars.

During your trip:

  • What activities will be prohibited under the new EU visa system?

With an Etias authorisation, you are allowed to stay a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period. During this time, you won’t be allowed to take on paid work or study in Europe.