European officials are meeting in Strasbourg to decide if British travellers will need a visa to visit the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. These are the key questions.
The College of Commissioners – the political leadership of the European Commission, effectively the EU’s cabinet – will decide how the European Union will treat the UK after Brexit, if no agreement is reached on a transition period.
What are the options?
The default position for a third country is that it joins the “visa required” list, along with people from China, Russia, India, Thailand, and all of Africa. But the commissioners could decide that the UK could be placed on the visa-free list, along with people from the Americas, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and several dozen other countries.
What are the requirements for a visa?
Travellers must apply between three months and 15 days before the intended journey. They must have a passport with two empty pages, valid for three months beyond the day on which they intend to leave. They must provide evidence of travel insurance, and pay €60 euros for adults and €35 for children. The application process is a four-page form, which includes a statement of how the applicant intends to support themselves during the stay. The maximum stay is three months.
And for a visa-free stay?
The many nationalities who enter on the Schengen visa-free scheme can stay for 90 days in any 180-day period. A passport must still have at least three months validity remaining, and have been issued within the past 10 years. But unlike now there is no automatic right of entry.
Border officials may ask for evidence of “sufficient means of subsistence” for the intended stay and return – such as return ticket, accommodation reservations or an invitation letter to a conference.
What are the commissioners likely to decide?
It is extremely unlikely that UK travellers will be required to apply for a full visa, even in the event of no deal. But even if the UK does get a visa exemption, the freedom of movement will be curtailed.
The EU says: “You can come as a tourist, to visit friends or family, to attend cultural or sports events or exchanges, business meetings, for journalistic or media purposes, medical treatment, for short-term studies or training and any similar activities.
“However, the visa waiver does not apply to persons travelling for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity in the Member States, i.e. for those who come to work in the EU.”
UK citizens living and/or working in the European Union will encounter much more tangled red tape. And British travellers will ultimately face more bureaucracy when EU’s new ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) system comes in. All UK travellers will have to apply in advance and pay a fee to have their journey authorised.
What will the rules be for European visitors to the UK?
While visas will not be required, it will be more difficult for many Europeans to come to the UK on holiday. As stated in a leaked Home Office document: “We intend to require all EU citizens to travel on a passport.”
Currently EU citizens with national ID cards can visit more than 30 foreign nations: the other members of the union, geo-political oddities such as Andorra, assorted Balkan states and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
As a result levels of passport ownership in countries with ID cards are lower than in Britain. After the UK leaves, the number of possible destinations for ID card holders will drop by one. While some European citizens may go through the hassle of getting a passport just to visit the UK, many will not.
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