How will travel to the UK change after Brexit?

travel to the uk change after brexit

Now that Brexit has happened and the UK has officially left the EU there are still question marks hanging over how travel to Britain will change in the future.

At the moment, travellers from EU member states can still visit the UK with just an ID card or passport without a visa. However, the freedom of movement of people is expected to come to an end in the UK when the Brexit transition period ends in December 2020. This will lead to many changes in the way that EU citizens can visit Britain.

The following article will explain more about the possible differences that international travellers will need to consider in the near future. It also sheds light on the way that tourists will be able to visit the UK before the transition ends as well as why travellers might soon require an eTA UK visa waiver.

Changes After the UK Leaves the EU

The situation with travel and visas won’t change immediately after Brexit. This is because the UK and the EU signed a withdrawal agreement in January 2020 which sets out an 11 month transition period before new rules can come into effect.

The terms of the agreement allow immigration, customs, and procedural frameworks to function as they did previously until December 31st, 2020. From January 1st, 2021 changes in policy and travel procedure will start to come into effect.

In the meantime under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, it is still possible for EU citizens to:

  • Travel visa-free between the EU and UK with national ID cards or passports
  • Live and work in the UK
  • Emigrate to the UK
  • Use European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) for medical necessities in Britain

How Should EU Tourists Prepare to Visit the UK From 2021?

There will be a number of changes to the way travellers enter the UK from the EU even before the UK eTA is launched. Yet, many other entry procedures for the UK will remain the same.

Visitors from Europe may find that they are unable to travel to Britain with only their national ID cards as they do now after 2021. It is therefore recommended that visitors bring their passport instead when arriving in the UK after 2021.

Additionally, the EHIC covering healthcare when travelling across Europe will no longer function in Britain. Instead, tourists will need to secure appropriate health insurance coverage when visiting the UK in case of illness or injury.

Also, European travellers arriving in Britain with over £10,000 in cash will need to make a declaration to HM Customs and Excise on entry to the country. This should be made whether the cash comprises, notes, coins, bankers drafts, cheques or bearer bonds.

Furthermore, European mobile network operators may not waive roaming charges for visitors to the UK once the transition period has ended. Travellers should check with their network provider before arrival to ensure that they will not have to pay extra costs to make phone calls, send text messages or use mobile internet.

What Will Happen at the End of the Withdrawal Period?

Talks between the UK and EU are ongoing, and as yet it is not known what deal will be struck regarding immigration and cross-border travel. However, the British Home Office has made a number of suggestions for how EU citizens will be treated by immigration authorities when the transition period ends.

UK eTA Visa Waivers For Tourists

It is very likely that when freedom of movement ends visa waivers will become a necessity for EU citizens. This was first mooted in a British government white paper in 2018 and has remained a consistent policy point since.

The current UK Home Secretary Priti Patel also indicated recently that visa waivers will be required by EU travellers to Britain when the Brexit transition ends. In an announcement in November 2019, Ms Patel called for the implementation of an electronic clearance system.

This new electronic visa waiver is expected to be similar to those used by the US and Canada and those soon-to-be-introduced by the EU itself. The system proposed by the Home Office is an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) which will require EU visitors to:

  • Fill in an online form before travelling to Britain
  • Submit identifying documents to pre-screen applicants
  • Pay a fee for the eTA

Furthermore, under the requirements of the proposed eTA, applicants would need to register with the system no less than 3 days before travelling to the UK and would need to hold a biometric passport. It has not yet been explicitly stated how long the validity of this visa waiver will be.

Immigration Points System for Workers

Over the course of Brexit negotiations, the UK government has consistently supported a points-based immigration system for workers entering the country from the EU. This will be similar to the policy currently used in Australia and the one that is already in use in the UK to vet foreign workers from countries like India, Russia or China.

In order to obtain a visa under this system workers will be assessed on their professional skills, earning potential, demand in the job market and sponsorship from a UK-based business. Those that are successful will be granted a Tier 2 or General Work visa and are permitted to live and work in the UK for a period of between 3-5 years.

Global Talent Visas For Academics and Scientists

Global Talent visas have also been earmarked for launch in February 2020. These have been designed to cater for exceptional talent in business, academia, arts and science around the world.

It is available to applicants from eligible fields who are endorsed by a designated competent body in their sector. Once approved it grants holders a Tier 1 visa which is valid for 3-5 years.

There is a lot of work still to be done before complete policies are agreed and the new normal becomes clear for travellers to the UK. However, what is already becoming apparent is that there will be changes in the way people travel to Britain soon.