Whatever happens in the ongoing negotiations in the coming days between the UK and the EU, there will be some huge changes for us all from December 31st when it comes to arrangements for living, working and visiting in the European Union.
Below is some information about what we can expect when it comes to travelling, working in and living in the European Union once the Brexit transition period ends.
- At present if you have a valid British passport you can travel to any EU country. But these rules will be tightened up after December 31, meaning you will need to ensure you have at least six months left before your passport expires and ensure it is less than ten years old.
- You will only be allowed to spend 90 days of any 180-day period in the EU, regardless of how many zone countries you intend to visit.
- By the end of 2022 British travellers will also have to apply online for an EU visa waiver certificate before they travel. This is a similar system to that of the United States that requires travellers to obtain prior authorisation before entering the EU. It is expected to cost €7 (£6.30) for each individual application but will last three years after which it will need to be renewed.
- Travellers to the EU may also lose the right to use the dedicated EU arrivals channels at immigration — and could have to use the rest of the world channel instead.
- This could lead to delays in clearing immigration. However, whether to allow UK passport holders to use the EU channel is at the discretion of individual member states and some, that have a lot of UK tourists, may decide to offer a dispensation.
The Brexit divorce deal gives reciprocal access to healthcare for residents but only limited rights for free care to visitors. Only UK citizens in receipt of a state pension and so-called “frontier workers” are entitled to European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) which entitles them to free medical treatment in 27 EU member states.
For other UK holders of Ehic cards they will no longer be valid from January 1 next year and all travellers will need valid insurance to cover them. This could be tricky for some people as many travel insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. The government is urging people to check the terms of their polices before leaving the UK.
EU nationals living in the UK before 2020 retain full access to the NHS under the terms of the divorce deal.
The UK is seeking to negotiate a deeper reciprocal healthcare arrangement with the EU but no agreement has been reached so far.
Driving in the EU
You may need additional documentation to drive in the EU after Brexit, both in your own car or in a hire car.
As well as your UK driving licence you will need to get an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in many EU countries such as Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain after January 1. These cost £5.50 and can be ordered over the counter at post offices.
You will also need a “green card” to prove that your vehicle is insured when driving abroad. If you are towing a trailer or caravan, you’ll need a green card for the towing vehicle and one for the trailer or caravan.
Green cards will be issued by your insurer and the government is recommending applying six weeks ahead of travel to ensure the request is processed in time.
It is possible that the EU will decide to waive the necessity for UK drivers to carry a physical green card before January. However, this is yet to happen and the government is advising motorists intending to travel at the start of the year to assume that the new requirements are in place.
Unless negotiations secure a special “listed” status for the UK, from New Year’s Day travellers to the EU and continental Europe will not be able to use existing pet passports.
If Britain becomes an unlisted country for the EU’s “Pet Travel Scheme”, travellers must consult a vet at least four months before a journey is made.
Dogs, cats or ferrets must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. A blood sample must be taken at three months before travel and checked in an EU-approved blood testing laboratory.
Despite attempts by ministers to take the credit for a 2017 move to ban phone companies levelling additional charges on their customers for using their phones abroad in Europe, it was in fact an EU initiative. And it will fall away at the end of the transition period.
The government has passed legislation that aims to safeguard consumers including a £45-a-month limit on charges before you have to opt in for further use.
Many phone operators, including Three, Vodafone, O2 and EE, have said that they have no plans to reintroduce roaming charges. Yet they are under no obligation to maintain this position, even if there is a deal with the EU.
While you will be able to travel to the EU without a visa, you could breaking the law if you carry out business while you are there unless you have a business visa or work permit.
Some business-related activities – such as business meetings – can be carried out without a work visa but the rules vary between member states.
The government is advising people travelling to the EU after December 31 to check the work requirements for the country you are visiting before you travel.
Depending on the deal that is — or is not — struck, UK professional qualifications may not be recognised in the EU from the end of the transition period. This will affect a range of professions including lawyers, accountants and architects and may require those wishing to practice their trade in the EU after December 31 to requalify in the EU.
Rules on whether UK qualifications will continue to be recognised and who is eligible to hold certain professional roles vary between member states, with many, including Belgium and Luxembourg, allowing only EU citizens to qualify.
Orchestras, bands and anyone wishing to film in the EU could face additional hurdles from the start of next year.
Life for Expats in the EU
When the government’s new immigration bill became law last month it did not just repeal the right of EU citizens to automatically come and live and work in the UK; it also potentially made it harder for some Britons living in the EU to come home again.
Under the new rules a UK citizen who is married to an EU national can return to the UK automatically until 29 March 2022. However, after that point they will face the same hurdles as UK citizens who are married to foreigners who have no automatic right to live in the country. That means they will need to apply for a visa — with strict rules over eligibility.
Between them the couple must have a joint income of £18,600 a year plus an extra £3,800 for their first child and £2,400 for every other child. Some British expats have claimed that puts them in an invidious position — they may not meet the income threshold but don’t know whether at a future date they may want to move back to the UK, for example, to be close to elderly relatives.