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News Travel after Brexit: what are the new Brexit passport rules?

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Travel after Brexit: what are the new Brexit passport rules?

Disclaimer: We know that travel is especially difficult, if not off-limits right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you’ll be ready.

New Brexit passport rules came into effect on 1 January 2021. Here’s a look at what that means, and how travel to the European Union and elsewhere has changed since Brexit.

What are the Brexit passport rules?

You'll still be able to use your old burgundy passport as long as it has at least six months left to run.

If you’re travelling to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, there are some new Brexit passport rules to take into account. Firstly, your British passport will need to have at least six months left on it before it expires. And second, it must have been issued less than nine years and six months ago.

Do I need to get a new passport after Brexit?

Not necessarily. If you have an old burgundy passport that has at least six months left on it – and was issued less than nine and a half years ago – then you’re good to travel throughout the EU. But if your passport is too old or has less than six months left to go, then you need to apply for a new, blue passport. You can use the UK government Passport Checker to see whether your passport is still valid.

Do I need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit?

You might need a visa for longer stays in Europe.

If you’re only planning a short holiday, you won’t need a visa to travel to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The general rule is that you can stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa.

However, it’s important to bear in mind that the 26 countries in the Schengen area (including France, Spain and Germany) all fall under the same rules and should be thought of as one trip, essentially counting as a visit to one country. If you visit Spain for 14 days and then go to France for 14 days a couple of months later, the number of days is added together. That means your total will be 28 days in the Schengen area, rather than 14 in each country.

If you’re planning to stay for longer than 90 days, or if you’re travelling for business or study, then you may require a visa. Check the Foreign Office Travel Advice page for more details on the passport rules for each country for British travellers.

Have COVID-19 rules changed travel to the EU after Brexit? 

COVID-19-related travel rules and restrictions vary per country, but most EU countries do not currently allow travellers to enter from outside the EU. Since 1 January 2021, UK citizens have counted as travellers from outside the EU and COVID-19 travel restrictions may apply. EU countries can choose to keep allowing travel from the UK, and some EU countries already allow travel from the UK for urgent reasons, such as family emergencies or taking up new work. Rules can change quickly – to keep up with the latest travel restrictions to EU countries, check out our map here, and check the FCDO travel advice page.

Use our interactive map to find out about COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Are there changes to travelling to the US after Brexit?

The new Brexit passport rules don’t affect travelling to the United States. Usually, UK citizens can travel to the US without a visa as part of the Visa Waiver Program (you still need to fill out an ESTA form).

However, COVID-19 has made things more complicated. While you can still fill out an ESTA online for future travel, there are travel restrictions in place from the UK to the US, including a ban on non-essential travel, proof of a negative COVID test and self-isolation on arrival. To keep up to date with the latest travel restrictions in the US and elsewhere, check out our handy map showing where’s open.

How long can I holiday in Spain under the new Brexit passport rules?

From 1 January 2021, you’re able to stay for up to 90 days in Spain in a 180-day period. If you want to stay for longer, you’ll have to apply for a visa. You’ll also need a visa if you plan to work while you’re there.

New visa rules now apply when travelling to Spain.

And don’t forget that Spain is part of the Schengen area. That means any visits to other Schengen countries will also count towards the 90-day total.

UK to the Republic of Ireland travel after Brexit

Travel to the Republic of Ireland remains unaffected by the new Brexit passport rules. Everything will be the same as before, so the rule about having six months left on your passport won’t apply.

Ireland is part of the Common Travel Area, so British nationals don’t need a passport to visit the country, just an acceptable form of ID. If you use your passport as ID, it should be valid for the whole of your stay.

Has business travel changed with the new Brexit passport rules?

Business travel has changed since 1 January 2021, and paperwork may be needed for bringing goods into the EU.

If you’re travelling for business purposes, like attending a conference, check the FCDO travel advice page for the country you’re visiting to find out what’s required.

You might also have to tell HMRC if you’re earning money in the EU, and you may require documentation if you’re planning to bring goods with you. The government has produced a list of extra requirements for business travellers here.

Where can I live with a British passport after Brexit?

British nationals who are already living in the EU can continue living there as part of the Withdrawal Agreement. But they may need to apply for residency status in their adopted country – further details can be found on the FCDO website.

Since 1 January 2021, UK citizens no longer have an automatic right to move to and live in the EU. However, British nationals can still live and work in the Republic of Ireland without the need for a visa or residency permit.

Can I get duty free after Brexit?

Travellers are now able to take advantage of duty-free shopping on alcohol and tobacco when travelling to EU countries. But at the same time, the government is ending tax-free sales on electronics, clothing and fragrances at the airport. Check the UK government website for more details on the changes.

Will I have to queue at passport control after Brexit?

Duty-free shopping is now available for EU destinations.

British Citizens are not able to use EU passport gates (eGates) and may need to use separate lanes from EU citizens when queuing. British travellers need to have their passports stamped to enter and leave the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. They also may be asked for proof of return or onward travel, and to show they have enough money for their stay.

British citizens who show evidence that they were living in the EU before 1 January 2021 will not have their passports stamped. If you live in the EU, check the UK government’s Living in Guides for your country of residence.

Is my EHIC still valid under the new Brexit passport rules?

Under the new rules, EHICs that were issued before the end of 2020 will still be valid for use until their expiry date (on the front of your card), but only within EU countries.

If your EHIC has expired (or you do not have an EHIC at all) you should apply for the UK government’s new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) before you travel. A GHIC provides you with the same access to emergency and necessary healthcare cover for travel to EU countries. More information on what you’ll be covered for and how to apply for one can be found on the government’s website.

This also means that if you are travelling to Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you are no longer covered, and if you don’t already have it, you should get appropriate travel insurance which includes your healthcare needs. If you visit Norway, you can use your UK passport to access medically necessary healthcare.

It is important to remember that an EHIC or GHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance as they will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts or being flown back to the UK.

Can I still drive in Europe after Brexit?

The majority of UK drivers are still able to use their existing card driving licence in the EU for short trips. But you will need to get a ‘green card’ from your insurer and display a GB sticker on the rear of your vehicle and trailer.

There are some exceptions to this in certain EU countries though, where an International Driving Permit (IDP) will be needed. You can check the UK Government’s guidance on driving abroad for further details here.

Can I take my pet to Europe after Brexit?

You will need to get an animal heath certificate for your dog before you take it into the EU.

Taking your pet on holiday with you to the EU has become a bit more complicated, so you’ll need to plan ahead.

If you’re bringing a dog or cat (or ferret!), visit your vet at least one month in advance of travel to get them microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. You’ll then need to get an animal health certificate (AHC) from your vet no more than 10 days before you travel.

Your pet will also have to receive treatment for tapeworm if you’re travelling to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, Norway or Finland.

Find out more details on how to take your pet into the EU on the UK government website.

Will I be able to use my mobile phone in Europe after Brexit?

Free mobile roaming ended on 1 January 2021.

Yes, but it might cost more. Guaranteed free mobile roaming in the EU ended on 1 January 2021, so mobile operators may start to add on fees for using your phone in another country. Check with your provider to see how much (if anything) they will charge.

Your mobile phone operator has to warn you if you amass data charges of £45, so you won’t build up hundreds of pounds of data fees without knowing about it. But it’s now likely to be more expensive to use your phone in Europe.

Can I take food with me to Europe?

The UK is now subject to EU restrictions on personal allowances of food. This means you will need to either consume or throw away any meat, milk or products containing these before you pass through the border to an EU country.

British travellers can't bring sandwiches or other foods with them when entering the EU.

There are exceptions for some items, such as certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food or pet food required for medical reasons. You can check the rules on the European Commission website.

Note that currently, the restrictions on food only apply when entering the EU. You can bring back meat, dairy and other animal products for personal consumption when returning to the UK from an EU country. Check the UK government website for more details.

Safe travels!

It might take a little while to get used to the new Brexit passport rules, but we’ll make sure to keep you up to date with any new developments.

What are the new Brexit passport rules?

You need at least six months left on your passport when you travel to the EU. And your passport must have been issued less than nine years and six months ago.

Do I need to get a new passport after Brexit?

No. You’ll only need a new one if you want to go to the EU and your old passport has less than six months left on it, or if it’s more than nine and a half years old.

Do I need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit?

You won’t need a visa if you’re going on holiday for less than 90 days. But you might need a visa if you’re travelling for business or study.

Are there changes to travelling to the US after Brexit?

No, travelling to the United States will remain the same. But bear in mind any travel restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How long can I holiday in Spain after Brexit?

You can go on holiday to Spain for up to 90 days in a 180-day period without a visa. But remember Spain is part of the Schengen area, so any trips to other Schengen countries will count towards the 90-day total.

Can I travel to the Republic of Ireland after Brexit?

Yes, travel to Ireland will remain unaffected by the new Brexit passport rules. As a member of the Common Travel Area, British nationals travelling from the UK don’t need a passport to visit, but you may be asked for proof of nationality, so it’s a good idea to take your British passport with you.

Will business travel change after Brexit?

Yes. Business travellers might need to apply for a visa when visiting the EU, and they may require documentation for taking goods with them. Check the government website for a list of the extra requirements.

Where can I live with a British passport after Brexit?

British nationals will still be able to live and work in Ireland without a visa after 1 January 2021.

Are there any other changes in air travel after Brexit?

Duty-free shopping on alcohol and tobacco will be allowed when visiting EU countries after 1 January 2021. There are also some changes to the way you pass through passport control.

Is my EHIC still valid after Brexit?

Yes, European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) that have not passed their expiry date remain valid for UK nationals, but only in the EU. If yours has expired, apply for the government’s new GHIC, which provides the same level of cover. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance before you visit Europe, too.

Can I still drive in Europe after Brexit?

Yes, but you’ll need to carry a green card to prove you have vehicle insurance, and display a GB sticker on the rear of your vehicle.

Can I take my pet into Europe after Brexit?

Yes, but you need to get your pet microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and get an animal health certificate from your vet first. The whole process takes about a month.

Will I still be able to use my mobile phone in Europe after Brexit?

Yes, but free mobile roaming ended on 1 January 2021.

Can I take food to the EU?

Mostly, no. You can no longer enter the EU with food that contains meat or dairy products. There are a few exceptions to this rule.

Want to know more?

Check out the articles below for more essential travel information:

This page was last updated on 2 February 2021. To our knowledge, the information on this page was correct at the time of publication.