If you’ve been looking to travel to Europe this summer, you may have come across terms like ‘ETIAS’ or ‘Schengen Area’. A lot has changed for European travel since the UK left the EU in January 2020, and there are more changes to come. We’ve put together a simple guide to the current rules for European travel to get you through the planning stages of your next continental jaunt.
Do I need a visa to travel to Europe?
In short, probably not. If you’re travelling to one of the 27 countries in the Schengen area, which covers all of the EU countries (except Ireland) plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, you don’t need a visa.
There are still certain rules that apply for UK citizens travelling to Europe since we left the EU. The GOV.uk website has some useful information on the specifics for both travel within the Schengen area, and travel in wider Europe, but the most important points are as follows:
- A visa is not required in EU or Schengen area countries if the travel is for 90 days or less in a period of 180 days.
- The purpose of your trip needs to be tourism, short-term studying, business related to a UK employer (such as an overseas conference), or media and journalism.
The 90 days that you’re free to travel do not limit you to one single country. During that time you can travel to as many countries in the Schengen area as you like, as long as you’re there for 90 days or fewer within the 180-day period.
What is the Schengen area?
The Schengen Area is the world’s largest visa-free zone, and is made up of 27 countries in Europe. All of these countries have agreed to a principle of free movement, and citizens are able to cross borders between these countries without many of the border restrictions seen elsewhere in the world. The Area is named for the Schengen Agreement, which was signed in 1985 by five of the ten members of the EC, in the town of Schengen in Luxembourg.
Since then, more EU member states have signed the Schengen Agreement, and it was incorporated into EU law. Because the UK is no longer part of the EU, we are no longer part of the Schengen Area.
If you are travelling for work, or plan to stay for longer than 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, a visa may be required. If you’re unsure, check in good time before you travel for the country or countries you’re travelling to.
These rules will be valid until the ETIAS scheme comes into play, which will most likely be in 2024.