Heathrow and Gatwick: Important update issued for Brits travelling to 27 European Countries

Travellers queue inside the departures terminal of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain: Credit to Photographer Henry Nicholls/Reuters

By Anna Highfield

Brits hoping to travel to 27 different European countries should be aware of a big change in the pipeline. While many British travellers were concerned they would need a visa to enter Europe after Brexit, this is not currently the case, as long as they are only planning a short-term stay.

However, British citizens will need to apply for travel authorisation to travel into 27 European countries, known as ‘the Schengen Area’, from 2024. The ‘world’s largest visa free zone’ allows the unrestricted movement of people between most of the the EU countries, except Ireland, and the countries that are about to join Schengen Area, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus.

British citizens travelling to any of these countries will need to apply for European Travel Information and Authorisation System authorisation (ETIAS) from 2024. The travel authorisation was initially scheduled to be brought in on November 1, 2023, but the EU has “silently postponed it” to 2024.

At the end of February, the EU Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs website changed the ETIAS roll out date to 2024, with no announcement. A FAQ answer now reads: “It is expected that the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will be operational in 2024.”

Travellers are advised ETIAS is not a visa, and will be “easier to obtain.” Any non-EU citizens from visa-exempt countries (including the UK) will need the ETIAS to cross an external border.

The system is being introduced to improve safety and security across the Schengen Area, according to Schengen Visa, which has advised travellers the process will be simple. You will need a valid UK (or other ETIAS approved country) passport, a credit or debit card to pay the application fee, and an active email address to receive your waiver decision.

You will then be able to apply online in just a few minutes, by entering some personal information including your name, date of birth, gender, address, email address and phone number. You will also need to include your passport details (your passport will need to be valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the Schengen Area) and your travel plans. Travellers will not need to be in the UK when they apply.

European authorities anticipate an ETIAS waiver acceptance rate of around 95% – however, this means some applications may be denied. Applicants will receive rejections via email, and will be able to appeal the decision directly to the individual Schengen member-country they intend to enter, which will handle the decision.

The biggest change for travelling Brits post-Brexit is how long they can stay in any of the Schengen countries – the maximum length of stay is now limited to 90 days per 180-day period. The ETIAS will be valid for multiple stays of up to three months in any of the Schengen countries.