READERS have been asking whether visas might be required for British passport holders to visit the EU after Brexit – the answer is unknown at present but it is highly likely that some form of extra formality will be required to visit France compared to now.
What is more, with two new EU schemes being planned to tighten border controls due to terrorism, the situation for non-EU nationals entering EU countries like France is likely to become more complex in the coming years.
As citizens of an EU state Britons are able to enter EU countries such as France with few formalities – apart from showing a valid passport, since the UK did not join the Schengen passport-free zone.
The position after Brexit might range from having to complete an online form and pay a small fee, similar to what Europeans do to visit the USA – as well as having to demonstrate sufficient finances and healthcare cover for the trip at border control – to having to apply for a full visa from the French consulate or embassy in the UK.
The latter might be more likely if the UK were to fall out of the EU with ‘no deal’ as Prime Minister Theresa May has threatened could be the case if the final ‘divorce deal’ is not to the government’s liking.
Whether or not they also need visas, all nationals of ‘foreign’ (non-EEA) countries coming to Schengen area countries like France, for trips of three months or less, are subject to extra border checks and must show the reasons for their stay, where they will be staying (such as showing an attestation d’hébergement obtained by their host in France from their mairie, or a hotel booking) and show sufficient financial means (cash, bank cards etc) to cover the costs of their trip, with certain minimum levels per day required. They must also show they have sufficient medical insurance for the trip.
Citizens of many countries around the world are entitled to visa-free travel for short trips to the Schengen area, however for some of them if you will do any employed work in France you also need to show a work permit.
Passport holders of some nationalities also need full visas (and/or residence permits), even for short trips.
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Trips of more than three months
All citizens of non-EEA countries, apart from Monaco and Switzerland, need visas for stays longer than three months.
The European Commission proposes to create a new system of online checking for visitors coming from countries dispensed from visas for short trips. This is comparable to the American ‘visa waiver program’. It would be called ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) and would probably apply to British people after a Brexit.
Aimed at stronger control of Europe’s borders, especially to combat terrorism, this would involve:
An online application taking around 10 minutes to fill in and a fee of five euros per adult. Data requested may include personal data and passport details as well as questions relating to public health risks, criminal records and previous refusals of entry to an EU state.
The data you provide will also be checked against security databases held by bodies like Europol.
If the automated system detects problems then officials will do manual checks.
A decision is taken in two weeks, with the possibility to appeal if refused, however for many people validation will be given in minutes of applying if nothing is flagged up.
If passed, you are given permission to travel for five years or until your passport expires.
The EU’s commissioner for security – former British ambassador to France Sir Julian King – said of the scheme: "Terrorists and criminals don't care much for national borders. The only way to defeat them is by working together effectively. ETIAS will help do that: by spotting problem individuals and stopping them from coming, we'll enhance Europe's internal security."
A European Commission spokeswoman said the idea has been passed to the council and parliament for further consideration but a timeline for implementation is not yet clear. ‘Details’ such as how it could apply to people such as Britons living in France travelling back to the UK, or British residents with French holiday homes have not been worked out, she said.
EU ‘Entry-Exit System’
The European Commission is also proposing a system to tighten border controls for all non-EU nationals travelling to the EU which will require recording information such as name and passport details, entry and exit dates and taking their photographs and an image of their fingerprint.