Will UK nationals need authorisation to travel to Schengen area post-Brexit?

17 January 2017

The European Commission has brought forward proposals to require nationals of non-EU countries with visa free access to the Schengen area to obtain authorisation before travel: the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). Visitors would have to complete an online form before travel, along the lines of the US ESTA system. This could apply to UK citizens after Brexit, says the European Scrutiny Committee in their report.

An EU Entry/Exit system is also being negotiated, which would establish entry and exit records for all third country nationals crossing the external Schengen border. The two proposals are linked and intended to strengthen security, reduce the risk of irregular migration and protect public health. The Minister, Mr Robert Goodwill MP recognises the importance of increased border security in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and says that further strengthening of the external Schengen border is "of direct benefit to the UK". 

Systems not envisioned to be in place until post-Brexit

The Commission envisages that both systems should be operational from 2020, after the expected date for the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

As long as the UK remains in the EU British nationals will not need to obtain an ETIAS travel authorisation, but the immigration status of UK nationals wishing to travel to the Schengen area post-Brexit is one of the issues to be resolved during Article 50 negotiations on the terms of the UK's withdrawal. There appear to be three possibilities:

  • UK nationals would be required to apply for a Schengen visa;
  • UK nationals would enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen area but would be required to obtain a travel authorisation under the ETIAS scheme; or
  • UK nationals would be exempt from the requirement to obtain a Schengen visa or an ETIAS travel authorisation..   

The UK is not entitled to participate in the proposal as it not a Schengen country, but the Government will monitor negotiations closely.

More information asked for

The Committee asks for information on:

  • the main differences between the ETIAS model proposed by the Commission for visa-free entry to the Schengen area and a full Schengen visa regime;
  • whether the Government intends to seek visa-free access to the Schengen area for UK nationals post-Brexit; 
  • whether the Government also intends to press for an exemption from the ETIAS travel authorisation for UK nationals post-Brexit, or to seek instead to minimise the cost and complexity of the application process; and
  • if the Government is unable to secure an exemption, whether it would wish to introduce a reciprocal travel authorisation system for EU nationals travelling to the UK post-Brexit.

The Minister is also asked to comment on the provisions on third country access to ETIAS data and the possible implications for future information sharing arrangements (particularly for security and law enforcement purposes).

Further information

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