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Confused by Post-Brexit European Travel? No Sweat

Now that Brexit is a done deal, you might wonder how it will affect your summer or fall travel plans to Europe—assuming and hoping that COVID is by then brought under enough control that flying around the globe is safe again.

Until that clearance is sounded, you should keep abreast of any changes to entry requirements for all countries to which you’ll be travelling and/or transiting through. Though entry to any country in the Schengen area (which covers 26 nations—most of them in the EU) normally allows Canadian and American citizens to travel without visas or further passport inspections, individual nations within this union have the right to impose temporary border inspections if certain emergencies (such as illicit migration surges or terrorist threats) emerge.

Also, proof of health insurance coverage up to EU standards (at least €40,000) may be required at any stop along the way. Individual countries are increasingly requiring such proof, some including COVID-specific coverage. Canadian provincial government insurance is not sufficient and not normally accepted. Private travel insurance with medical coverage is required. Some American employer-sponsored or Medicare Advantage plans have extended coverage for foreign travel, but they may not all meet the EU standards, so private, supplemental travel insurance with adequate medical and repatriation benefits (along with cancellation and trip interruption coverage) is the safest bet.

Under the Brexit deal, UK citizens have been assured they will retain some form of health coverage reciprocity while traveling to the EU, but the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) system they have become accustomed to is to be replaced by a new Global Health Insurance Card. In the meantime, existing EHIC cards are valid through to their individual expiry dates.

Britons have been warned, however, that EHIC or the new Global version will have restrictions and they should buy private travel insurance with appropriate medical benefits—just to make sure they are adequately covered.

Canadians and Americans remain visa-free in most of Europe

If you’re travelling first to Britain and then on to the Continent, you’ll have to show your passport for both entries. Brits, too, will need to show valid passports for entry to EU countries as they have never joined the Schengen Area agreement even though they were EU members until last year.

And even though one of the main sticking points in the long and fractious Brexit negotiations was the status of Northern Ireland (which voted to stay in the EU—albeit with major border modifications for commerce and trade), the Common Travel Area agreement which allows open travel with only minimal identity document requirements between the UK, Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands remains intact.

So, though Brexit incited passions and divisions in Europe and generated over-the-top headlines, Canadian and American visitors to either Europe or the UK remain free of any new visa requirements and will be able to travel for short periods (no more than 90 days in any 180-day period) on the strength of their passports (preferably with at least six months remaining before expiry) as they have in the past.

And coming next year

But you’d better not forget that in 2022, you will have to file a pre-travel ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) application to enter any EU or Schengen member country. You’ll have to do this online. It should take no more than 10 minutes and will cost you €7. See our previous article on ETIAS for more information.

Understand that ETIAS is not a visa—it’s a visa-waiver to citizens of some 60 countries who don’t normally need visas to travel to EU or Schengen zone countries.

In effect, the ETIAS has a purpose similar to Canada’s eTA (electronic Travel Authorization) or the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) in the US. Check this ETIAS link for any new countries coming into the system.

© Copyright 2021 Milan Korcok. All rights reserved.