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ETIAS: Will British tourists need to pay a visa waiver to enter France?

The EU has plans to introduce an ETIAS entry requirement for all holidaymakers from non-EU countries - including Brits - when they enter the Schengen area. Here's how it will work for people travelling to France.

ETIAS: Will British tourists need to pay a visa waiver to enter France?
The Eurostar terminal exit to Gare du Nord station. Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

There are two big changes afoot when it comes to travel into the EU Schengen area, including France, which will affect arrivals from the UK

Because the EU loves an acronym, both of them are known by their initials – EES and ETIAS. EES is essentially an enhanced passport check with fingerprinting – find full details of that here.

But the one that will have the biggest effect on tourists and people arriving in France for short trips is ETIAS which stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System. 

In short, it will require all arrivals into the EU and Schengen zone (not Ireland) to register in advance online, at a cost of €7 (free for over 70s and under 18s).

Who?

The ETIAS requirement applies to all arrivals into the EU from a non-EU country – including the UK – who do not have a French (or other EU) visa or residency card.

It will therefore mostly apply to tourists, second-home owners or people on family visits.

At present Brits benefit from the 90-day rule, which allows people to spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without the need for a visa.

ETIAS is technically a visa waiver, rather than a visa, but it still spells the end of entirely paperwork-free travel.

How?

Travellers will have to fill out an online application before departure, giving their personal details such as name, age, address – if you’ve travelled to America since 2009, it’s very similar to the ESTA system required by US authorities.

Once issued, the authorisation lasts for three years, so frequent travellers do not need to complete a new application every time, but it must be renewed every three years.

The online application is set up to give a rapid response, and people would generally not need to fill it in until about 72 hours before travel, although the full details of the system are yet to be revealed.

Anyone who has not completed the online process will be denied boarding at the airport/ferry terminal/station.

How much?

Each application costs €7, but is free for under 18s and over 70s. It lasts for three years and can be used for multiple trips.

When?

The introduction of the ETIAS system has been delayed several times and is currently scheduled for 2024, with no precise introduction date.

It will come into effect after EES is introduced – EES is currently set to be introduced some time in 2024, but the French are pushing hard for that to be after the Paris Olympics in summer 2024.

It’s therefore entirely possible that the start date of ETIAS will be pushed back again to 2025.

And the other way?

The UK has announced plans for a similar system for arrivals from EU countries – a visa waiver known as an ETA which costs £10.

Like the EU’s system, its start date has been delayed several times and it’s currently due to come into effect for citizens of Qatar from November 2023, with other nationalities added later, at a date still TBC.

These are all the EU and Schengen area countries that will require non-EU visitors provide an ETIAS visa waiver when arriving at the border: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

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BREXIT

INTERVIEW: ‘A lot of people think Brexit is done, but it’s not for Brits in Europe’

A new project from citizens campaign group British in Europe aims to empower Brits in the EU to advocate for their post-Brexit rights. The Local spoke to BiE chair Jane Golding about the problems British citizens face in Europe and why the project is still needed.

INTERVIEW: 'A lot of people think Brexit is done, but it's not for Brits in Europe'

In the early days of 2021, after the United Kingdom had left the EU and completed the final stage of Brexit, many British citizens returned to their home countries in Europe only to face a grilling at the border. 

Though the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) technically guaranteed their right to live and work in the countries they’d settled in before Brexit, there was widespread confusion about these fundamental rights and many were treated like new arrivals. 

Over time, the chaos at the airports subsided as border officials and airlines were given clearer guidance on the treatment of Brits. But three years later, a number of Brits who live on the continent still face problems when it comes to proving their post-Brexit rights.

This was the reason campaign group British in Europe decided to set up their new EU-funded ICE project. Starting this year in March, it aims to build valuable connections between UK citizens abroad and mentor the next generation of civil rights advocates around the continent. The acronym stands for ‘Inform, Empower, Connect’ and the project’s organisers describe it as “the first project of its kind”. 

READ ALSO: Hundreds of Britons across Europe given orders to leave

“It’s a completely innovative project – especially the fact that it’s across so many countries,” Jane Golding, chair of British in Europe and one of the project’s founders, told The Local.

Bringing together groups from 11 EU member states, the project aims to train up volunteers to understand both the Withdrawal Agreement and EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as learning skills like advocacy and communication, using real-life civil rights cases that are referred to British in Europe.

“The ultimate goal is to amplify the messages across the wider group,” said Golding. “You start with the volunteers, they go back to their groups, then the people that we train, they go back and train people. Then they pass on that knowledge to the wider groups, on their Facebook accounts and through social media, and hopefully it all snowballs, not just in their countries but across the EU.” 

READ ALSO: What Brits in Europe need to know about UK’s new minimum income rules

‘Far-reaching repercussions’

So many years after Brexit, it’s hard to believe that there’s still a need for a project like ICE that empowers Brits to protect their rights. Indeed, the future of groups like British in Europe and regional groups like British in Germany and Spain-based group EuroCitizens felt uncertain just a year or two ago. 

But Golding says there are still serious issues cropping up for Brits in several countries around Europe – they just have a different quality to the problems that arose at the start.

“In some ways it’s needed even more because as we predicted right at the beginning, at the first stage of implementation, you’ve got the more routine cases,” she explained.

“What we’re seeing now is not as many cases, but when the cases come up, they’re complex. They can have such far-reaching repercussions on people’s lives. And of course, memories start to fade. A lot of people think Brexit is already done, but it’s not.”

Volunteers in British in Europe ICE project

The volunteers of the British in Europe ICE project pose for a photo at the kick-off meeting in Brussels on May 21st, 2024. Photo courtesy of British In Europe

Though the rights set out in the Withdrawal Agreement apply across the continent, different countries have taken different approaches to implementing them.

That means that while in Germany, for example, UK citizens simply had to declare that they lived in the country, people in neighbouring Denmark had to apply for their rights. 

This led to a notorious situation in Denmark in which as many as 2,000 Brits were threatened with deportation after not applying in time or completing the right application process. According to Golding, this had a lot to do with the fact that people who arrived in 2020 weren’t given the same information as other UK migrants who arrived before. 

In Sweden, meanwhile, the situation is still difficult for many Brits who lived there prior to Brexit.

“There have been issues with an anomalously high numbers of refusals compared to other countries, and they seem to be taking a very strict approach on late applications,” Golding explained. 

READ ALSO: Brits in Sweden still in limbo years after Brexit deadline

Portugal has been another difficult case. Although the country opted for a declaratory system where Brits could simply exchange old residence documents for a new ID card after Brexit, reports suggest that the authorities have taken years to issue these cards, leaving many of the some 34,000 Brits in the country in limbo.

“While people are still waiting to have their status confirmed and have their card in their hand, it’s difficult to access a whole range of services, like health services, or applying for jobs or dealing with the authorities, or even going to the bank,” Golding said. “All of these problems just affect people’s lives.”

A French border guard checks a passport at the border

A French border guard checks a passport at the border. Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP

There are also concerns about the EU’s new exit and entry system (EES), due to come into force in October, which is based on biometric documentation.

“We still do not have clear data on how many people in declaratory countries like Germany, where it wasn’t compulsory to apply for the card, don’t actually have a card,” Golding said. “How is that going to play out if it’s a document-based digitalised system?”

READ ALSO: How Europe’s new EES border checks will impact flight passengers

A lack of support

In the immediate aftermath of Brexit, funding from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) was still available to support NGOs in Europe helping Brits with their migration and civil rights issues. But that temporary funding soon expired, leaving groups like British in Europe largely on their own.

“The whole point is people’s lives change at very different paces,” Golding said. “And now this project is really going to start to pick up some of those cases and report on those issues, which is really crucial and exciting for the precedent that it sets, and it’s very clearly necessary still, because people don’t just sort their lives in the 18 months that the FCDO chose to supply that funding.”

This feeling of being left alone and increasingly isolated from the UK is one that many Brits in Europe have felt in the aftermath of Brexit. But the upcoming UK election on July 4th could be a game-changer.

This time, following a change in the law, Brits who have lived abroad for more than 15 years will be able to vote for the first time.

Polling station in the UK

A polling station in the UK. Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

When it comes to the election, the message from British in Europe is clear: “Make your voice count now, make your vote count, make sure you use it,” Golding said. 

With the June 18th registration deadline fast approaching, BiE is advising UK citizens abroad to apply for a proxy vote as soon as possible, rather than relying on a postal vote from abroad. Since the 15-year rule was abolished on January 16th, more than 100,000 British citizens have registered to vote, according to official statistics. It is unclear how many were registered before the change in the law. 

READ ALSO: How Brits living in Europe can register to vote for UK election

With an estimated 4.7 million Brits currently living abroad – 1.3 million of whom are in the EU – this could have a significant impact on the electoral landscape, Golding says. But most significantly, the change is creating a feeling of connection and belonging that wasn’t there before.

Nurturing this sense of belonging is one of the main goals of ICE.

With these bridges being built, British in Europe hopes to create a network of support that spans across borders.

“Now we’ve met. We’re going to meet,” said Golding. “We know we’re going to meet again in Berlin in October and then we’ll meet again in the new year in 2025 as well. It means a huge amount because even British in Europe, our steering team, we’ve only met physically three times.”

This opens up the possibility of people sharing their knowledge from country to country, Golding explained.

“There is crossover and the reassurance of having that EU wide view and knowing that you’re not alone and knowing that in this country, we managed to get this solution,” she said. “And then you can go back and say to the authorities in your country, well, in that country they did that – all of that helps. It’s really good.”

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