ESTA Visa Brexit FAQ

What cost travel for UK Nationals after Brexit?

The certainty that the UK will be leaving the European Union is one of the most significant political event to occur in many years. Rarely has there been so much discussion about a single article of a European treaty outside the legal community, but now everyone appears to be an Article 50 expert.

Brexit will have an impact on many areas of our lives, but of immediate area of concern for British passport holders is the future of Eurozone travel. From what the prime minister has said about immigration and freedom of movement so far, it seems likely borders will become more restrictive, and we may have to apply and pay a fee to cross them.

UK made over 30 million visits to EU in 2015

UK nationals take it for granted that they can freely hop on a flight, train or ferry to anywhere in the European Union or European Economic Area, from Iceland to Greece, Madeira to Latvia. The latest Office of National Statistics Travel Trends 2015 demonstrates how important this is as there were an astonishing 30+ million holiday trips to EU countries last year. However if the UK is going require more stringent checks on visitor of all kinds, then the reverse is true. Holiday makers must accept that Brexit will adversely affect their EU travel plans.

Proposal of a European Travel Information and Authorisation System

The same fear of illegal immigration and threats of terrorism are causing consternation worldwide. Three months before the UK’s June referendum, it is no coincidence that the EU launched a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

The Commission says that ‘ETIAS would determine the eligibility of all visa-exempt third country nationals to travel to the Schengen Area, and whether such travel poses a security or migration risk. Information on travellers would be gathered prior to their trip’. Consultation and further information will be published in November 2016 but it has been reported that France and Germany both back a system based on the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization scheme.

US Electronic System for Travel Authorization scheme

ESTA is an automated system that helps check an individual’s eligibility to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). On payment of a fee, it essentially checks whether you are a law enforcement or security risk, and you are then cleared for travel – or not.

Information that you are obliged to share, including biometric data via fingerprinting and facial scans, is stored upwards of 12 years and safely kept for ‘security purposes’. People who already have a valid visa to travel to the States are not obliged to apply using ESTA.

Currently, although UK nationals must show a valid passport to enter the 26-country Schengen zone, they can then travel freely within it. But what happens after Brexit is anyone’s guess. If ETIAS goes ahead, and without a sensible travel agreement being negotiated, it seems likely that British passport holders will have to apply and pay for permission to enter and travel within this area. There are many details to be worked out, but it is certain that EU travel will never be as simple or as cheap as it has been.