What Will a No-Deal Brexit Mean for Travelers? Find Out Here!

What You Should Know

With the date by which Prime Minister Theresa May must get her Brexit deal approved looming, many are wondering what the implications of a “no-deal” would mean for those wishing to travel to the United Kingdom.

Under current immigration provisions, holidaymakers to the UK fall into one of three categories:

  • They are European Union (EU) nationals, and so do not need a visa to visit the UK for up to three months.
  • They are from outside the UK but are non-visa nationals. This category of people come from countries with which the UK has an agreement not to require visas in advance of travel. This includes non-EU countries such as the United States of America and Australia. Visits are permitted for a maximum six months at the time.
  • They are from outside the UK and are from a country which is included on the visa national list. This means that the individual has no prior entry clearance to travel to the UK, and must apply for a visa advance. The visa national list includes countries such as India and Russia. Once a visa is received, the individual is again restricted to visiting the UK for six months at a time.

Brexit – whether with a deal or without – will not affect non-EU visitors. This means that two of the three options above will be unchanged.

Changes for EU Nationals

For EU nationals things will change, at least from a legal perspective. EU nationals are currently admitted to the UK under free movement provisions; this is why no visa or prior permission is needed in advance of travel. In the event of no-deal Brexit, the Government has confirmed that it intends to end free movement as quickly as it can.

This means that from March 30, 2019 on, EU nationals will require specific permission to enter the UK, even if only for a visit. While this is a big legal change to EU nationals’ right of entry to the UK, the practical arrangements for tourists and business visitors will not look any different.

In guidance issued by the Government on January 28, 2019, it was confirmed that, “EU citizens coming for short visits will be able to enter the UK as they can now, and stay for up to three months from each entry.” Therefore, although their precise legal status will change, EU visitors will not need UK visit visas from March 30, 2019 onward.

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Implications on Healthcare

EU nationals currently visiting the UK benefit from the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. This is a reciprocal arrangement between EU member states, whereby travelers can access emergency healthcare in any EU country to which they travel.

A no-deal Brexit will end the UK’s participation in the scheme, meaning that travelers to the UK will no longer be able to access healthcare in the event of an emergency. Travelers to the UK beginning March 30 should ensure that they have private health insurance to cover any treatment they might need.

Changes for UK Nationals

The changes outlined above are likely to be mirrored for UK nationals traveling abroad, although it is important to note that no blanket rule will be imposed by the EU – individual member states will have to implement their own rules.

While it is unlikely that a full visit visa application will be needed to travel to mainland Europe starting March 30, a low-price pre-approval scheme (similar to the USA’s ESTA scheme) has already been cited as a possible long-term requirement for many EU destinations.

These requirements may be introduced fairly quickly in the event of no-deal, so British holidaymakers should check the rules in their destination country prior to travel.

As mentioned above, the UK’s participation in the EHIC scheme will also come to an end; travelers should therefore ensure they have comprehensive health insurance while traveling abroad, and that they keep their visits below three months to avoid the need to apply for a residence visa.

For more information on immigration in the UK, visit Latitude Law.

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