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I am a British citizen and US permanent resident. I rarely need visas. However, I am considering a Mediterranean cruise in the spring or summer of 2019.

Unlike British politicians, I like to plan ahead and be prepared. If I am going to need a Schengen visa, I want to assemble the documentation early next year, so I can apply to the appropriate country as soon as I have an itinerary and it is at most 90 days before travel. Given how things are going, I am preparing for a hard, no-agreement, Brexit.

For trade, that would mean WTO rules. For personal travel, is there a similar fall-back that would allow me visa-free visits to the Schengen countries?

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    I guess a valid question that I'd be curious to know out of this nobody knows situation could be, though Brits don't need a Schengen visa...are they allowed to apply for one anyway? can they get one? – the other one Dec 12 '18 at 17:37
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    It is, but delaying the vote on the agreement to January, just a couple of months before the Article 50 deadline, makes a hard Brexit much, much more likely. As noted in the question, I am more into long term planning than the UK government seems to be. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 12 '18 at 17:38
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    I would be particularly worried if I planned travel to Europe in April 2019. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 12 '18 at 17:38
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    The default situation is that you need a visa. Being able to travel without a visa is the exception. It is widely expected that the EU will grant visa-free travel to UK citizens (and vice-versa), but no one can know what will happen. In the meantime, you can't get a visa. Plan for an itinerary that does not involve the EU :-/ – jcaron Dec 12 '18 at 22:58
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    Oddly, I'm preparing for a 2nd referendum, and an anullment of Article 50 – Strawberry Dec 13 '18 at 11:13
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You will certainly¹ not need a visa. The UK has declared it will not require visas for any EU nationals for short stays, and the EU has declared the same for the UK (see European Commission press release and Brexit preparedness document). However, from 2021 you will most likely need to apply for ETIAS (an electronic authorisation similar to US ESTA). This is likely true even if there is a Brexit agreement and possibly even if there is no Brexit (without Brexit, EU law should mean no ETIAS shall be needed).

The UK Government has issued a series of notices on the impact of a no-deal Brexit. One such notice issues specific guidance for Travelling to the EU with a UK passport if there's no Brexit deal (checked 13 December 2018). This confirms the guidance quoted in legoscias answer, but does not address a system known as ETIAS.

Once it enters into force (expected 2021), UK citizens will most likely need to apply for ETIAS, a Schengen electronic system similar to the more famous US ESTA system. See ETIAS VISA: how will it affect UK citizens:

Firstly, anytime a British citizen visiting Europe with a valid passport wishes to travel to continental Europe, prior to leaving home, they will have to apply via an online platform for an ETIAS visa-waiver.

After the UK leaves the EU, britons will be exempt from obtaining a visa, but will not be exempt from the ETIAS visa waiver.

This travel authorisation, once accepted, will be binding for 3 years for multiple visits with no limit and will become a mandatory requirement for all travelers from elegible ETIAS visa waiver countries from 2021.

UK citizens and all eligible travellers who wish to visit the Schengen Zone will need to answer a series of health and security questions when completing the ETIAS online form. It’s extremely important to answer honestly, as all the data provided in the ETIAS application will be checked against a series of databases including Europol or Interpol.

This statement from the European Commission (which the same website cites) confirms that according to stated policy, travel in both directions will remain visa free:

It would mean that UK citizens would not need a visa when travelling to the Schengen area for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. In the scenario where the UK leaves the EU without a deal, this would apply as of 30 March 2019.

(...)

This proposal is entirely conditional upon the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel for all EU Member States, in line with the principle of visa reciprocity. The UK government has declared its intention not to require a visa from citizens of the EU27 Member States for shorts stays for the purposes of tourism and business.

So, unless either party changes its mind and breaks with stated policy intentions, you will not need a visa. However, from 2021 you will need ETIAS.

Edit: The day after I posted this answer, The Guardian posted this "news" article on Brits needing to pay the ETIAS fee for Schengen travel after Brexit, which is old news because this was already known.


¹Of course, in theory, any government can change any policy at any time, reasonably or not, legally or not. This answer is accurate at the time of writing. Any country might suddenly close their borders after you book but before you travel. That is a risk that always exists for future travel.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Dec 15 '18 at 19:48
  • "possibly even if there is no Brexit": How could that possibly be true? There is no plausible scenario in which EU citizens would be required to have ETIAS authorization to fly to the EU. – phoog Dec 30 '18 at 4:39
  • @phoog Because ETIAS belongs to Schengen, and AFAIK nothing has been formally agreed yet on what applies to countries that are in the EU but not Schengen. I could be wrong there. – gerrit Dec 30 '18 at 21:58
  • @gerrit The ETIAS regulation has been enacted and it of course fully preserves freedom of movement for EU citizens. There is no way under current union law (that is, the treaties that establish the EU) that it could be required of EU citizens. See eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:32018R1240. – phoog Dec 30 '18 at 22:06
  • @phoog Ok. I have changed the relevant part of the answer. – gerrit Dec 30 '18 at 22:26
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Strictly speaking, this is in the hands of the EU, which maintains two lists, Annex I (countries whose nationals requiring a visa for a short stay, labelled A in the link above) and Annex II (countries whose nationals do not require a visa, labelled B). As a member state, the UK is not on either list, and it falls between two stools in terms of automatically being added to one or the other, so will require EU action fairly soon, otherwise it will be legally impossible to visit under either set of terms.

It's very widely expected that the UK will be added to Annex II regardless of whether a formal exit agreement is reached, and you should expect a decision on that well before March 29th 2019, but as to when it will happen, that's rather a victim of circumstance.

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    This is not widely expected. It is already confirmed (see my answer). – gerrit Dec 13 '18 at 13:05
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    @gerrit You have more confidence in the European Parliament than I do. – origimbo Dec 13 '18 at 13:33
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    @gerrit your source is entirely unofficial and even the passages you have selected to quote note that the EU has confirmed its intention to grant visa free access, not that it will actually do so, and that even the intention is conditional on the UK's grant of nondiscriminatory visa free access to all EU citizens. In sorry, your source does not support the strength of your conclusion. – phoog Dec 13 '18 at 15:36
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    @gerrit You should probably note the "proposed" in the title of the document you found. The Council and the Parliament don't appear to have signed off on it yet, at least according to any source I can find. – origimbo Dec 13 '18 at 15:48
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    @gerrit the UK's position is far from a promise at this stage. It is a "declaration of intention". They'll probably wait until March 27th to decide. – jcaron Dec 13 '18 at 18:01
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The only thing you can know for sure right now is that you currently can't get a Schengen visa. There is no point in applying for one to be on the safe side. Schengen visas are only issued to nationals, who actually require a visa to enter. Visas are not issued to EEA citizens and citizens of visa exempt countries.

On the list of visa exempt countries, you find since May 2014 the following category:

British citizens who are not nationals of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the purposes of union law:

  • British nationals (Overseas)
  • British overseas territories citizens (BOTC)
  • British overseas citizens (BOC)
  • British protected persons (BPP)
  • British subjects (BS)

All British nationals who are currently not EU citizens are already now entitled to enter the Schengen area without a visa. If we should get a new category of non-EU British nationals on March 30th next year, I don't see why they should not already be covered by this exemption.

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    "you currently can't get a Schengen visa" Exactly. Should you try to get one anyway, you can expect a letter of refusal. Now I wonder whether you'd get registered as being refused a visa should you apply for it anyway, that would be an unfortunate side-effect... – Mast Dec 13 '18 at 0:09
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    @Mast it seems to me far more likely that the application would be rejected (that is, not considered at all) rather than refused. – phoog Dec 13 '18 at 7:42
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    The problem with your reasoning is that the regulation doesn't talk about "British nationals who aren't EU citizens," it talks about "British nationals who aren't citizens of the UK for the purpose of union law." Those who are citizens of the UK for the purpose of union law will continue to be so after Brexit. – phoog Dec 13 '18 at 7:49
  • @Mast No. In most situations, Schengen visa applications are handed in through private contractors, which verify the formal requirements. If they are not met, the application is not even accepted. Even if the application should get through to a consulate, it will there be deemed inadmissible, not processed and therefore also not refused. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Dec 13 '18 at 9:41
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Edited to include link and quote of EC press release on the topic.

The problem with visa policies is that they are very often governed by reciprocity: if you don't let my citizens come to your country visa-free, I won't let yours come to mine visa-free (of course this usually does not apply to countries which depend on tourists, for instance).

So, even though it is widely expected that the EU will add the UK to the visa-exempt list, they will not be very inclined to do so if the UK does not grant visa-free travel to all EU citizens.

Actually, they did say exactly that here:

European Commission proposes visa-free travel to the EU for UK nationals in a no deal scenario – if the UK also grants reciprocal visa-free travel to all EU citizens

(...)This proposal is entirely conditional upon the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel for all EU Member States, in line with the principle of visa reciprocity.(...)

(thanks @gerrit for the link)

And that's where the problem may arise. As soon as those Brexiter hardliners manage to have the government say "sorry, but citizens of (pick any of the poorest EU countries with a history of economic migration to the UK) can no longer come to the UK visa-free", the EU will probably reply "sorry, no UK citizen can come to the EU visa-free" (note that this does not apply for existing relationships, like EU-US, but as a matter of principle, I'm pretty sure they will have a hard time accepting it in this case). Then it's a matter of deciding whether principles or the economic impact matter most, and who will chicken out first.

The same release says:

The UK government has declared its intention not to require a visa from citizens of the EU27 Member States for shorts stays for the purposes of tourism and business.

Now, between "declaring its intention" and actually implementing this into regulations, we have a few obstacles. We can hope reason will prevail and this will actually happen, but at the moment it's not a done deal.

So you may need a visa. Or you may not. Nobody knows. And in the meantime, you can't get a visa. Sorry to say so, but pick a destination outside of the EU if you want to be safe.

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    "So, even though it is widely expected that the EU will add the UK to the visa-exempt list, they will not be very inclined to do so if the UK does not grant visa-free travel to all EU citizens. And that's where the problem may arise." Sorry, but they're simply not gonna slap the UK on Annex I no matter what, or else they would^ve already done so to the US. Threatening with it as a means of blackmail is another thing. – Crazydre Dec 12 '18 at 23:53
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    @Crazydre As I wrote, the case of the US is different (because visa policies between the US and the various EU countries often predate their entry in the EU). In the case of the UK, principles may have a much higher value, as has been seen during all the Brexit negotiations. It's a lot of all-or-nothing, no cherry-picking, and I'm pretty sure they would be inclined to do the same in this case, and see who chickens out first. – jcaron Dec 12 '18 at 23:57
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    When Canada introduced visas for the citizens of Czech Republic, EU didn't do much. Czech Republic was part of Schengen already so it could not intoduce visas for Canadian nationals in reciprocity. – Vladimir F Dec 13 '18 at 9:12
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    @jcaron The original visa requirements were lifted after the Czech Republic joined the Schengen zone. However, they were subsequently reinstated in 2009, which lasted until 2013. This was not a pre-EU policy. – Emil Jeřábek Dec 13 '18 at 9:24
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    @EmilJeřábek Ah indeed, I had missed that part. However, if you check the Sixth Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on certain third countries' maintenance of visa requirements in breach of the principle of reciprocity (and the seventh) you'll see the EU actually did much, and actually threatened Canada with restrictions to visa-free travel for Canadians, and worked with them to restore the situation. Took a while, though. – jcaron Dec 13 '18 at 10:09
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I don't think anyone knows how yet how this will all work out. One link suggests that there will be free-movement transition period until 2021 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-visas-travel-free-movement-eu-commission-france-schengen-a8595991.html

On the other hand, some British airlines are nervous and Ryan Air has already warned of significant impact on stock price https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/brexit-flights-29-march-2019-flights-passport-customs-uk-eu-roaming-ehic-a8531866.html

I doubt there is anything pro-active you can do at the moment. Even if you apply for a Visa, the issuer wouldn't know what to do with your application since the rules aren't clear yet.

Other reading

https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/no-visa-free-traveling-brits-if-they-exit-the-eu-without-an-agreement/ https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/likelihood-of-post-brexit-uk-falling-under-etias-program-sparks-fury-among-britons/

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    If there is an agreement, there will be a two year transition period to work all this out. I am asking specifically about the no-agreement case. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 12 '18 at 17:56
  • We don't know that for sure. At the moment it's at least theoretically possible that EU and UK reaches another agreement than what is currently known (although the EU has clearly stated that won't happen), and that might not include a two year transition period. – Henrik Dec 12 '18 at 22:55
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You'll be able to visit without a visa for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

Can't prove it in the strictest sense, but although the EU may threaten with something else as part of the political game (the US has done this to the EU as well) there's simply no way it's actually going to happen when other low-risk nationalities are visa-exempt. It would be the highest degree of political idiocy.

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    Political idiocy has never, unfortunately, been a disqualifying condition. – David Dec 12 '18 at 19:26
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    @David There are limits for everything, and no one with half a braincell will seriously slap the UK (or the US) on Annex I. – Crazydre Dec 12 '18 at 21:43
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    @Crazydre Given the current political situation, there's arguably a lack of brain cells going around. – Mast Dec 13 '18 at 0:07
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    The second paragraph is seriously unlikely. The sticking points are freedom of trade/services and mobility of workers, not tourists or visitors. – smci Dec 13 '18 at 0:51
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    @jcaron Nope, just like the EU hasn't abolished the visa exemption for Americans. I did read your argument that it's because the deals between the US and EU states preceded the EU states' EU accession. Even still, as a matter of social and financial pragmatism, I simply can't see that ever happening. Had it been a semi-low risk country only, like Malaysia, that would be another thing. – Crazydre Dec 13 '18 at 18:30
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The UK passport office has published a document titled Passport rules for travel to Europe after Brexit. It suggests two things:

After 29 March 2019:

  1. You should have at least 6 months left on your passport from your date of arrival. This applies to adult and child passports.

  2. If you renewed a 10 year adult passport before it expired, extra months may have been added to your new passport’s expiry date, making it valid for more than 10 years. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months that should be remaining for travel to most countries in Europe.

Those points apply to Schengen countries only. For non-Schengen countries:

The new rules do not apply when travelling to Ireland.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are not in the Schengen area. You should check the entry requirements for these countries.

The word "visa" does not appear in that document, so it appears that the UK government believes that the EU will let UK citizens visit the Schengen area for up to 90 days visa-free.

  • 6 months? Haha, talk about being misinformed. Schengen regulations require 3 months beyond the period of intended stay – Crazydre Dec 13 '18 at 15:12
  • This document explains why they say 6 months: "at least 3 months’ validity remaining on the date of intended departure from the last country visited in the Schengen area. Because third country nationals can remain in the Schengen area for 90 days (approximately 3 months), the actual check carried out could be that the passport has at least 6 months validity remaining on the date of arrival." – legoscia Dec 13 '18 at 15:16
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    If you can document that you're not wishing to stay for the full 90 days, are they really allowed to refuse entry on these grounds? – Crazydre Dec 13 '18 at 15:17
  • @Crazydre indeed. Or better still, if one is reentering for 1 day only after having used 89 of the 90 days, there should be no argument that the passport requires 6 months' validity. – phoog Dec 13 '18 at 15:49
  • Them not mentioning visas does not really make it very comforting, it's more like they don't know. And indeed, they can't know, because the EU hasn't yet said they will let UK nationals in without a visa. They have said they will do so if the UK does the same, and the UK apparently said they would, but that has not yet been confirmed. – jcaron Dec 13 '18 at 18:05

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