Post-Brexit - Essential checklist for your school trip to Europe
27 Feb 2023, 11:33 by Kate Moore
Travel has changed now we've left the EU. We’ve sifted through the rules to explain the new passport, visa and EHIC rules for school trips to Europe in 2023 and 2024.
Preparing for a school trip to Europe in 2023/24 - top tips for organisers
- Everyone in the group needs to check their passport’s issue and expiry date and allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport if required
- Students and teachers will either need a valid EHIC card, or apply for a new GHIC, before travel
- Ensure the school trip has adequate travel insurance with medical cover
- Remind students to check their mobile phone provider’s roaming charges for your school trip destination
- From 2024 travellers will need to apply for a digital ETIAS pass to enter the EU
- Be prepared for additional checks at the border when the EU entry/exit system is introduced in 2024
All school trips to Europe in 2023
Check the rules on passport expiry and issue dates for your school trip destination
Before Brexit, British citizens could travel to EU countries on a passport right up to the point it expired. Now, each EU country sets its own entry rules relating to the validity of British passports.
For most EU countries - including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium - your passport must be:
- issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
To check the passport requirements for your specific destination visit the Foreign Office website.
Allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport if required.
Collective (group) passports may not be accepted on a school trip to Europe
Now we've left the EU, some countries have stopped accepting collective passports. To check the countries you can travel to, or through, on a collective passport click here.
It is unclear whether group passports can be used when the new ETIAS and EU Entry/Exit systems are introduced in 2024 and so we recommend that groups do not travel on a collective passport.
EHICs and school trip travel insurance
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in the EU and Switzerland. The EHIC can help reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses in the event that someone falls ill or has an accident while on a school trip to EU.
The good news is that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid in the EU until it expires. You’ll be able to replace your EHIC with a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) up to 6 months before your current card expires.
Applying for a GHIC is free of charge on the NHS website. Beware of unofficial websites that charge you a fee to apply.
Whether or not you have a GHIC or EHIC, your group will need travel insurance to cover emergency healthcare costs. All Voyager School Travel’s European school trips are fully protected by our specialist School Trip Insurance which includes enhanced COVID-19 medical and cancellation cover.
Don't get caught out by mobile roaming charges
The guarantee of free roaming throughout the EU ended on 1 January 2021. This means that if your operator has reintroduced roaming charges you may now be charged more for using your mobile device in the EU, Switzerland or Iceland.
EU visa rules for non-UK nationals in your group
Some EU countries curently offer their own visa exemptions for ‘third-country nationals’ on a school trip from the UK. Our understanding of the visa rules for third-country students visiting France can be found here. You can find a country-by-country list of visa exemption schemes for other EU destinations on the European Commission website (under “2 exemptions Article 6(2)”).
New requirements for school trips to Europe 2024
Changes at the border with the new EU entry/exit system from 2024
The new EU entry/exit system will collect the name, travel documents and biometric data of passengers who don't require a visa. Self-service passport booths will be introduced at the EU border and all travellers aged from 12 years will have their fingerprints collected as they enter Europe for the first time.
The EU entry/exit system is expected to be operational in 2024. Once introduced, you should allow extra time for your border crossing.
When you arrive in an EU country (except Ireland), be prepared to show your return ticket and proof of accommodation for your stay. We will provide these documents in your travel pack. You may also be asked to show that you have enough money for your stay.
New ETIAS visa rules for UK school groups visiting Europe in 2024
It is expected that UK nationals will need to apply online for an ETIAS to enter the EU Schengen Zone from 2024.
ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System and is designed to keep track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the EU, such as the UK. The EU’s ETIAS system is similar to the ESTA permit required to visit the US.
The ETIAS will be valid for 3 years and is expected to cost €7 per adult. Under 18’s in your group are exempt from any application fees but will still need a valid ETIAS to travel. Allow a week to apply for your ETIAS paperwork.
The ETIAS system is expected to come into force five to six months after the introduction of EU entry/exit system - currently scheduled for 2024.
The UK currently maintains a Common Travel Area with Ireland which allows unrestricted travel between the two countries.
More school trip planning advice from Voyager School Travel:
- The difference between ABTA & ATOL and how your school trip is protected
- Visa rules for non-UK students travelling to France
- How to ensure you have sufficient financial protection for your school trip
- Essential guide to restarting school trips