Post-Brexit - preparing for a school trip to Europe
18 Jan 2023, 11:33 by Kate Moore
Now that school trips to Europe are back, we’ve sifted through the rules to explain how Brexit will impact your school trip and what actions are required in the short and long term.
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
- It is expected that all travellers will need to apply for a digital ETIAS pass to enter the EU from November 2023
What are the passport validity rules for school trips to Europe?
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.
Make sure to allow plenty of time to apply for your new dark blue passport (which replaces the burgundy-coloured EU document) as the resumption of travel has caused backlogs at the Passport Office.
Are collective (group) passports still valid on a school trip to Europe?
Collective passports are a group travel document for up to 50 children with British nationality. Now we have left the EU, some countries have stopped accepting them. To check the countries you can travel to, or through, on a collective passport click here.
Do we need to apply for a visa or ETIAS for a European school trip?
It is expected that UK nationals will need to apply online for an ETIAS to enter the EU Schengen Zone from 2023. 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.
The ETIAS system is expected to be operational in November 2023. The confirmed date from which travellers will be able to apply will be published on the European Commission website.
The UK currently maintains a Common Travel Area with Ireland which allows unrestricted travel between the two countries.
The situation differs for non-British/non-EU students. Some EU countries 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)”).
Also, 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.
Are EHICs still valid?
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in the EU and Switzerland. Though not a substitute for school travel insurance, 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.
Do we need school trip travel insurance?
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.
What about mobile roaming in EU countries?
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.
What are the rules about taking food into the EU after Brexit?
You are not allowed to bring any dairy or meat products into the EU from the UK and so don’t be tempted to pack chocolate, biscuits, Bovril or any other products that contain prohibited ingredients. The only exception is special foods required for medical reasons. Read more on the EU website.
More school trip planning advice from Voyager School Travel:
- The difference between ABTA & ATOL and how your school trip is protected
- How to ensure you have sufficient financial protection for your school trip
- Essential guide to restarting school trips