Your essential checklist for your school trip to Europe post-Brexit
10 Oct 2023, 11:33
by Kate Moore
We’ve sifted through the rules to explain the new passport, visa and EHIC rules for school trips to Europe now, and in the future.
Top tips to prepare for a school trip to Europe
- Everyone must verify their passport is valid & allow plenty of time to apply for a new one if required
- Students and teachers need a valid EHIC, or to apply for a new GHIC well before they travel
- Get students to check their mobile phone providers' roaming charges
Check the passport validity rules for your 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:
- Date of issue must be less than 10 years before the date you enter the country
- Expiry date must be at least 3 months after the day you leave the country
To check the passport requirements for your specific destination, visit the Foreign Office website. You must allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport if required.
EHICs are being replaced by GHICs
The EHIC/GHIC gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in the EU and Switzerland and 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 medical and cancellation cover.
EU visa rules for non-UK/non-EU nationals
Some EU countries offer their own visa exemptions for ‘third-country nationals’ on a school trip from the UK.
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)”).
Read our understanding of the visa rules for third-country students visiting France.
Try to avoid collective passports
Some countries stopped accepting collective/group passports once the UK left the EU. Check the countries you can still travel to on a collective passport. To avoid worry at the border, we recommend that groups don't use a collective passport.
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. If you are travelling by ferry, be careful not to connect to the ship's marine satellite phone network, which is even more expensive than standard EU roaming charges.
ETIAS checks delayed until May 2025 at the earliest
You may have heard about new EES and ETIAS systems being proposed for non-EU nationals travelling to Europe. The good news is that both systems have been delayed until May 2025 meaning that school groups travelling to Europe next year will not be affected.
Here's what you need to know about the proposed entry systems:
- The Entry/Exit System (EES) is expected to collect biometric data, such as face recognition and fingerprints, at the EU border using booths similar to the passport machines you see at airports
- The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is a visa waiver scheme for UK citizens, similar to ESTA in the USA. An ETIAS is expected to cost €7 (free for under 18s) and be valid for 3 years
- EES and ETIAS rules do not apply to school trips to Ireland as the UK currently maintains a Common Travel Area with Ireland
- The much-delayed systems are not expected to be operational until May 2025 at the earliest
More school trip planning advice from Voyager School Travel:
- Visa rules for non-UK students travelling to France
- Essential tips for taking a school trip by ferry
- The difference between ABTA & ATOL and how your school trip is protected