SHARE
COPY LINK

BREXIT

EU or non-EU? Which passport queue should Brits use after Brexit?

Brexit might have become reality, but Brits shouldn't experience any changes to travel within the EU until the end of the year. Although don't be surprised if officials, perhaps unwittingly try to usher you into the wrong passport queue.

EU or non-EU? Which passport queue should Brits use after Brexit?
Photo: AFP

At midnight on January 31st, the UK entered the so-called “transition period”, during which negotiations on post-Brexit deals are set to take place.

That period lasts until December 31st 2020, unless it is extended on agreement by both Brussels and London.

But until then, British citizens still benefit from freedom of movement within the EU.

So while Brits may no longer be EU citizens they are still treated as such when it comes to travelling in and out of the EU.

That means joining the queue for EU citizens at airports, ports and railway stations.

But don't be surprised if you run into some difficulty with officials who aren't aware of the rules.

One British resident of Sweden reported his experience of using his UK passport at Stockholm's Arlanda airport early on Sunday morning, just over a day after the UK officially left the EU.

He was told he should join the non-EU passport queue, and added that the official he spoke to was unaware of the transition period.

At airports, Brits should use the EU passport queue rather than the non-EU or 'all passports queue'. A press officer at Swedavia, which runs Sweden's larger airports, confirmed this to The Local.

While travelling within the EU, there will be no roaming charges on mobile phones and there are also no changes to driving rules (in other words, a British licence is valid in the EU and vice versa, with no requirement for an international driving permit).

As for what happens after December 31st 2020, that seems to depend on what is agreed between London and Brussels during the 11-month transition period.

Although the British government's website suggest the rules “will” change from January 1st 2021 and that includes which queue Britons are supposed to join.

The government's advice website for travel after January 1st 2021 reads “Border control: you may have to show your return ticket and money”

“At border control, you may need to show a return or onward ticket, show you have enough money for your stay or use separate lanes from EUEEA and Swiss citizens when queueing”.

The government also notes that the “guarantee of free mobile roaming may end”. 

 

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. Nobody seems to know the answer. I Brit and my wife French visit our daughters in the uk a few times a year. We will obviously be in the same (French registered) car. Which lane should we join in Calais and Dover? I am quite sure we are not the only couple in this situation and after 47 years marriage never expected this.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

SHOW COMMENTS