Why UK travellers need passport stamps when visiting EU – and what will change next year

Holidays to France, Spain, Portugal – in fact any country within the EU – have become more complicated since 2019. Brexit and Covid collided to add extra hassle and paperwork to break on the Continent.

Passport requirements and travel limits now apply to UK citizens in the same way as other third-country arrivals. UK passport holders can only remain in the Schengen area or other non-Schengen countries for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

Stamping UK passports on entry and exit allows EU countries to check that travellers are complying with this time limit.

If you are using a UK passport and are not a resident of an EU, whenever you are entering or leaving an EU country you should get your passport stamped.

Some EU countries have said that UK passport holders can use e-gates for entry with a biometric passport. Travellers who choose to use these gates should also find a border official who can stamp the document.

Before Brexit, UK passport holders did not need to get their passports stamp when entering or leaving the bloc as they had rights to freedom of movement within the EU.

How EU entry rules will change in 2023

A new entry system will come into force for third-country nationals travelling into the EU next year. The new rules are expected to apply from May 2023.

The entry/exit system (EES) will record the movements of visitors from non-EU countries. Under this new system, UK passport holders will need to apply for an Eitas (The European Travel Information and Authorisation System).

An Eitas will be valid for three years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.

A fee of €7 (£6) will apply for all applicants aged 18–70.

Holding an Eitas will be a mandatory condition for entry to the countries within the Schengen area.

The application process should be a formality and the Eitas is not a visa, according to the European Commission.

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In more than 95 per cent of applications, the applicant will receive a positive answer within a few minutes.

Around five per cent of applications will receive further checks, but most will receive a positive decision after being handled by the Eitas central unit, according to the European Commission.

After the decision applicants will be given a response by email with a valid travel authorisation, or a justification for the refusal. If a person has been refused, they will retain the right to appeal.

What will happen when crossing a border into the EU?

When you arrive at a Schengen border crossing point, the travel document data will be electronically read.

Each time you visit the EU, the date and place of entry and exit will be recorded, plus your fingerprints and a biometric photograph.

If there is no valid Etias, then visitors will be refused entry in the Entry/Exit system.

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