Why are you travelling, where are you staying and how is your health? After Brexit, these are some of the online questions British travellers will have to answer online before they travel to Europe.
The onerous post-Brexit travel rules are revealed in the draft legislation for dealing with “visa-exempt third country nationals”, which is what British travellers are likely to become after the UK leaves the EU.
The new regulations will increase the cost and complexity of holidays and business trips to the Schengen Area, which includes 22 EU countries plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Red tape for travellers will be more tangled, with UK passport holders forced to pay for an online permit even for a “booze cruise” to Calais, a weekend in Amsterdam or a Northern Lights trip to the Arctic.
The proposed “European Travel Information and Authorisation System” (ETIAS) aims to identify anyone thought to pose “a security, or irregular illegal immigration or public health risk”. The scheme aims to tackle terrorism and crime by obliging prospective visitors to anywhere in the Schengen Area to fill in a detailed online form.
They must provide details of “his or her identity, travel document, residence information, contact details, education and current occupation”. This includes job title and employer, and, for students, the name of educational establishment.
Travellers will also have to answer questions about their state of health, particularly any infectious diseases. They must supply details of any serious convictions, including for "racism and xenophobia", and to explain any previous presence in war or conflict zones.
The address where they will be staying on the first night must also be given.
Some British travellers will inevitably fall foul of a new requirement for a passport to be valid for at least three months. Currently, passports are valid for travel anywhere in the European Union up to and including the date of expiry.
The draft law brings in another potential hazard: a passport “issued more than 10 years before”. British passports can be valid for 10 years and nine months, which means someone attempting to use their passport with nine months’ validity remaining could be rejected.
“The new passport process will be interesting,” said Ted Wake, director of Kirker Holidays.
Yet the extra hassle involved in ETIAS scheme, and the €5 fee involved, could drive interest to non-Schengen nations, such as Montenegro, Albania and Serbia.
“We expect to find that the more sympathetic countries win floating travellers, especially for short breaks,” said Mr Wake.
The permit will valid for three years, or until the passport runs out.
For the first six months of the scheme, ETIAS will not be mandatory. There will be a further grace period of six months, in which otherwise eligible travellers will, on one occasion only, be allowed in.
Airlines, ferry firms, train operators and coach companies will be in the front line of enforcement, since they will be required to verify “that travellers are in possession of a valid travel authorisation”.
The arrivals areas in European airports which handle a large number of UK holidaymakers, including Alicante, Barcelona, Faro, Malaga and Palma, may need to be re-modelled to take account of the shift of a large number of passengers from intra-EU to “third country” status.
Neil Taylor, former director of Regent Holidays, said: “In the travel business, we were beginning to think that long queues would only affect lorries at Dover waiting hours to cross the Channel.
“If we look at the queues this weekend, how will airports handle the much longer ones that this change in policy will bring about?”
Yet the proposals hold out some hope that passport queues could actually be cut. They predict the ETIAS will “contribute to the facilitation of border checks by reducing the number of refusals of entry at the external borders”.
This weekend is one of the busiest of what is a record summer for British travellers going abroad. In April, the Schengen Area brought in new rules stipulating all passports are checked against EU and international databases. The peak holiday season is exposing shortcomings in staffing, with holidaymakers joining queues to enter and leave many European airports.
Pressure is particularly intense on flights from Spanish airports such as Alicante, Malaga and Palma, from where large numbers of British holidaymakers are flying home.
Airlines including British Airways, easyJet, Monarch and Ryanair have urged passengers to arrive at the airport three hours before departure, though some travellers complained that they had to wait a further hour for check-in desks to open.
Some passengers failed to make their flights, particularly at Barcelona where security staff staged a series of one-hour strikes. More are planned for Sunday and Monday.
Adam Boad, who was flying from Barcelona to Naples – and therefore had no passport issues to contend with – said: “Bag drop was the normal 20-30 minutes. The security queue for me was one hour, 50 minutes, with the queue growing behind. I made it, but only just.
“If somebody turned up the customary two hours prior to flight they had no chance.”
The Association of British Insurers said that travel insurance would not cover passengers who missed flights. A spokesperson told The Independent: “Airlines and airports should be working together to minimise disruption for customers, but it is also really important that travellers follow advice to allow extra time before their departure.
“Travel insurance can cover costs when a flight is missed because of unforeseen delays but the current hold-ups at international airports have been well-publicised and holidaymakers need to take reasonable steps to allow for them.”
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