New entry hurdles to Europe await British passport holders

Fingerprint scans to be introduced for Schengen entry, while UK prepares for its own visa tango with EU citizens in 2025

Fingerprints and photos will become mandatory for EU trips starting from October 2024. Reem Mohammed / The National
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British passport holders will encounter new entry requirements when visiting the European Union from October 6, 2024, it has been announced.

This change results from Britons becoming “third-country nationals” following Brexit.

The EU’s Entry/Exit System (EES) mandates that British passport holders travelling to the Schengen area must register fingerprints and have their pictures taken, starting from their first visit after October 6 and on each subsequent entry.

The EES, designed to bolster border security against terrorist threats, will replace traditional passport stamping with an automated IT system.

While aimed at streamlining the entry process, concerns have been raised about potential border delays, particularly for cars entering France through the Channel Tunnel.

The Schengen area includes most EU members (excluding Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania), as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The implementation of EES was initially set for May but faced delays due to IT issues and was postponed to avoid coinciding with the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Airlines have cautioned about potential delays during the biometric registration for British passport holders.

A Thomas Cook spokesman told The National: “Any additional visa costs will undoubtedly raise the price of holidays. As a result, holidaymakers will likely compare the costs of European holiday packages with those in destinations outside Europe.

“Airports across Europe now have plenty of time to prepare for the introduction and while there may be some short-term disruption in the most popular destinations, given the time of year we would hope our customers would only experience a short delay to the start of their holiday.

“We will be sharing advice with customers closer to the time to help them prepare but for those customers who have visited the USA on a recent holiday the process will be familiar to them.”

He also addressed the timing of these changes, noting their implementation will not cause disruption until 2025 at the earliest.

“October half-term is our peak period,” he added. "Typically, travellers during this time prefer warmer destinations like the Caribbean and Egypt. These holidaymakers won't be affected by the new rules."

Delays at Dover as summer getaway begins – in pictures

Eurotunnel, operating the LeShuttle service between Folkestone and Calais, confirmed an October 6, 2024, start date.

Getlink, the Channel Tunnel operator, is investing £67 million in new facilities in Kent to process up to 500 cars per hour.

Eurotunnel told The National it was working to adapt its terminals with a new pre-checkin zone and digital equipment. It plans to release more details next year.

Dover, the UK's busiest port, may also see increased delays due to limited space.

UK entry rules change in 2025

Europe's new travel information system explained

Europe's new travel information system explained

In contrast, EU citizens entering the UK will not face new procedures for now.

EU arrivals into the UK will continue as usual until new electronic travel authorisation (ETA) and visa-waiver requirements take effect in 2025.

From 2025, EU passport holders will need the UK's ETA before departure.

Additionally, a visa-waiver scheme will be introduced, requiring online applications.

This scheme will cost €7 ($7.68) and will be valid for three years or until passport expiration.

Travellers are advised to apply for these at least 96 hours before departure to allow time for processing.

Updated: December 19, 2023, 3:30 PM