Further to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, there are new travel considerations to take into account for individuals and groups travelling to Europe.

Please note that the list of considerations below is not exhaustive. If you or any of your students have specific nationality circumstances to consider before travelling, you should check the UK Government website.

Passports

You should check that everyone has their own passport or apply for a group passport if applicable.

To be eligible to enter the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland from the United Kingdom, your passport will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Valid for at least a further six months
  • Less than ten years old (even if it has less than six months validity left)

This rule does not apply to travel to the Republic of Ireland, where you can use your passport for entry as long as it is valid for the duration of your stay.

Remember that you will now need to use separate lanes from EU citizens, and may need to provide return ticket or onward travel details as proof for your visit. 

Group passports

A collective (or group) passport is a way for an organised group of young people to make a trip to certain European countries. A collective passport costs £39 and takes six weeks to be processed.

Between five and 50 children can travel on a group passport. If there are more than 50 in the group, you can split the group and apply for two or more passports.

Everyone on the group passport must be a British national and under the age of 18 by the end of the trip.

A group leader must be named on the passport. The group leader must be over 21 and have a British passport themselves. The passport is invalid if the group leader cannot travel, but if a deputy leader is named on the application, they can take over.

Visas

As a tourist with British Citizenship, if you are travelling to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland for a period of less than 90 days within a 180-day period you will not need to obtain a visa. You can check the short-stay visa calculator provided by the European Commission to check. 

Different rules apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, therefore it is recommended to check the individual country’s travel guidance page

Pupils from third countries who are legally resident in the UK must be in possession of their own valid passport, containing an endorsement that they have permission to enter or remain in the UK. 

The European Travel Information and Authorisation Scheme (ETIAS) that was foreseen to come into force in 2022 has been delayed to 2023. Full British citizens will apply online in advance of their visit and a security check will be done before their arrival (similar to the ESTA requirement of the US). An ETIAS will be valid for 3 years from date of issue, with information stored electronically against passport details in the European Immigration system. It will cost approximately €7 per person.

List of Travellers visa scheme

Due to the changes to border regulations, the list of travellers’ visa scheme is no longer be available for use. Therefore, you should check with the local consulate in your chosen country to identify if any specific measures for non-UK/EU/EEA travellers attending a visit will need to be met. You should do this at the earliest opportunity prior to travel.

A list of ways in which to explore options for contacting overseas offices by country can be found on the UK Government website.

Healthcare

If you held a valid EHIC provided before 1 January 2021, you can still use as normal whilst travelling in the European Union provided that it has not expired.

If you meet the following criteria, you will be eligible to apply for a new EHIC card:

  • UK student studying in the EU
  • Some British State Pensioners who live in the EU and their families
  •  EU nationals in the UK.

For most people, the UK Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC) replaces the existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for new applications. Each individual teacher and student that are travelling will need a E/GHIC card. You can apply for healthcare cover abroad, and find out more about eligibility and coverage, on the NHS website.

If you travel to Europe without a E/GHIC card, or lose it, you can get a Provisional Replacement Certificate by contacting NHS Overseas Healthcare Service. Depending on the country you visit you may be expected to pay all or part of your bill upfront and then claim a refund afterwards.

Some countries ask patients to pay a ‘co-payment’ contribution towards the costs, which is not refundable. Keep all receipts and any paperwork. You or your insurance company may need them if you're applying for a refund

You can find the guide to National Social Security systems in EU countries on the European Commission website

If you’re travelling to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you should get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you travel and ensure it covers any pre-existing conditions that were previously covered by your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Neither the EHIC nor the GHIC cards includes repatriation, nor replaces travel insurance. It doesn’t cover lost or stolen property. It is the schools’ responsibility to ensure appropriate travel insurance. Please note that some insurers may not provide coverage if you do not have a valid EHIC or GHIC, therefore please do be aware of this upon purchase.

If any of the students or teachers travelling have long-term illness or existing injuries, you may need to check insurance options to ensure they are covered.

Here is an example of what to do step by step if you need to use the EHIC or GHIC card in an EU country. 

Travel insurance

It is the school’s responsibility to make sure adequate insurance is arranged for the visit. 

Check what is covered in the insurance. Think about:

  • travel issues, such as cancellation, luggage and early return
  • third party liability
  • medical assistance
  • accident and serious illness
  • repatriation
  • death
  • legal assistance fees
  • special insurance for particular circumstances such as outdoor activities
  • financial protection from Covid-19 cancellation.

Check if the school’s insurance already covers teachers and staff for accident and liability, also when abroad. 

Your school could consider the government’s Risk Protection Arrangement for schools, if eligible. 

New bookings and financial protection (COVID-19 cancellation)

There is operational guidance for schools available, including advice about new bookings of residential educational visits. 

Roaming charges on phones

Rules around mobile data roaming have changed in EU countries. You or your students may face charges when using your phone abroad, including for making calls, sending messages or using the internet. 

Check with the mobile phone providers about their data roaming policy. Consider using WIFI more. 

Once the account reaches £45 spend in one billing period, the user has to opt-in to continue.

COVID-19

The school is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the students involved in the trip, including any requirements related to COVID-19. Remember to check both UK rules and the rules of other countries. The traffic light status of EU countries (Red, Amber, Green) can be found on the UK Government website. Air travel regulations for all countries can be found on the IATA website.  

COVID-19 is now a known risk, so many insurance policies will have exclusions for cancellation cover. Many tour operators, travel agents and airlines have options for refunds or making alternative arrangements. Check out the Association of British Insurers website for more Q&A related to insurance and COVID-19

The Department of Education has schools COVID-19 operational guidance, including a section on educational visits.

Additional advice

  • If it’s your first time in the role of Visit Leader, the guidance from OEAP can be a useful place to start
  • If you intend to drive to Europe, check you have all the documents needed, including green card proving insurance cover
  • You should remember that looked-after children will require a letter of authority to let them travel abroad
  • Any accompanying adult not employed by the school must have a DBS criminal background check completed
  • A risk log/register should be kept updated throughout the preparations for the visit, identifying potential risks and recommended mitigations.