UK removes passport requirement for EU children on school trips from France

EU children on school trips from France will be allowed to enter the UK using only their national identity card instead of a passport, the British government has announced in a partial reverse of rules enforced after the country left the European Union.

As of 28 December 2023, school children up to age 18 who live and study in France will be able to visit the UK on an organised trip with an ID only, if they are citizens of an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

Children who are citizens of other countries will still have to use their passport to go on school trips to the UK, but they will not be required a visa, even if they would usually need one.

The new rules apply only to organised trips and groups will have to use the ‘France-UK school trip travel information form’.

All other children from EU, the EEA and Swiss schools will still need a passport to visit the UK and, if they are citizens from other countries, they may also need a visa.

Travelling on IDs

Before Brexit, EU citizens could travel to the UK using only their identity cards, as it is the case in most European countries.

European identity cards are accepted travel documents within the EU and the EEA, as well as in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Svalbard, Georgia (excluding Abkhazia/South Ossetia), Moldova, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City and the French Overseas Territories.

The UK introduced the passport requirement in October 2021. Only certain categories, including EU, EEA or Swiss citizens with pre-settled and settled status in the UK, can still travel to the UK on an identity card.

Before Brexit, children from non-EU countries studying in the EU could participate in school trips to the UK without a visa based on the list of travellers scheme, which was also removed after Brexit. Some EU countries, including France, maintain their own visa exemptions for school trips from the UK.

Massive drop in school trips

New border rules caused a massive drop in study trips from the EU to the UK. A survey by the UK Tourism Alliance showed that the number of children visiting the country had dropped by 84% between 2019 and 2022 (from 524,000 to 82,000).

The group warned that “organisational problems” were leading families to choose English-speaking countries in the EU, such as Ireland and Malta.

‘Not enough’

Emma English, Executive Director of the British Educational Travel Association (BETA), said the change is “a positive step” but “it does not go all the way to meeting the needs of our industry.”

BETA calls for the establishment of a Youth Group Travel Scheme “that would allow supervised groups of EU nationals and residents under the age of 18 to travel to the UK for a period of up to 6 weeks to take part in group educational tours, school immersions, English language courses and organised cultural, educational and sporting visits aimed at youth and student groups.”

“We will push for the expansion of this scheme in France and call that it be expanded to our European neighbours,” English added.

The group noted “this is not a pilot scheme as previously indicated” but “a permanent change to the UK’s immigration rules”.

More changes

Earlier in April, the administration of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands and a self-governing British Crown Dependency, decided to allow French citizens to enter with an ID only for day-return trips.

The scheme was initially adopted for six months. It was then extended until 30 September 2024, with ongoing talks to expand it to visits of up to three days.

Claudia Delpero, Europe Street News © all rights reserved

Photo via Pixabay

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