At the beginning of April this year, the Council and European Parliament agreed that UK citizens will be able to travel to the EU territory visa-free. This doesn’t mean that they will only need their passport to enter the Schengen area — in all likelihood, they will need to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization.
After several delays, the current Brexit timeline sees October 31st, 2019 as the new deadline. This means that by then, a final decision must be made regarding the exit treaty. October is also when a new 5-year political cycle starts for the European Commission.
However, the decision regarding UK citizens visiting the EU is unlikely to change — that is, if the principle of reciprocity is observed by all parts.
Travel to Spain from the UK: How It Is Now
Right now, the UK is still officially in the EU. That means that British nationals hold European passports like all other European citizens. After booking their flights, they don’t need to apply for visas or other forms of travel authorization.
All they have to do in order to be granted entry into Spain (and all other EU countries) is just make sure to have their passport or other internationally recognized ID with them at the airport or land border.
Most airports nowadays have modern ePassport gates — automated self-service barriers that let travelers who hold biometric passports skip the queue for the traditional desks staffed by immigration officers. The machines at the ePassport gates use facial recognition technology to verify the passenger’s identity.
Do UK Citizens Need an ETIAS for Spain Following Brexit?
Once the UK officially leaves the EU, things will change. British nationals still won’t need a visa, but in order to travel to Spain after Brexit, UK passport holders will need to be granted an ETIAS.
ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) is a new visa waiver program that Schengen countries have designed in order to simplify and have better control over travel into and within the Schengen area. It will come into full effect by the end of 2022.
ETIAS is not a visa but instead a travel authorization that will allow travelers from over 60 countries to visit territories within the Schengen area for up to 90 days. Whether they travel for business or tourism, visitors will need to fill an ETIAS application form online before entering Europe.
The application will be quick and straightforward and will save travelers the time and effort of having to visit an embassy in person.
Conditions for ETIAS to Be Implemented
Since being granted an ETIAS authorization basically means the possibility to be allowed entry into Schengen territories visa-free, the European condition of reciprocity must apply. Under EU regulation, visa exemption is granted by the EU only to countries that in return apply the same policy to EU citizens.
This means that Britons will be able to apply for an ETIAS Spain for UK citizens only if Spaniards will be allowed to visit the United Kingdom visa-free. So far, the UK government has informed the EU that they do not intend to require visas for EU citizens following Brexit. Of course, the ETIAS is meant for short stays only (and not permanent immigration purposes) and the same is to be expected for the visa-free system that the UK will implement for EU passport holders.
Should the UK introduce visa requirements for citizens of an EU country, the condition of reciprocity would be violated. The other EU members and the European Parliament would then proceed to review the situation and potentially pause the ETIAS program for British nationals. In that case, visa-free entry to Spain would be at risk.
Travel to Gibraltar from the UK after Brexit
Back in 2016, 96% of the Gibraltar population voted to remain in the EU during the referendum but the Brexit results apply to the territory. The economy of Gibraltar relies heavily on easy access to the EU and special financial and tax agreements, and a visa-free system is very welcome news.
Although there’s still no official mention of Gibraltar in the European Council’s statement, it’s very likely that the ETIAS system will be applied to Gibraltar residents too.