Germany Seeks Passport-Free Travel for UK Students on School Trips, Exchanges

| January 9, 2024
Germany Seeks Passport-Free Travel for UK Students on School Trips, Exchanges

Germany is lobbying with the United Kingdom’s (UK) Home Office to ease post-Brexit travel restrictions for UK students on organized school trips and exchanges. 

BNN Breaking reported that Germany’s Ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger has also affirmed Germany’s readiness to receive British students.

Berger suggested the potential consideration of waiving passport requirements for educational trips.

This will make traveling to Germany more accessible and appealing to UK students.

The German Embassy in London initiated the request to allow youngsters to travel to Germany more easily.

It is part of a larger initiative to encourage British teenagers to study German.

Reviving interest in the German language for UK students

Allowing for more accessible travel to Germany is part of a larger initiative to revive interest in the German language. 

Notable German personalities, football teams, a TikTok star, and even a finalist at The Great British Bake Off have been advocating for more UK students to study German for one of their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).

UK students aged 14 to 16 in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and other British territories typically take the GCSE series of exams. They are not required to do so, but many do. 

British teenagers’ interest in studying the German language has significantly declined over the past two decades.

In 2023, only 34,700 UK students took German at the GCSE level. This is a sharp decline from the 125,600 students who took the course in 2003.

The number has also dwindled at the Advanced Level (A-level), dropping from 6,950 to 2,358. British students aged 16 to 18 take the A-Level exams instead of the GSCE.

Most GCSE students study between five and 25 subjects, including Math, Science, and English. In Wales, pupils are required to learn Welsh. 

Aside from Welsh and German, other modern language options in the GSCEs are Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Somali, Turkish, Tamil, and Urdu.

UK-German funding program for teachers

Germany has also launched a new funding program to boost the initiative further.

The UK German Connection Professional Enrichment Programme grants up to £1,000 to British teachers. The amount covers the cost of a one- to two-week visit to a German school. 

The program aims to offer British teachers firsthand experience with the German education system.

This could potentially supplement and improve teachers’ instruction methods in the UK.

UK eased post-Brexit restrictions for French school trips

In December 2023, the British government implemented new measures to simplify travel for French school trips in the UK.

Children who are European Union (EU), European Economic Area, or Swiss nationals can now use their national identity cards for school trips to the UK.

Non-EU students are still required to travel on their passports but no longer need a visitor visa.

The change came after the number of educational trips drastically decreased after Brexit. 

Approximately 10,000 school trips from France to the UK were organized annually pre-Brexit. This contributed £100 million to the economy through travel companies. 

However, post-Brexit regulations required EU children to use passports instead of ID cards when entering the UK.

On the other hand, non-EU students had to obtain a visitor visa for UK school trips. 

Many French students who did not have passports and those who needed visas saw it as a nuisance to visit the Embassy and spend for it.

Post-Brexit travel regulations

The UK and French governments may have agreed to allow easier travel for school trips. However, French citizens traveling to the UK must still follow post-Brexit immigration regulations. 

Starting in 2024, French and other EU citizens and other travelers who do not need a visa to visit the UK will need to obtain a UK Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for short trips. 

Non-visa individuals will still need an appropriate UK visa for extended stays in the UK or specific purposes like work.

Conversely, post-Brexit EU travel rules will apply to UK citizens not part of a school trip or exchange.

If negotiations between the German Embassy and the UK Home Office are successful, relaxed travel restrictions will only apply to students on educational trips.

UK citizens visiting France, Germany, and other countries in the Schengen Area can travel without a visa for up to 90 days within any 180-day period. 

In 2025, as third-country nationals, British citizens will be required to present an ETIAS or a European Travel Information and Authorization for short visits to the EU. 

Those who plan to stay longer or work in any EU member state will need a resident permit or appropriate visa.