UK Eases Travel Rules for French School Trips

| December 8, 2023
UK Eases Travel Rules for French School Trips

The British government announced new measures to simplify travel for French school trips.

The changes come after the number of educational trips drastically decreased after the United Kingdom (UK) exited the European Union (EU) or Brexit.

French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed to a bilateral deal in March 2023.

UK Home Office Secretary James Cleverly presented the changes to immigration rules at the House of Commons on 7 December 2023.

“We are making changes to allow children aged 18 and under, studying at a school in France, to visit the UK on an organized educational trip without the usual passport or visit visa requirements,” Cleverly said during his speech at the House of Commons.

New travel rules for French school trips

Children who are EU, EEA, or Swiss nationals will be able to use their national identity cards for school trips to the UK.

Non-EU children will still be required to travel on their passports but no longer need a visitor visa.

The revised travel rules will take effect on 28 December 2023. It only applies if all the following conditions are met:

  • Students are aged 18 years old or younger
  • Students are enrolled in a school or educational institution in France that is authorized by the French Ministry of Education.
  • Students are traveling to the UK as part of a group of five, which their school or institution organized.

Complex post-Brexit rules for school trips

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

However, after Brexit, new travel rules led to a significant decrease in school trips. Teachers reported facing difficulties when arranging trips for their students.

Post-Brexit travel regulations required children who are EU citizens to use passports instead of ID cards when entering the UK.

In addition, non-EU students must obtain a visitor visa to join school trips to the UK from France.

Around half of French citizens don’t have passports, as they can travel within the EU with their national ID cards.

School authorities with non-EU student populations did not want to leave behind children who require a visa.

They also do not want to require them to get a visa. This involves a £100 fee and a trip to the British Embassy in Paris.

French citizens visiting the UK

Travel rules for other French individuals traveling to the UK and UK citizens visiting France will remain the same.

French travelers need a passport as ID cards are no longer accepted. They do not need a visa for short stays in the UK of up to six months.

In 2024, however, all visa-exempt travelers, including the French, will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for short trips to the UK. It is valid for tourism, visiting family and friends, business, study, and transit.

French citizens will require an appropriate UK visa for extended stays, work, or study.

UK citizens traveling to France, Schengen Area member states

British citizens can travel to France, which is part of the Schengen area, without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The 90-day limit applies to the overall length of stay in the Schengen Area.

This applies to tourists, visiting family or friends, attending business meetings, cultural or sports events, and short-term studies or training.

In 2025, the EU will require British citizens and other visa-exempt nationals to have an ETIAS or a European Travel Information and Authorization for short visits of up to three months.

For extended stays or visits for work or study in the Schengen Area, UK citizens will require the proper visa or resident permit.

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