After Brexit – Rules for school trips to France 2023

— 9 Sep 2022 09:09:00 by Kate Moore

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Now that school groups are able to travel to France again, we’ve sifted through the rules to explain how Brexit will impact your school trip to France and what actions are required.

Preparing for a school trip to France in 2023 – Top tips for organisers 

  • Check your passport’s issue and expiry date and allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport if required 
  • Students and teachers will either need a valid EHIC card, or apply for a new GHIC, before travel 
  • Ensure the school trip has adequate travel insurance with medical cover  
  • Everyone should check their mobile phone provider’s roaming charges for France
  • Groups travelling by coach should allow extra time to pass through the passport e-gates being introduced at ports in 2023 
  • It is expected that everyone in your group will need to apply for a digital ETIAS pass to enter France towards the end of 2023  

Will anyone need a new passport? 

Before Brexit, you could travel to EU countries on your passport right up to the point it expired. Now, school groups will need to check the passport issue date and expiry date rules of the country they are visiting. The rules for British passport holders visiting France state that:

  • passports must be less than 10 years old on the day your group enters (check the 'date of issue')
  • passports must be valid for at least 3 months after the day your group leaves (check the 'expiry date')

Anyone who doesn't meet this criteria should allow plenty of time to apply for their new dark blue passport which replaces the burgundy-coloured EU document.  

Do school groups need a visa to travel to France?  

British school groups will need to apply online for a visa waiver to enter France on a school trip from late 2023. 

ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System and is similar to the ESTA permit required to visit the US. The EU system is designed to keep track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the EU, such as the UK.

The ETIAS will be valid for 3 years and is expected to cost €7 per adult. Under 18’s in your group are exempt from any application fees but will still need a valid ETIAS to travel. 

The delayed ETIAS system is expected to be operational in November 2023. The date from which travellers will be able to apply will be published on the European Commission website.

Are EHICs still valid?   

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in the EU. Though not a substitute for school travel insurance, the EHIC can help reduce out of pocket medical expenses in the event that someone falls ill or has an accident while on a school trip to EU. 

The good news is that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid in the EU until it expires. You’ll be able to replace your EHIC with a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) up to 6 months before it expires. 

Applying for a GHIC is free of charge on the NHS website. Beware of unofficial websites that charge you a fee to apply. 

Do we need school group travel insurance?  

Whether or not you have a GHIC or EHIC, your group will need travel insurance to cover emergency healthcare costs. We offer specialist School Trip Insurance which includes enhanced COVID-19 medical and cancellation cover. 

Will things be different at the border?

Yes. New airport-style e-gates are being introduced at Channel ports to replace the current system of manually stamping passports at the EU border. The new automated entry system is expected to be operational at the end of May 2023. Once in place, school groups to Normandy by coach will need to allow extra time to disembark the coach and pass through the new automated booths. 

Also, when you arrive in France, be prepared to show your return ticket and proof of accommodation for your stay. We will provide these documents in your travel pack. You may also be asked to show that you have enough money for your stay. 

What about mobile roaming? 

The guarantee of free roaming throughout the EU ended on 1 January 2021. This means that if your operator has reintroduced roaming charges you may now be charged more for using your mobile device in France.

The UK and EU have agreed to cooperate on “fair and transparent” rates for mobile roaming and the government has passed laws to protect customers including: 

  • A £45-a-month cap on using mobile data abroad (then you must opt in to use more) 
  • Requirements for customers to be informed when they've reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance 

Can I take food into the EU after Brexit?

You are not allowed to bring any dairy or meat products into the EU from the UK and so don’t be tempted to pack chocolate, biscuits, Bovril or any other products that contain prohibited ingredients. The only exception is powdered infant milk and special foods required for medical reasons. Read more on the EU website. 

What about COVID-19 travel restrictions for school trips to Europe? 

These requirements relate to school trips to France following Brexit.

For up to date COVID-19 school travel advice, please visit our COVID-19 Travel hub