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Your essential EU travel checklist

— 19 Dec 2023 09:09:00 by Kate Moore

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Embarking on a French trip to one our of residential centres in France? Ensure a seamless journey with our comprehensive guide to the latest EU border, passport and visa rules. We've sifted through the complexities, so you can focus on the educational adventure ahead.

Preparing for a residential in France – top tips for teachers and parents

  • Verify your passport validity well in advance and allow plenty of time for a new application if needed
  • Students and teachers will need a valid EHIC card, or apply for a new GHIC, ahead of the trip
  • From October 2024, groups will need to allow plenty of time to register their biometric data at the EU border
  • Check mobile roaming charges with your provider

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 need to check the passport eligibility rules for their school trip destination. 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 passport. 

Are EHICs still valid?   

The EHIC gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in France. 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 in the 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. 

New EU rules apply to school trips to France from October 2024

The 2024/25 academic year sees the introduction of the Entry/Exit System (EES) and European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) for visitors to France and other EU countries. Here's what you need to know about the proposed systems:

EES machines will collect fingerprint data from Autumn 2024

  • New booths are being introduced at EU borders to collect travellers' fingerprints and facial data 
  • Similar to the self-service passport machines you see at airports, the new EES booths will be operational at the continental border and the ports of Dover and Folkestone from 6 October 2024
  • You will need to allow plenty of time for your whole group to pass through the machines and register their biometric data before boarding your ferry or Eurotunnel crossing

ETIAS expected from Spring 2025

  • Non-EU passport holders will need to apply online for an ETIAS to enter Europe from Spring 2025 
  • The ETIAS visa waiver gives the holder permission to enter EU for 3 years and will cost €7 for adults
  • Though ETIAS applications are free for under 18s, parents/guardians will still need to apply online for each child travelling to France

Group passport caution

Some countries no longer accept collective/group passports and we do not yet know how group passports will operate alongside the new EES and ETIAS systems. To avoid border issues we recommend against using a collective passport.

What about non-British/non-EU nationals on my French trip?  

Some EU countries offer visa exemptions for 'third country nationals' on a school trip. 

What other paperwork do we need?

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.

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! The EU website states that the only exception is special foods required for medical reasons.

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