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Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents

The European Commission has asked border police from member states across the bloc not to stamp the passports of those British nationals protected by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents
A person holds up a British National passport (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

Britons living across the EU have long been concerned about the knock-on effect of their passport being wrongly stamped when travelling in and out of the Schengen zone.

While British officials at embassies across Europe have repeatedly stressed the passports of those Britons protected by the Brexit deal should not be stamped, those instructions appear not to have filtered through to border guards.

The erroneous stamps have left many passport holders resident in the EU worrying about being accused of overstaying the 90-day limit in their host country.

This week the EU Commission has stressed that passports should not be stamped, but reassured Britons that if they are there will be no negative consequences.

“The Commission recommends – notably as regards beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement – that Member State border guards refrain from stamping. In any case, should stamping nevertheless take place, such stamp cannot affect the length of the authorised long-term stay,” read their latest guidance.

“EU law does not prevent border guards from stamping upon entry to and exit from the Schengen area of travel documents of United Kingdom nationals who are beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement who are in possession of a valid residence permit issued by a Schengen Member State. The same applies to their family members in the same situation.”

The Commission added that the usual limitation of a stay of 90 days in a 180 days’ period in the Schengen area does not apply to Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement “irrespective of whether their passport has been stamped or not”.

But it reminded Britons that they only have the right to stay in their country of residence. If they travel within the Schengen area to another EU country they are subject to the 90 day rule. 

It recommended Britons “proactively present” their post-Brexit residency cards  – if they have one – at the border to prove their status. However not all Britons in the EU have post-Brexit residency cards because they are only compulsory in certain countries.

Britons in countries such as Spain and Italy, where the cards are not obligatory but available, are urged to apply as soon as possible. 

Those who don’t have the cards are told to use any documentation “that credibly proves that the holders exercised the right to move and reside freely in the host Member State before the end of the transition period and continue to reside there.”

“Documents indicating the address of the person can show continued residence after the end of the transition period. “

Member comments

  1. It would be useful if the article contained a link to the original document

  2. This is a useful article! Do you have a link to the Commission’s communication?

    [Slight correction to the title: WA beneficiaries are not only British]

  3. So what is a ‘post-Brexit residency card’ in, say, Spain? Is it the TIE or NIE? What if one does not wish to be a resident there but needs the ‘padron’, e.g. to register for local Town Hall services?
    Does the ‘padron’ imply residency? Hopefully not, but a lot of this in EU countries (such as Spain) seems a complete muddle!

  4. I applied for my post Brexit residency card (carta di soggiorno elettronica) here in Italy over 5 months ago and have heard or received nothing back yet. On a couple of occasions when I have asked border control not to stamp my passport, or struggled to stop them in time, they have got annoyed and said that they would stamp irrespective.

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TRAVEL NEWS

How Brexit and Covid have derailed Eurostar services between France and UK

The French boss of Eurostar has laid out how the combination of the pandemic, Brexit and ongoing uncertainty over new EU travel rules have left the company in a very precarious position.

How Brexit and Covid have derailed Eurostar services between France and UK

The Eurostar CEO Jacques Damas has laid out the company’s woes in a long letter to British MPs, stating that as things stand “Eurostar cannot currently pursue a strategy of volume and growth. We are having to focus on our core routes . . . and to charge higher prices to customers”.

He said that two things have significantly damaged the company – the pandemic (worsened by the fact that the company received no state aid from the UK government) and Brexit which has made travel between France and the UK considerably more complicated with more checks required at stations.

Damas said that peak capacity at both London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord is 30 percent less than it was pre-Brexit, because of the increased infrastructure needed to check and stamp the passports of travellers.

He said: “Even with all booths manned, St Pancras can only process a maximum of 1,500 passengers per hour, against 2,200 in 2019.

“It is only the fact that Eurostar has capacity-limited trains and significantly reduced its timetable from 2019 levels, that we are not seeing daily queues in the centre of London similar to those experienced in the Channel ports.

“This situation has obvious commercial consequences and is not sustainable in the mid to long-term.”

He added that the increased passport checks and stamping needed since Brexit adds at least 15 seconds to each passenger’s processing time, and that automated passport gates are less efficient.

The other factor that has hit the company hard was the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, leading to revenues being cut by 95 percent for 15 months.

The London-based company struggled to access government financial aid due to its ownership structure, with both the British and French governments reluctant to assume sole responsibility for bailing out the company.

It began as a joint venture between the British and French governments, but then the British sold off its share to private investors.

Damas said: “Contrary to the £7 billion in state aid given to our airline competitors, Eurostar did not receive any state-backed loans”. 

By May 2021 the company was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and was eventually bailed out to the tune of €290 million in loans and shareholder-guaranteed loans and equity – although this saved the company it has now left it with huge debts to be repaid.

The CEO’s letter was responding to questions from British MPs on the Transport Select Committee who wanted to know when trains would again stop at Ashford station – which has been closed since March 2020. Damas said there was no immediate prospect of that, or of reinstating the route to Disneyland Paris, while the company grapples with these financial problems.

He added that there is also “considerable uncertainty” around the new EU travel systems known as the EES and ETIAS, which are due to come into effect in 2023 and which will require extra checking of passports at the EU’s external borders – such as the UK/France border. 

READ ALSO Fears of ‘massive travel disruption’ in 2023

Many Eurostar passengers have commented recently on increased ticket prices, and it seems that there is little immediate prospect of prices going back down to 2019 levels. 

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