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Travel to the EU post-Brexit

At the end of 2018, the EU Commission confirmed that UK citizens will need approval via the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to travel to the EU as a result of Brexit. It’s believed that EU citizens and UK nationals will continue to be able to travel freely with a passport or identity card until the end of the transition period in 2020.

This led to a number of people contacting us asking about what implications this might have for people with criminal records, so we committed to producing some information on how the ETIAS works. Obviously, at this stage what we say is based on the assumption that the ETIAS process will be the same for UK nationals and our understanding of how the system will work once it is fully introduced.

The application form will probably take about 10 minutes to complete and will cost £6.30. It’ll need to be completed by all travellers between the ages of 18 and 70 and will be done online.

Each applicant will be asked to provide a range of personal details, including:

  • Name, date and place of birth, gender, current nationality, names of applicants parents;
  • Other names or nationalities, if any;
  • Passport details;
  • Home address;
  • Email address and telephone number if available;
  • Education (primary, secondary, higher or none);
  • Current occupation selected from a pre-determined list;
  • Details of the Member State being visited.

In addition, you will also be asked the following questions:

  1. Have you been convicted of any criminal offence listed in the Annex (see below) over the previous 10 years and in the case of terrorist offences, over the previous 20 years, and if so when and in which country?
  2. Have you stayed in a specific war or conflict zone over the previous 10 years and if so, the reason for your stay?
  3. Have you been subject to any decision requiring you to leave the territory of a Member State or have you been subject to any return decision issue over the previous 10 years?

  • Terrorist offences
  • Participation in a criminal organisation
  • Trafficking in human beings
  • Sexual exploitation of children and child pornography
  • Illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances
  • Illicit trafficking in weapons, munitions and explosives
  • Corruption
  • Fraud, including that against the financial interests of the Union
  • Laundering of the proceeds of crime and counterfeiting of currency, including the euro
  • Computer-related crime/cybercrime
  • Environmental crime, including illicit trafficking in endangered animal species and in endangered plant species and varieties
  • Facilitation of unauthorised entry and residence
  • Murder, grievous bodily injury
  • Illicit trade in human organs and tissues
  • Kidnapping, illegal restraint and hostage-taking
  • Organised and armed robbery
  • Illicit trafficking in cultural goods, including antiques and works of art
  • Counterfeiting and piracy of products
  • Forgery of administrative documents and trafficking therein
  • Illicit trafficking in hormonal substances and other growth promoters
  • Illicit trafficking in nuclear or radioactive materials
  • Rape
  • Crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court
  • Unlawful seizure of aircraft or ships
  • Sabotage
  • Trafficking in stolen vehicles
  • Industrial espionage
  • Arson
  • Racism and xenophobia

If your criminal record falls outside of the scope of the question (for example, an arson conviction from 15 years ago, a caution, or a recent conviction for theft), then you can answer ‘No’ and your criminal record shouldn’t be a barrier.

If your criminal records falls within the scope of the question, you will need to answer ‘Yes’ to the above question and you will then be required to provide answers to an additional set of predetermined questions on the application form by selecting from a predetermined list of answers. So far, we haven’t had sight of these questions.

Step 1 – The automatic process

Applications will be automatically processed by the ETIAS Central System which will have access to your application file together with any other linked application files and any ‘hits’ (namely questions 1-3 above) triggered during the automated processing. The ETIAS Central Unit will verify whether the data recorded in your application file corresponds to one or more of the following:

  • Specific risk indicators relating to security, illegal immigration or high epidemic risks;
  • Data present in the ETIAS Central System, including the ETIAS watch-list;
  • Data present in one of the EU information systems that are consulted;
  • Europol data;
  • Data present in the Interpol, Stolen and Lost Travel Documents and Travel Documents Associated with Notices databases.

We expect most people with criminal records will only need to go through the automatic process, because their conviction will be older, not serious enough or not of the type of offence covered, and so will be able to answer no to the 3 questions above. This will mean that their application will be automatically approved.

Step 2 – The manual process

Where the automated process reports one of more ‘hits’ your application will be passed to the ETIAS National Unit for manual processing . The National Unit will be responsible for assessing the risk you pose based on your criminal record, security, illegal immigration etc. They will then:

  1. issue you with a travel authority
  2. refuse your travel authority

The results of the assessment and the justification behind the decision to issue or refuse a travel authorisation will be recorded in the application file by the staff member performing the risk assessment.

Where the National Unit deem the information you’ve provided to be insufficient to enable it to make a decision you may be asked to provide further information/documentation. In exceptional circumstances and as a last resort, if serious doubts remain regarding information or documentation provided by you, the National Unit may invite you to an interview in your country of residence. You will be told in advance which elements of your application will be addressed by the interviewer.

At this stage we still have a lot of questions (like a lot of things Brexit-related). We will be publishing more details as we learn more about travelling to the EU post-Brexit.

If you know anything about the ETIAS process that would help us to improve this information, please let us know.



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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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