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How Will Brexit Affect American Travelers?

After several years of debate the United Kingdom is still trying to secure its deal for leaving the European Union, and following Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party securing victory in their general election just before Christmas, it seems Britain can finally leave the European Union on 31st January 2020. However many travelers are worrying about how this may affect them when traveling to the UK and Europe.

The good news is that nothing should change straight away. Although the official date is 31st January 2020 both the European Union and Britain has until the end of the year to finalize all the details. But for travelers there could be an issue at the borders.

Currently travelers have been able to move from one country to another without having to use customs or passport control, however once Britain has officially left this could all change. In fact one of the major issues causing the delay in the agreement has been the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The former will remain a member of the EU as it is not part of the UK and there have been concerns that some people could abuse the “back door” entry into the country.

So far the effect that Brexit may have on the country’s politics and economy is unclear yet there appears to be more certainty on how the post-Brexit world will impact travelers.

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The main concern is air travel and how this could be disrupted between America and Britain. There is currently an agreement known as an EU open skies agreement between America and the European Union, allowing airlines from both regions into each other’s areas. However Britain has already created bilateral open-skies agreements with several other countries, including Iceland, Morocco, Albania, Switzerland as well as the United States. They are also in talks with other countries to enable replica agreements to be set up.

Having the open-skies agreement already in place with America means that airlines are still able to fly between the two countries after January 31st.

Ninan Chacko is a former chief executive at the Travel Leaders Group, a corporation that represents over 50,000 travel agents in North America and believes that “the UK is taking all the steps necessary and is rolling out the welcome mat.”

But what if you are traveling and want to fly from Britain to any of the countries in the EU? There should not be many changes for Americans, as they will still have to pass through both customs and immigration in Britain as well as the country they are visiting or leaving, just as they always have done.

The main changes will be for European Union or British nationals who can travel between the different countries only showing a national ID card and a passport when entering Great Britain. However they will now be forced to use their passport across the EU and European Citizens will not be able to only use their national cards when entering the UK at the end of the year.

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The British government and the European Commission are currently discussing whether British nationals could be allowed to travel within the EU for short trips of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However the proposal from the EU will only allow this if the same privilege has been returned to their citizens. If this is the case all citizens will receive a specific stamp in their passports.

Another issue that could affect Americans travelling between Britain and the EU is the use of trains and ferries. Currently the French passport control for the Eurotunnel is on the British side of the channel and the British government has confirmed that all trains, ferries, cruises as well as bus and coach services will continue to run without any changes.

Another change that had been thought to occur is the Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004, which is the European Union’s reimbursement scheme for any passengers who have had a delayed or canceled flight. This scheme is open to all travelers, whichever country they are from, and it has been confirmed this should not change.

Christian Nielsen, Chief Legal Officer at AirHelp, has confirmed that it is anticipated that Brexit will not impact travelers’ protections under EC 261, even if the airline they are using is a British airline. Nielsen commented “since the UK has previously acknowledged European air passenger rights laws like EC 261 – and then incorporated them into the UK Withdrawal Act of 2018 – passengers’ rights will remain protected.”

At the moment, Americans are not required to hold a visa when visiting Britain and this is expected to remain the same. However passports will need to be valid for the entirety of the trip. If they are traveling into the Schengen area – the area comprising of the 26 European countries that allow travelers to cross their borders – the passport will need to be valid for six months after their trip has ended.

A new security system to screen visa-free travelers will be in place from January 2021. Although not related to Brexit all Americans, Britons and travelers from other countries will have to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System. The authorization is relatively easy to do online and only costs a small fee.


Planning On Flying Next Year? You’ll Need An Enhanced ID And You Have One Year To Get One

If you live in America you’ve probably heard a lot of commotion over something called an “Enhanced License/ID,” you might even already have one! However, if you’re a part of the 240 million Americans who don’t have one yet, you have exactly one year before that becomes a problem. Once enhanced licenses are required nationwide in a year, October 1st 2020, you will only be able to board commercial flights if you have one. 

The “Real ID” Act was passed by Congress back in 2005 as part of a post-9/11 security measure. The government is now requiring that all Americans boarding a flight has a form of identification that meets all tightened security measures. This means state agencies are now going to require social security numbers and proof of residency when issuing out licenses and identification cards, the cards themselves will also be made with more intricate designs and technology to make them near impossible to replicate. 

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Fingerprinting process while receiving an enhanced ID

Normally these sort of enhanced ID properties are found in passports, but 99 million Americans still don’t own a passport. In addition, some states have already been distributing enhanced licenses or identification cards that meet the requirements of the Real ID Act, but not every state has yet, making early access hard for many Americans. Although there is still a full year until these ID’s will be required for everyone to have (besides children under the age of 18 as long as they’re travelling with an adult who does have a Real ID) chances are many individuals still won’t have them which means those people won’t be able to travel via airplane. This poses a major risk to the airline market, and the economy in general. 

“The U.S. Travel Association calculates that were the REAL ID requirement effective today at least 78,500 travelers a day would be turned away at TSA checkpoints at airports all around the nation. That would cost the U.S. economy an estimated $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending per day. And if that trend were to be sustained for a full week, those numbers would grow to more than half a million air travelers being blocked from flying and around $282 million in lost travel spending,” according to Forbes Magazine.

In order to avoid a huge economic decline, all 50 states have now been signed up for the Real-ID program and should begin distributing Real-ID’s within the next few months all across the nation. When exactly that will be depends on every state, but you can easily check online with your state’s licensing agencies to see if they’ve begun distributing enhanced licenses and if they have, the sooner you can acquire one the better. State agencies are already expecting and preparing for an influx of requests for new identification cards next summer as the deadline gets closer, which means it could potentially take longer for you to get your hands on one, and even longer for you to be able to fly. 

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Part of the heightened security to reduce duplication is a special mark that will most likely be located in the upper right corner of all Real Id’s. The mark could contain a black or gold star with a white,black, or gold circle around it. Some are said to not have the star and some don’t have the circle, it really depends on the state. 

If you’re license is already scheduled to be reissued or renewed between now and October 2020 it’s most likely that your state will automatically issue you a new enhanced one. If you don’t have or require a driver’s license or passport, the government also has a list of other forms of identification that are REAL-ID compliant and they’re all listed below. 

“U.S. passport cards; Department of Homeland Security trusted travel cards used as part of the Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST programs; U.S. Department of Defense ID cards issued to military members and their dependents; permanent resident cards; border crossing cards; federally recognized tribal-issued photo IDS; HSPD-12 PIV cards; passports issued by foreign governments; Canadian provincial driver’s licenses or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada ID cards; transportation work identification credentials; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization cards (I-766); or a U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential.” (SOURCE – Forbes Magazine)