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How does Brexit impact business travel to the EU?

Since 1st January 2021, many areas of business have been affected by post-Brexit rule changes. One such area is business travel, which will have impacted anyone who has visited the EU for meetings, conferences, tours, sales fairs, or any other work form.

Previously, as part of the EU, UK citizens benefitted from ‘freedom of movement’, allowing us to visit other EU countries for work and leisure with relatively few barriers. Now, there are some new rules to follow.

As we look ahead to the easing of coronavirus restrictions, many professionals may be looking forward to travelling once again. However, if you intend to do so, you need to be aware of the rules and ensure you comply with them to avoid delays and disruption to your work.

In this guide, we have detailed the various changes to EU business travel, so you can understand what you need to do before venturing abroad.

Passports and visas

As before, you will need a valid passport to visit the EU for work or leisure. When the UK was part of the EU, citizens were permitted to stay in any EU member state indefinitely with their passport. However, this is no longer the case, and your passport only enables you to stay for less than 90 days in any 180-day period.

If you plan to remain for more than 90 days, you may need a visa or work permit. This varies between EU countries, so you will need to check the entry requirements of the specific destination you are travelling to. While coronavirus restrictions exist, you will also need to check the guidelines for each country you visit to find out what’s allowed currently.

You may also need a work permit or visa if you are doing any of the following:

  • Moving from the UK to a different country whilst working within the same company, even for a short time
  • Carrying out contracts to a client in another country where your employer doesn’t have a presence
  • Providing services as a self-employed person

Again, the exact documentation you need will vary from country to country, so check the entry requirements for the specific area you will be working in.

It’s also worth noting that you need to have at least six months left on your passport at the time of travel. Your passport also cannot be any more than ten years old, even if it still has six months on it. If you fail to meet these criteria, it could delay or even prevent you from entering the country.

If you are travelling to Ireland for work, these rules don’t apply. You will still need a passport or photo ID to travel, which only needs to be valid for the duration of your stay.

Other documentation

Depending on your reason for travelling to the EU, you may need to fill out and carry additional documentation beyond your passport, visa or working permit. This includes if you are taking goods abroad to sell.

If you are planning to sell goods abroad, you will need to follow export guidelines. This means filling out a customs declaration on behalf of your products, which will need to be shown at border controls. If the total value of the goods you are moving is less than £1,500, you can declare them online. Otherwise, you will need to submit a full declaration.

If you temporarily transport the goods, such as for a trade fair, you will need to check if you are under the duty-free limit. You can find what the limit is by checking the specific entry requirements for your destination country. If you believe you will exceed the limit, you can apply for an ATA Carnet to avoid paying duty. You can apply online or by post, and it costs £325.96 for the year.

If you are taking restricted goods, you will also need to supply any relevant certificates or licences.

If you plan to drive while in the EU, you may need to apply for an international driving permit. If you’re taking your own vehicle, including a business vehicle, you’ll need a green card from your insurer and a GB sticker.

Healthcare

If you travel to the EU, your EHIC or GHIC (the replacement for the EHIC currently being phased out) will cover you if you need to access healthcare while abroad. It’s also recommended you get travel insurance too.

If you are an employer, you may want to take out indemnity insurance that covers your employees abroad if legal action is taken against them during their work.

Border controls

When travelling to the EU, you will need to undergo checks at border controls. Here, you will need to show your passport and your return or onward ticket and prove that you have enough money to fund your stay. Your passport will be stamped.

If you are bringing goods with you, you may need to show any customs declarations or certificates.

You will also need to ensure you join the appropriate queue at border control, no longer the EU/EEA/Swiss citizen queue. This will help to make a smoother travel experience and prevent delays in your journey.

Recognition of professional qualifications

If you are working abroad, you may need to check that your professional qualifications are recognised in that country. If you intend to work in the EU in a regulated industry, such as finance, your qualification needs to be recognised by the appropriate regulator in each country that you intend to carry out services. If you have already had qualifications recognised, this remains valid.

Under the UK-EU TCA, authorities in the UK and EU can submit joint recommendations to the UK-EU Partnership Council for profession-specific arrangements. These arrangements would allow UK professionals to have their qualifications recognised in the EU and vice versa. As these arrangements have not yet been approved, it is recommended you follow government advice regarding your qualifications.

There are some exceptions to the process, specifically for lawyers and auditors.

Moving long-term

If you plan to move to the EU for long-term work, such as on a placement or secondment, there will be additional rules to follow. These include getting a permit or visa. The requirements vary between countries, so you must check specific guidance for where you will be working and ensure you comply. Complete guidance can be seen here.

You may have to inform HMRC of your move with a P85 form, so they can make sure you are taxed correctly. Similarly, if you return to the UK, you will need to alert them.

Conclusion

With the hope that travel of all kinds will pick up in the coming months, anyone who intends to carry out business abroad must be aware of the rules they need to follow. By understanding the requirements, you can prevent disruption to your work and enable yourself to pass the border without issue.

If you need advice on travelling for business or serving customers abroad, we are here to help. Our advisors have expertise in the areas of import, export, employment, finance and post-Brexit processes, allowing us to provide tailored support for your business.