Online only: updated 22/05/21

Travel advisory

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IF YOU need to travel from the UK to the EU to do journalism, you need to check whether you need a visa and, even if you do not, whether you need a work permit. This does not have much effect at the time of writing, when travel is largely restricted because of the pandemic. But the message of our investigation into what will be required when travel resumes is: be prepared.

The NUJ Freelance Office has therefore worked with the Freelance to produce the following advice and list of contacts for further information.

The requirement for visas or work permits is a predictable result of the UK government's insistence on closing UK borders to "foreigners", despite the EU having proposed special and mutual arrangements for journalists alongside performers - as George Peretz QC tells it.

We leave it to the reader to comment on how dreadful all this may be.

22 May 2021

The Guardian reports that "UK travellers to France and Spain may need proof of accommodation" (our emphasis). Private citizens hosting us may need to apply for certificates which we would need to present at the borders. It is in any case a good idea to show up at the border with proof of: a hotel reservation; a return ticket; sufficient funds; and of health insurance - not least in case of border guards taking such prognostication as policy.

Italy, Hungary and Portugal, meanwhile, explicitly informed the European Commission that their approach to people from the UK would depend on the UK's treatment of people arriving from the EU. The detention by UK officials of EU citizens who confessed that they were seeking work but had no permit suggests that this won't go well.

The Draft EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides that EU member states have the option of requiring a work permit for any length of stay, and of requiring a visa. A work permit is in some countries a variety of "residence permit". Some countries appear to have difficulty with the concept "freelance".

We find nothing in the draft Agreement that deals directly with the vexed question of UK subjects with residence in an EU member state who need to travel to work in a different member state. So you need to check before you travel whether the member state in which you plan to do journalism requires a work permit.

The NUJ is working with other organisations to press for free movement of journalists as well as, for example, musicians. The Federation of Entertainment Unions - of which the NUJ is a member - has issued a statement, "deeply disturbed to hear that proposals made during the Brexit negotiations which would have offered special travel rights for musicians, journalists and artists, were turned down" It "asks the UK government to review this [travel] arrangement" and observes that signs from EU negotiator Michel Barnier "appear to suggest the door is still open." Any change will require the UK government to accept a "visa reciprocity mechanism".

  • Please encourage your MP to sign up to Early Day Motion 1404 calling for a travel deal for media and creative workers: details here. Find your MP's email here.

Exceptions - but not for doing journalism

There are EU-wide exceptions for travel to meetings about journalism and for attending trade fairs to promote yourself. As far as we can tell, for these purposes you rock up at the border and make like a tourist (though doing so holding written evidence on paper of the purpose of your visit seems an excellent idea). Check the full list of exemptions and let us know if you manage to make creative use of it.

The Schengen area

The Schengen area is a group of countries that have abolished border controls for travel between them. It is named after the place in Luxembourg where the agreement was signed in 1985.

Any UK citizen may visit - but not necessarily work in - the "Schengen area" for 90 days out of any period of 180 days without a visa. We flag below as "SA" the countries that are members of this border-free zone. The limit applies to the area as a whole. So if you spend 45 days in Germany starting on June 1 and immediately go to Greece for 45 days you've run out of visa-free travel until the end of the 180-day period, which falls on 28 November.

But some countries require you to apply for a visa if you plan to do any work. We flag below those notified to the European Commission by 7 January 2021 (we archived the spreadsheet here on 30 March 2021).

What to do, then?

If you need a "Schengen visa", you should apply at your local Embassy of the country that will be the main focus of your trip, even though the point of the Schengen Area is that travel within it is visa-free.

  • The charge for making a visa application depends on the country to which you apply. Charges vary quite widely - but you must follow the above rule for deciding to which country you should apply.

In fact, you should inquire of your local Embassy for every country in which you plan to do work - to be sure what its current requirements are. Below we give a link to the homepage of the London Embassy of each country that is a member of the EU or of the Schengen Area (SA). We also give any further information we have found. Do check for yourself.

You should carry a passport issued within the past 10 years that has 6 months or more left to run. (Some trips may be possible on a passport with 3 months left, but be safe.)

You should hold a return ticket, documentation of where you will be staying and be able to show you can support yourself financially for the duration. (There may be exceptions to these requirements, but be safe.) Some countries require travel insurance.

Many applications forms and portals for visas and permits specify that you should allow 15 days. Longer is better. We have not (yet) investigated application fees. Many countries require documents to be submitted in their own language.

Taking equipment

Journalistic, film and broadcasting equipment is specifically exempted from import duty, in regard of visits "for purposes of reporting". That would include cameras and computers. You do need documents for your kit, to show that it is yours and you are bringing it back, though. The UK government gives advice on using a "customs carnet" document (which costs £344.40 to non-members of the London Chamber of Commerce) or instead preparing a "duplicate list" to present with a form C&E1246.

It looks as though it's wise to get an EORI number - an "Economic Operator Registration and Identification", which you use to identify yourself on that "form C&E1246". Your application may take "up to 5 days" to process.

Country by country

The following statements do not take account of covid-19 pandemic restrictions. They do not apply to stays longer than 90 days (or more than 90 days in total in the Schengen area, including leisure visits, in any 180-day period). They are not a substitute for checking the current position yourself. You could also check the British Chamber of Commerce in the EU.

Do check back here to see whether we've spotted changes.


Note 1: the full list of exemptions covers travel for the purposes of:

  1. meetings and consultations: natural persons attending meetings or conferences, or engaged in consultations with business associates.
  2. research and design: technical, scientific and statistical researchers conducting independent research or research for a legal person of the Party of which the Short-term business visitor is a natural person.
  3. marketing research: market researchers and analysts conducting research or analysis for a legal person of the Party of which the Short-term business visitor is a natural person.
  4. training seminars: personnel of an enterprise who enter the territory being visited by the Short-term business visitor to receive training in techniques and work practices which are utilised by companies or organisations in the territory being visited by the Short-term business visitor, provided that the training received is confined to observation, familiarisation and classroom instruction only.
  5. trade fairs and exhibitions: personnel attending a trade fair for the purpose of promoting their company or its products or services.
  6. sales: representatives of a supplier of services or goods taking orders or negotiating the sale of services or goods or entering into agreements to sell services or goods for that supplier, but not delivering goods or supplying services themselves. Short-term business visitors shall not engage in making direct sales to the general public.
  7. purchasing: buyers purchasing goods or services for an enterprise, or management and supervisory personnel, engaging in a commercial transaction carried out in the territory of the Party of which the Short-term business visitor is a natural person.
  8. after-sales or after-lease service: installers, repair and maintenance personnel and supervisors, possessing specialised knowledge essential to a seller's contractual obligation, supplying services or training workers to supply services pursuant to a warranty or other service contract incidental to the sale or lease of commercial or industrial equipment or machinery, including computer software, purchased or leased from a legal person of the Party of which the Short-term business visitor is a natural person throughout the duration of the warranty or service contract.
  9. commercial transactions: management and supervisory personnel and financial services personnel (including insurers, bankers and investment brokers) engaging in a commercial transaction for a legal person of the Party of which the Short-term business visitor is a natural person.
  10. tourism personnel: tour and travel agents, tour guides or tour operators attending or participating in conventions or accompanying a tour that has begun in the territory of the Party of which the Short-term business visitor is a natural person; and
  11. translation and interpretation: translators or interpreters supplying services as employees of a legal person of the Party of which the Short-term business visitor is a natural person.