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 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.
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.
- Austria (Embassy) [EU, SA] A visa appears to be required for work visits: "you would need at residence and work permit before you can start to work in Austria or a visa, if the intended stay for work is shorter than six months." Visa applications are processed by VFS Global (Austria).
- Belgium (Embassy) [EU, SA] It says here: "Amendment of the Visa Regulation to exempt UK nationals from the visa requirement for short stays enters into force on 1 January 2021". As a journalist you are exempt from the requirement to have a "professional card" so long as you do not work in Belgium for more than 90 days.
- Bulgaria (Embassy, in Bulgarian and visa information in English.) [EU] The 90-day rule applies for non-work visits. Check this page from the Ministry in Sofia.
- Croatia (Embassy) [EU] No visa required. We find no evidence of work permit requirements for short stays, but you are supposed to register your presence on arrival.
- Cyprus (Embassy - High Commission) [EU] Cyprus has not told the EU Commission what is required. Assume for the moment a visa is required; apply through VFS Global (Cyprus).
- Czech Republic (Embassy) [EU, SA] No visa required for "media-accredited persons". We find no evidence of work permit requirements for such stays: do check with the Embassy or the Ministry of the Interior.
- Denmark (Embassy) [EU, SA] No visa required. Work permit required: apply through VFS Global (Denmark) having first checked this Embassy page.
- Estonia (Embassy) [EU, SA] No visa is required for visitors. There are no work permits as such. The police don't require journalists to register our residence, but do want you to be accredited with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which may take 30 days.
- Finland (Embassy) [EU, SA] No visa required. A residence permit is required if you are working for a Finnish client: see the Finnish Immigration Service.
- France (Embassy) [EU, SA] It says here: "UK citizens going to France to work for up to 90 days will not require a visa. They will need to obtain a temporary work permit unless travelling for a sporting, cultural or scientific event, a seminar or trade show, the production and broadcast of cinematographic and audiovisual works, modelling..."
- If necessary, apply for a visa here. You can apply for a visa that is endorsed with permission to work.
- Or apply for a titre de séjour (residence permit) thus endorsed. Your application is made to the préfet (regional governor) of the place where you intend to work.
- This advice site mentions standalone temporary work permits but we're damned if we can see where you apply.
- Germany (Embassy) [EU, SA] A visa appears to be required for work visits. It says here: "British citizens and their non-EU family members will be subject to all German immigration rules for third-country nationals.". Apply through Visametric (Germany).
- Greece (Embassy) [EU, SA] A visa appears to be required for work visits: at the start of 2021 the EU Commission reported that "there is no final decision on the prerequisites for UK nationals who wish to carry out a paid activity." Applications for visas are through Global Visa Center (Greece).
- Hungary (Embassy) [EU, SA] No visa required, though Hungary states: "we reserve the right to revisit our position on this issue in light of the evolution of relevant UK legislation and the ongoing negotiations on the future EU/UK relationship." The Freelance believes that a work permit (residence permit for the purpose of gainful activity) is required. See this Hungarian government FAQ.
- Iceland (Embassy) [SA] A visa appears to be required for work visits - apply through VFS Global (Iceland). An application for a work permit must be endorsed by a trade union, says the Ministry of Labour.
- Ireland (Embassy) [EU] UK nationals have the rights to travel to and to work in Ireland under the Common Travel Area principles first set out in 1922 and reaffirmed in 2019.
- Italy (Embassy) [EU, SA] It says here: "The exemption from the requirement for a short-stay visa will also apply in cases where British citizens enter Italy to perform paid work, subject to reciprocal arrangements for Italian citizens in the UK." It doesn't look as though the UK has indeed offered this exemption to Italian citizens. This Ministry of the Interior page clarifies that British citizens entering Italy to undertake paid work for more than three months must apply for a residence permit within eight working days of entering Italy.
- Latvia (Embassy) [EU, SA] A visa appears to be required for work visits: see this information from the London Embassy - and see application form (processed by VF Services). (As a self-employed person you will need an "original signed letter from a solicitor, accountant or Companies House confirming self-employment status."
- Liechtenstein (Represented in London by Switzerland) [SA] A visa appears to be required for work visits.
- Lithuania (Embassy) [EU, SA] A visa appears to be required for work visits; apply through VFS Global (Lithuania).
- Luxembourg (Embassy) [EU, SA] A visa is not required. A work permit may not be required if journalism counts as "the entertainment industry". See conditions of residence for self-employed third-country workers and check with the Embassy.
- Malta (Embassy - High Commission) [EU, SA] No visa required. Work permit probably required: see Identity Malta.
- Netherlands (Embassy) [EU, SA] No visa required; but this page says "If you will be working in the Netherlands for less than 90 days, your employer must apply for an employment permit for you (Dutch) from the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV)" - the application form for a short stay is here and it says you should allow five weeks. We've not yet found any mention of freelances. See also the page on applying for a short-stay visa and note that the fee is currently €80.
- Norway (Embassy) [SA] No visa required. A residence permit is required if you are working for a Norwegian client: see here.
- Poland (Embassy) [EU, SA] It says here: "Generally the following stays of third country nationals on Polish territory are possible: Short-term stays up to 90 days in each 180-day period in the whole territory of the Schengen countries, including Poland: - in the framework of the visa-free regime (British citizens will be exempt from the visa requirement under the EU regulation)..."; but "As a rule, the requirement to obtain a work permit will apply". See this apparently-helpful page from the City of Poznan.
- Portugal (Embassy) [EU, SA] Visa required for work visits "subject to reciprocity and overall EU-UK relations". Forms to apply for a Schengen visa are here and that for a "Residence Permit for self-employed workers without a residence visa" is here. See also Working in Portugal from the Foreigners and Frontiers Service.
- Romania (Embassy) [EU] A visa is probably required: see this status checker and application form. (It says visas are required for "economic activity" but not for "business" visits of 90 days or less.)
- Slovakia (Embassy) [EU, SA] No visa required. It appears you may need a "single permit to reside and work": this information page is aimed at employees, however.
- Slovenia (Embassy) [EU, SA] No visa is required for mere visits. To apply for a "single work and residence permit" see the Employment Service of Slovenia.
- Spain (Embassy) [EU, SA] It says here: "British citizens and their family member need visa for journey undertaken after 31st December 2020 for the purposes of... work..." There is a visa application form in English here but it looks as though this application form for employed or self-employment visas, in Spanish may be a better bet - and this price list quotes fees from £189 for fixed-term contract work. See also above.
- Sweden (Embassy) [EU, SA] The EU Commission believes no visa is required. The Embassy refers you to this page on applying for Schengen visas. For work permits it refers to the Swedish Migration Agency, which has a page of work permit forms.
- Switzerland (Embassy) [SA] No visa is required for mere visits. See Work permits from www.swissinfo.ch.
- United Kingdom This government page is deeply unhelpful on the question of what journalists who are EU citizens need to do. The online visa checker suggests that journalists do need visas - unless we qualify as "entertainers"?
Do check back here to see whether we've spotted changes.
Note 1: the full list of exemptions covers travel for the purposes of:
- meetings and consultations: natural persons attending meetings or conferences, or engaged in consultations with business associates.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- trade fairs and exhibitions: personnel attending a trade fair for the purpose of promoting their company or its products or services.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.