Healthplan Spain


Preparing For Brexit: What To Expect From January 2021 Expat Tips

The European Commission has published a document titled ‘Getting ready for changes: Communication on readiness at the end of the transition period between the European Union and the United Kingdom’.

The document contains a wealth of information on the processes and changes that will take place after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, 2020. Hopefully, it will provide British nationals with further clarity on the most important aspects of travel and movement between the EU and the UK during the transition period and once it comes to an end.

The UK left the European Union on February 1, 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK came into force from this date and secures the orderly departure of the UK. It also provides an agreement on citizens rights and the avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK entered a transition period which will end on December 31, 2020. Until that time, the UK will continue to be a member of the EU Single Market and Customs Union.

The EC’s publication covers important topics such as visa requirements for those wishing to enter Spain and other European members along with advice on driving licences, pets, roaming, mobility, travel, tourism and more.

As the UK declined to extend the transition period beyond December 2020, the changes below will take effect from January 1, 2021, regardless as to whether there is a future deal on trade or not. This will mean that from January 1, 2021, there will no longer be free movement of persons, goods or services between the UK and the European Union.

Below we highlight the main points of the publication, however, we would encourage you to view the full document to obtain a more in-depth understanding of the changes that will take place once the UK is no longer a member of the European Union.


During the transition period - During the transition period, UK citizens will have freedom of movement within the EU and Schengen Area and will be treated like other EU citizens. As such, they are not required to obtain a visa to enter the European Union.

From January 1, 2021 - From January, UK citizens will become ‘third-country’ nationals and will be subject to checks when entering the EU and Schengen area borders.

It will also mean that UK nationals will be unable to remain within the EU Member States territory for longer than 90 days in any 180 day period and will not be able to make use of EU/EEA/CH lanes which are reserved for those who have free movement when crossing into the EU.

Recent legislation agreed by the EU says that from January 1, 2021, UK nationals will remain exempt from the need to be in the possession of a visa when crossing into the European Union for short stays up to 90 days.

However, this does not apply to those who wish to work in the EU and will be subject to reciprocity between the UK and the other EU Member States. This could be withdrawn if EU citizens cease to be given visa-free access to the UK for short stays.

Visa rules will also change for certain third-country nationals residing in the UK when they travel to the European Union. For example, as of January 1, 2021, UK residence documents will no longer exempt the holder from airport transit visa requirements in the Union, and school pupils residing in the United Kingdom will no longer automatically benefit from visa-free access to the Union when going on school excursions.


During the transition period - During the transition period, EU law on passenger rights for air, rail, bus, coach and ship, including assistance to passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility, continues to apply to passengers departing from the United Kingdom to an EU Member State, irrespective of whether the carrier is a UK or a European Union carrier.

From January 1, 2021 - From January, the level of protection of passengers travelling between the EU and the UK will be affected. However, this will depend on the mode of transport and may mean that passengers are no longer protected by EU passenger rights when travelling to and from the United Kingdom.


During the transition period - During the transition period, UK pet owners who wish to travel with their pets into the EU can do so using the current ‘EU Pet Passport’.

From January 1, 2021 - EU Pet Passports will no longer be valid documents to enter into any of the EU Member States. Any future requirements are yet to be determined and will be set by the European Union.


During the transition period - Under current EU legislation, UK driving licence holders may drive freely within the European Union without the need for any additional documentation.

From January 1, 2021 - From 2021, UK driving licences will no longer benefit from mutual recognition under EU law.

Recognition of UK driving licences will be regulated at the Member State level.

In the Member States that are Contracting Parties to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, this Convention will apply. For further information, the responsible authority of the respective Member State should be consulted.


During the transition period - Up until the end of the transition period, EU law on roaming applies to the UK. This means that mobile phone users are able to use roaming without additional charges and applies vis-à-vis in the United Kingdom.

From January 1, 2021 - From 2021, UK travellers will no longer be guaranteed that they can ‘Roam-Like-At-Home’ within the European Union, nor will it be guaranteed for EU citizens visiting the UK.

As a result, both the United Kingdom and EU mobile operators will thus be able to apply a surcharge on roaming customers.


During the transition period - UK nationals will continue to benefit from free movement within the EU. This includes working, studying, to start a business or go to live in the UK or Spain.

All EU rules on the coordination of social security systems also apply and will, under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, continue to apply, even after the end of the transition period, to people who were in a cross-border situation involving the United Kingdom and the European Union before the end of the transition period.

The Withdrawal Agreement also protects the residence and work rights of EU citizens lawfully residing in the United Kingdom and of UK nationals lawfully residing in an EU Member State at the end of the transition period and the members of their families.

From January 1, 2021 - At the end of the transition period, free movement between the European Union and the United Kingdom will cease.

This will have repercussions on the ease of mobility for all EU citizens who are not beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement and wish to stay in the United Kingdom for longer periods, be they students, workers, retired people or their family members. All their movements to the United Kingdom will be governed by UK immigration laws.

UK companies who wish to employ EU citizens will need to follow UK rules that do not apply today under the European Union regime. All movements to the EU of UK nationals who are not beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement will be governed by Union and Member States’ migration rules.

EU companies who wish to recruit UK nationals will have to follow the relevant rules for third-country nationals of the Union and their respective Member States. For those EU citizens who will exercise some form of mobility under the new UK regime, the current coordination of social security systems foreseen by Union regulations will cease to exist.

The same will be true for UK nationals in the EU unless they are covered by specific Union rules related to third-country nationals. There will not be the same extensive cross-border social security protection as under current Union rules, as Union rules will no longer apply. Even under a future partnership agreement with the United Kingdom, only certain social security entitlements could potentially be ensured.

The exact terms that will apply will depend on the outcome of negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom on the future partnership, for instance on health care costs or pension rights.

You can download a copy of the full publication from the following official EC website.