Blog: This post-Brexit travel rule shows the chasm between small print and reality – The Telegraph

Another spasm of negativity about travel to Europe occurred this week with reports that Spain was introducing a new entry requirement for British tourists. They must be able to show evidence that they have enough money – £85 a day – to support themselves during their visit.

Inevitably, there was outrage from some that a country which has benefitted so greatly from British visitors over the years should demonstrate such temerity. Of course, the truth is far more prosaic. This is not some kind of Spanish revenge for Brexit. Now we are no longer in the EU, we have simply reverted to the same immigration rules for visitors from non-EU countries. 

As the Director of the Spanish Tourist Office points out: “The requirement for UK travellers to be able to demonstrate sufficient means for the duration of their stay and their return is established in the Schengen Borders Code and is not a Spain-specific requirement.” He goes on to say that it is not new and has been in place for some time for visitors from outside of the European Union or Schengen area.

Nothing out of the ordinary

What’s more, we have similar requirements for those visiting this country. The Government website specifies that visitors may need to show they have “sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to [their] visit”. It suggests bank statements, building society books or an employer’s letter confirming “employment details (start date of employment, salary, role, company contact details).”

And most countries take a similar line. To visit the US under its visa-waiver scheme, you have to have a return (or onward) ticket to prove that you will be leaving the country during the 90-day period. And you must be able to prove to a US Customs and Border Protection officer you have sufficient funds “to cover travel, lodging, entertainment, meals, etc” for your stay. For Australia, there is no requirement to have a return ticket but you may be asked to satisfy border officials that you have means to depart Australia before your visa expires. A copy of your latest bank statement is suggested as a way of doing this.

And the even more prosaic reality is that – in practice – you are highly unlikely to be asked to show anything more than your passport or visa. In short, I don’t think these rules are really made with the idea of applying them to all tourists. They are there as a backup for immigration officers who have specific concerns about an individual. 

The chasm between rules and reality

In 40 years of travelling all over the world, I may have been asked to show my return ticket once or twice, and perhaps had a (pre-Covid) vaccination certificate checked occasionally. The only moment of tension over money was in the 1980s when a highly suspicious and fearsome official gave me a grilling as I was crossing the border from Poland to the Soviet Union because she thought I was carrying too much money. (I think I had US$800 in traveller’s cheques, which was certainly a lot of money in the USSR at the time, but it had to last me about three months).

I admit that the first time I travelled to Europe after our break with the EU I was braced for trouble. It was a visit to Paris on the Eurostar nearly two years ago, and I meticulously went through all the new requirements for visiting France. It was a depressing experience, but I wanted to get it right. I carried a photocopy of my hotel booking, a copy of my travel insurance certificate and a recent bank statement (as well as the various Covid-related documents required at the time) – all of which are technically required. I tried to show them at the border post in St Pancras and the French official simply waved them away and stamped my passport. I watched a succession of other passengers get the same treatment.

I’ve crossed the EU border lots of times since then and never has a single question been raised (If readers have had other experiences of course, I’d be interested to hear about them; email asktheexperts@telegraph.co.uk). All of which demonstrates that a chasm often exists between the small print in the rulebook and what is actually applied in practice. 


Have you been questioned about money or tickets at an EU border? Email asktheexperts@telegraph.co.uk, or comment below to share your experience

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