The United Kingdom has made visiting school groups from France easier. This new rule, announced by the UK government, applies to groups with five or more children under 18. The change, effective since Dec. 28, was agreed upon by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron last March.

United Kingdom Eases Travel Rules for French School Groups, Aiming for Broader EU Inclusion
(Photo : Alfred Derks from Pixabay)

United Kingdom Eases Entry Rules for French School Groups

The United Kingdom has relaxed its entry requirements for French school groups in a significant move. This change, announced by the UK's Home Office, is aimed at making travel easier for young students from France visiting the UK. The decision comes after discussions between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Previously, after the United Kingdom left the European Union, all travelers needed passports to enter the UK. This change was hard for many school students who didn't have passports, especially those from non-EU countries who also needed visas.

Now, under the new rules, students from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein in French school groups can enter the United Kingdom with just an ID card, as reported by Study Travel. They must also have permission from their parents and a copy of their parent's ID. Students from other countries in these groups need a passport but won't need a visa. The school's head teacher must fill out a form and send it to the French authorities 15 days before the trip.

Adults leading these groups still need passports, and people from countries outside the EU that require a visa will still need one.

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Groups and associations in education and tourism have had mixed reactions to this change. The British Educational Travel Association (BETA) feels that the new rule is a start but doesn't fully solve the problems caused by the UK's strict travel rules. They want the rule to include more countries and other types of groups.

English UK, a group representing English language teaching organizations, also thinks this is a step in the right direction but not a complete solution. They hope to extend this rule to other EU countries and different types of junior groups.

UNOSEL, a French travel association, is happy with the new rule. They say it is great news for students, families, and teachers. They hope the rule will soon include all groups, as school trips have been challenging to organize since the United Kingdom left the EU.

UK Plans to Test 'Smart' Passport Gates for Easier Travel

The United Kingdom is set to trial innovative 'Smart' passport gates to simplify border crossings. Phil Douglas, head of the UK Border Force, told The Times that the new system will use facial recognition for a smoother entry process. Travelers won't need to show their passports but will simply look into a camera.

According to The Independent, this advanced method differs from the current eGates, which match faces to passport photos. The new 'Smart' gates will use a central database, requiring travelers to be pre-registered. If they are over ten years old, eGates are open to people from the UK, EU, and several other nations, including the USA and Canada.

The UK is also introducing the Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme, assisting in the pre-arrival information gathering of travelers. Similar technology is already used at airports like Dubai, which boasts rapid processing times.

Initially, the UK will conduct a trial at one airport with select travelers. This upgrade, involving the replacement of numerous eGates, is expected to be costly. After a system failure last May caused significant delays, there might be concerns about the reliability of this new technology.

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