Safe travel between European countries
To slow down the spread of coronavirus and protect the health and well-being of all Europeans, some travel restrictions have been necessary. The European Commission is doing its utmost to allow people to meet friends and family, travel for work and to ensure free movement of citizens, goods and services – with full respect of health and safety measures.
The Commission has launched initiatives to help citizens travel safely across Europe:
A common approach to travel measures in the EU
On 13 October 2020, EU Member States adopted a Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Recommendation was updated on 1 February 2021,14 June 2021, and 25 January 2022.
Common passenger locator form
Data exchange between Member States' contact tracing authorities can be particularly important when travellers are crossing borders in close proximity to each other, such as in airplanes or trains. Digital Passenger Locator Forms can be used by Member States to collect data from cross-border travellers entering their territory. In order for Member States to exchange relevant data through the exchange platform developed by the Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the Commission published draft measures on 17 March 2021, which establish the necessary legal conditions for processing such personal data.
Passenger and traveller rights
Under EU rules, passengers and travellers have the right to choose between vouchers or cash reimbursement for cancelled transport tickets (plane, train, bus/coach and ferries) or package travel. While reaffirming this right, the Commission recommendation of 13 May 2020 aims to ensure that vouchers become a viable and more attractive alternative to reimbursement for cancelled trips in the context of the current pandemic, which has also put heavy financial strains on travel operators.
You can check the list of all the national authorities in Europe that issue travel advice:
Travel from non-EU countries to the EU
EU Member States have agreed a common approach to travel from non-EU countries to the European Union, set in a Council recommendation.
Under this approach, Member States should progressively reopen safe international travel. Everyone who is fully vaccinated with vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency should be able to travel to the EU for any purpose. Member States can extend this to vaccines having completed the World Health Organisation Emergency Use Listing process.
EU citizens and residents, their family members as well as those who have an essential reason to come to Europe should also continue to be able to do so.
In addition, when the epidemiological situation in a country improves sufficiently, the Council can include it on the list of countries from where all travel should be possible, regardless of vaccination status. The following countries are currently included on the list:
- China (subject to confirmation of reciprocity)
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
Travel restrictions should also be gradually lifted for the special administrative regions of China Hong Kong and Macao. Under the category of entities and territorial authorities that are not recognised as states by at least one member state, travel restrictions for Taiwan should also be gradually lifted. Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered EU residents for the purpose of the recommendation. Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) also take part in this recommendation.
Those who are allowed to travel to the EU can still be subject to health-related measures such as testing and quarantine. Information on travel restrictions in place should also be made available on the websites of the relevant national authorities (e.g. Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs).
The Council recommendation also includes an ‘emergency brake' mechanism, allowing Member States to act quickly and in a coordinated manner to limit the risk of coronavirus variants entering the EU.
The Council reviews the list of countries for which Member States should start lifting the travel restrictions every 2 weeks, and where relevant updates it. The Council last updated the list on 17 January 2022.
On 25 November, the European Commission proposed simpler rules for travel from outside the EU. Once the proposal is adopted by the Council, it will be for Member States to implement the measures set out in the recommendation.
Overstay caused by travel restrictions
In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, visa holders present in the Schengen area who could not leave before the expiry date of their short-stay visa have had their visa extended up to a maximum stay of 90/180 days by the designated Member States’ authorities. If the visa holders were compelled to stay beyond the extended period of 90/180 days, a national long-stay visa or a temporary residence permit should have been issued by the national authorities.
Member States are encouraged to waive administrative sanctions or penalties on third-country nationals who during the period of travel restrictions were unable to leave their territory due to travel restrictions. Overstays due to the temporary travel restrictions should not be taken into account during the processing of future visa applications.
Nationals of visa-waived third countries who have remained in the Schengen area beyond the permitted 90-day stay
For nationals of visa-waived third-countries who are compelled to stay beyond the extended 90/180 days, the competent national authorities should extend the validity of the authorisations for legal stay, issue a new one or take other appropriate measures that ensure a continued right to stay on their territory. Information is available on the websites of Member States’ national authorities.
Expired travel documents due to an unexpectedly extended stay abroad
EU citizens and their family members who are not in possession of a valid passport and/or visa should be allowed to enter the EU territory, if they can prove by other means that they are EU citizens or family members of an EU citizen. Possession of an expired passport should be deemed to constitute proof by other means in the current situation. Family members should always be able to prove that they are family members of the EU citizen.
Consular assistance for EU citizens abroad
Under EU law, citizens are entitled to seek help from the embassy or consulate of any EU country other than their own if they find themselves in a situation where they need assistance outside the EU, with no available embassy or consulate from their own EU Member State.
After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission and the European External Action Service have helped to bring home stranded EU citizens from all over the world. EU citizens in need of assistance outside the EU are encouraged to contact their Member State.