UK travel permits put future of passport-free travel to the Channel Islands in doubt

French visitors to the Channel Islands have been able to travel without their passport under a scheme introduced in April 2023, but new ETAs being introduced by the UK government next year may mean the scheme is short-lived. Credit: PA

There are fears the Channel Islands' scheme allowing French visitors to travel for day trips could be short-lived, as new travel permits are set to be required by the UK government from next year.

Since Brexit, visitors from France have required a passport to enter the Channel Islands, leading to a downturn in visitor numbers.

The island's tourism body, Visit Jersey reports there were only 5,560 visitors from France during July 2022 - just 28% of the pre-pandemic level.

To counteract that, both Jersey and Guernsey's governments introduced schemes allowing visitors from France to travel using national ID cards, which are more common than passports.

The Home Office is due to start phasing in Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETAs) for visitors from Qatar from October 2023, extending to other Gulf states including Jordan and the UAE from February 2024.

Visitors from affected countries will have to pay £10 to apply for an ETA, which will allow them to travel to the UK multiple times over a two-year period.

The British government says the new scheme will "bolster the border", adding that by the end of 2024 all visitors - including those from Europe, America and Australia - will require one of the permits in order to travel to the UK.

  • Home Office video explaining how Electronic Travel Authorisations will work.

Jersey's Customs and Immigration Service confirmed anyone who does not have a visa or British/Irish passport allowing them entry to the UK would require an ETA from 2024.

In a statement, it said: "ETAs are expected to be launched by the UK later this year for a small cohort of non-visa nationals and expanded throughout 2024 to encompass all non-visa nationals.

"The introduction of ETAs for Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies is likely to be in the latter part of 2024 and officers are working closely with colleagues from the Home Office, who are leading the project, to minimise disruption to existing immigration controls at the ports."

  • Jersey's Minister responsible for tourism, Deputy Kirsten Morel, said the island "cannot just look north".

The island's Economic Development Minister, Deputy Kirsten Morel, is responsible for tourism in Jersey.

He told ITV News the new legislation is "genuinely concerning", saying: "This shows how the decision the UK has made with regard to leaving the EU is not working for Jersey and I'm still strongly of the opinion that we need to find Jersey's place in this relationship - between the UK and the EU.

"We need to make sure that Jersey is not estranged from Europe. Jersey is much closer to Europe than the UK is - both physically and in the mentality of islanders.

"So we need to have really easy transport between [the Channel Islands] and France - what's really good news is the ID card system which we brought in this year has absolutely boosted tourism figures from France."

Deputy Morel added: "Honestly, I have no time for the UK's choices affecting Jersey adversely and we've got to make sure we stand up for the island and say 'No, we need a system which works for us', which means Jersey's economy isn't adversely impacted by decisions the UK makes.

"What we need to do as a government is to understand that Jersey's relationship with Europe needs to be strong, and if the UK is not going to aid us in that, then we need to find ways of [working] around them."

The Minister said: "We need to make sure that Jersey isn't negatively impacted by the UK. Jersey needs to look both north and south. It cannot just look north, that is not the right position for Jersey to be in."

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