Last December (2023) the interior ministries of Romania and Bulgaria announced that the countries would be joining the European Union’s Schengen Area in March 2024. Both are already EU members.
The Schengen Area, a zone created in 1995 in Europe to allow free movement between the 27 member countries (soon to be 29 members) gives 400 million people the ability to travel across their borders without checks.
The last nation to have their application approved was Croatia in 2022. The additions of Romania and Bulgaria widens the zone into eastern Europe.
The member states are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, soon to be joined by Romania and Bulgaria.
Nothing much will change for British citizens looking to visit these two countries, say, to enjoy a break in popular cities such as Bucharest and Sofia. Passport checks are still necessary, as it is anywhere in Europe unless travelling from another Schengen Area country.
However, what does change is significant. Post-Brexit, Britain was demoted to a ‘third’ country and the rule specifying that non-residents can only stay in the EU for a maximum of 90 days within a 180 day period without a visa will now apply to both Romania and Bulgaria. Any visits to these two nations will count towards the 90-day limit.
Check your passport
It’s also important to check if your passport is valid to travel abroad. To travel to Europe there are two main criteria:
- There must be at least three months left from the date of departure from the country.
- The passport must have been issued within ten years.
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