According to stakeholders, it will take some time before the market experiences the effects of the oncoming termination of collective passports for study visits to the United Kingdom (UK).
Including the decision to stop using European Union (EU) ID cards for EU people entering the UK. Group passports which are frequently used by school trips, study travel companies, and other organizations, have been mostly phased out. Despite the fact that the Home Office has stated that collective passports are still permissible, obtaining one is costly and complex.
“Whilst it remains current policy to continue to accept collective passports issued by signatories to the treaty, as part of our Points Based Immigration System, it is our intention to move to a position where everyone obtains an individual permission from the Home Office in advance of travel and so in the future, we are likely to require individual documents,” stated an update from the Home Office.
Despite pressure from numerous groups, Emma English, the Director of the British Educational Travel Association, thinks the government is attempting to eliminate the procedure entirely. “Currently only Slovenia, Malta [and the UK] use the collective passport and with that, how likely are they to respond to our lobbying to promote and expand the scheme if their intention is to phase it out?” English told The PIE News.
The Home Office’s answer has frightened English UK, whose members would heavily employ alternatives such as collective passports and the use of EU ID cards. “The potential losses are huge,” Huan Japes, English UK’s Membership Director said.
“One of our members, currently visiting agents in Italy, is hearing that many are relocating groups to Ireland because of the end of ID Card travel, and we have heard of French agents doing the same – often with groups which usually visit the UK each year,” Japes added.
This follows concerns expressed by stakeholders shortly after the restriction on EU ID cards went into effect in October, that students would instead choose Ireland or Malta. English was also concerned about the decrease in bookings over the previous year.
“Some members who would usually have forward bookings of 12,000-15,000 students for 2022 have just 800 at present,” English explained. “It is a real live issue and one that is being compounded by the pandemic.”
Separate from collective passports, the LoT scheme was a visa scheme based on a 1994 council decision allowing a “visa national kid legally resident in a member state” attending school to travel to another member state without a passport as part of an “arranged school group.”
Third-country nationals might travel as part of an organized school group under the plan, but post-Brexit, travellers would require a passport and visa to go with that group. If the Home Office “would not move on restoring ID card travel for younger groups organized by schools and agents,” Japes added, the English UK would prefer to see a different mechanism in place.
The Tourism Alliance has proposed their own “List of Travellers” program to push the government for flexibility on school and study trips, which the English UK fully supports. The newly revealed document informs readers on how the EU was the largest market for educational travel to the UK, with youngsters travelling in organized groups with responsible adult teachers or guardians using their ID cards. The market, meanwhile, has plummeted since the requirement for all visitors to the UK to have complete passports was implemented on October 1, 2021, according to the report.
“This proposed scheme would allow students travelling under the supervision of teachers from EU schools to enter the UK for a period of up to six weeks in order to attend an accredited English Language School and visit cultural and historic attractions,” Japes explained.
“The scheme would be open to EU nationals and residents up to the age of 18 – the adult leader would need a full passport but the under 18s would not,” he added.
According to the Tourism Alliance, implementing the suggested program successfully will not only preserve the educational travel industry but also has the potential to produce almost £1 billion per year in additional revenue. The recent Home Office update, on the other hand, does not inspire confidence in English.