Travelling to the UK from abroad
This information applies to the following people, resident in the UK, and travelling back to the UK from abroad:
EU/EEA/Swiss citizens - for simplicity, referred to as EU citizens on the remainder of this page
Non-EU family members of EU citizens
Note – this information is a simplified summary, it is not legal advice and could be subject to change.
Jump directly to the information relevant to you:
You are an EU citizen
If you have pre-settled or settled status, foreign travel authorities should allow you to board your flight, ship or train even though you may not be able to prove that you have pre-settled or settled status in the UK. UK Border Control should be able to tell from your passport that you are a resident in the UK.
If you do not have pre-settled or settled status, EU citizens still will not require a visa to enter the UK for holidays and short trips up to 6 months.
Foreign travel authorities should allow you to board your flight, ship or train even though you do not have pre-settled or settled status in the UK. See this reply to a Written Parliamentary Question which confirms at least initially that carriers will not be required to ask EU citizens for evidence of status before boarding.
UK Border Control may assess your circumstances to establish whether you are resident in the UK. Otherwise they may consider you a visitor, and you will be permitted to remain in the UK with a six month maximum stay. See this reply to a Written Parliamentary Question which confirms that EU citizens will not be routinely asked to prove their status in order to re-enter the UK.
NOTE: We wrote to the Home Office in February 2020 to get confirmation of the above. We received a reply in May, which confirms that for now, carriers will not request proof of settled status. See also these two answers to Parliamentary Questions. the3million is campaigning for EU citizens with pre-settled or settled status to be given physical proof of their status.
Travelling with an ID card
You will not be able to use an EU, EEA or Swiss national ID card to enter the UK from 1 October 2021 unless you:
have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme;
have an EU Settlement Scheme family permit;
have a frontier worker permit;
are an S2 Healthcare Visitor;
are a Swiss Service Provider.
You are a non-British, non EU family member of an EU citizen
First of all, you need to know whether you are from a country whose nationals, not resident in the UK, would ordinarily require a visa to enter the UK.
To find out whether your nationality is a 'visa-required' or 'visa-free' nationality, see Appendix 2 in Visitor Rules. The UK Government’s Visas and immigration website has more information, including an online walk through process.
If your nationality is a 'visa-required' nationality, you will need a passport plus proof of UK immigration status:
pre-settled status Residence Card; or
settled status Residence Card; or
leave to remain Residence Permit; or
indefinite leave to remain Residence Permit
NOTE: a card marked 'Residence card of a family member of a Union citizen' will be invalid after the end of the grace period, set to end on 30 June 2021. (See this Gov.UK page which states "You can no longer apply for a UK residence card. If you already have a card, it will not be valid after 30 June 2021.") To get an EU Settlement Biometric Residence card instead, go to this government website. If you click on the 'Update, replace or transfer your biometric residence card (BRC)' header, you will see the information relevant to people who have EU Settlement Scheme status but still have an older biometric residence card.
If your nationality is a 'visa-free' nationality, you will need a passport plus proof of UK immigration status (as above). However, not showing any proof of immigration status means that your circumstances will be assessed to establish whether you are a genuine visitor. If you are, you will be permitted to remain in the UK as a visitor - with a six month maximum stay.
Note the different kinds of cards which all look very similar
Residence card, issued under Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2016, mentions the words ‘Residence card of a family member of a Union citizen’.
EU Settlement Scheme Residence card (issued to non-EU citizens only) – this is proof of UK immigration status (but is not valid for travel to the EU, even when it contains the wording 'Issued under the EU Exit Separation Agreements')
Residence permit, issued under UK Immigration rules – this is proof of UK immigration status (but is not valid for travel to the EU)