France ID card ban easing “positive”, but no official launch date


France ID card ban easing “positive”, but no official launch date

The UK government has said it will ease the ban on EU ID cards for inbound school trips, with a trial move allowing French students in school groups to use them to enter the UK. 

The plans have not been given a start date, despite calls for clarity from the sector. Photo: iStock

The pilot scheme, if successful, could be expanded to other EU countries, but no timeline has been given

Government insiders confirmed to the Financial Times that rules for French students allowing the use of ID cards were to be introduced in the “coming months”. 

The news has been seen as a morale boost, after the ban came in in 2021 on all those using ID cards from the European Union to cross the UK border, a move which much of the sector slammed at the time. 

Immigration minister at the time Kevin Foster also ruled out any easing of the ban in mid-2022, when ELT schools were registering struggles in recovery. 

What stakeholders have noted, however, is the lack of proper details of the launch date of the project.

“We look forward to the official announcement and details of the UK/FR pilot scheme,” urged Emma English, CEO of the British Educational Travel Association, speaking with The PIE News.

BETA was one of the biggest voices against the ban, building a case against it with data collection and consistent lobbying along with other sector players.

James Herbertson, co-founder of Bayswater Education, echoed the sentiment, saying that while he was delighted at the news, “it’s tainted by having heard this many times before”. 

“I’m left with the feeling of, when will this actually become a reality – I have not seen a deadline yet,” he told The PIE. 

The ban was originally introduced citing needs for security, with the government saying some cards didn’t have biometric data and “could be falsified”, and were much less secure than passports – which could allow for abuse of the system. 

“These organised groups are low-risk travellers, they are not visa overstayers, their visits are fully escorted and accompanied and of course, they have families at home looking forward to their return. 

“We have not seen any evidence that there have been any visa absconsions from this segment so implementing a way for groups of under 18’s to travel for leisure, culture, language, education, sports etc should never have been off of the table,” English explained.

The pilot scheme, if successful, could be expanded to other EU countries, but no timeline has been given on that either.

“We know that those who experience travel at an early age go on to form a life-long love of exploring, so we welcome any step that reduces barriers to entry and increases accessibility for all… it’s a hugely positive step.

“Our hope is that upon completion of this trial the revised rules are extended not just in Europe but beyond, opening up the joy of travel and the ability to experience new cultures to even more people,” Sam Willan, global VP of marketing of Student Universe, told The PIE. 

On the announcement, ELT member association English UK’s chief executive Jodie Gray said the news was “very good” and “listens” to the group and others who have been pushing for a solution for school groups across Europe. 

“The abolition of ID Card entry and the List of Travellers’ scheme has had a strongly negative impact on the school group mini-stay market in particular,” Gray said. 

“The goodwill this will create will be incalculable”

She added however, that implementation of the rule and the subsequent expansion of it to other EU countries was of paramount importance. 

“The goodwill this will create will be incalculable,” she urged.

The lack of concrete progress is a continuing frustration in a sector that often plans travel of this type up to a year in advance. Timing and clarity would make it more of an effective change, said Herbertson. 

“The longer this drags on, we won’t be seeing the effects until 2025 which will be too late for some companies. Plus – give people clarity, we have had too much hearsay and not enough concrete progress.

“Opening up France is an important first step, but it’s the whole of Europe that we need to see happen,” he added.

That need for the sector is all the more evident, according to English, by the estimation that the change – if it were for the whole of the EU – has the potential to generate over a billion pounds in additional revenue. 

“Over time will certainly enhance the UK’s soft power,” she added.

The PIE has reached out to the Home Office for comment.

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