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BRITS IN ITALY

Do Brits living in Italy still have to quarantine on trips to the UK?

The British government on Thursday announced a relaxation of its quarantine rules for fully vaccinated travellers - but not for most Brits who live abroad.

Do Brits living in Italy still have to quarantine on trips to the UK?
Vaccinated English holidaymakers can now skip quarantine when returning home, but what about Brits living abroad? Photo: Iakovos HATZISTAVROU/AFP

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Thursday that, from July 19th, people visiting amber list countries including Italy would no longer have to quarantine on arrival back in England, as long as they were fully vaccinated.

However this exemption is not extended to the majority of UK nationals who live in Italy.

UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?

They will still have to quarantine when visiting friends or family in the UK, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Shapps said the exemption was for “residents returning to England”.

The Department for Transport confirmed to The Local that this exemption is for anyone who was vaccinated in the UK or part of a UK clinical trial on vaccines.

This means that any UK nationals living in Italy who had their jabs in Britain can travel quarantine-free. 

However, those vaccinated in Italy will still face a 10-day quarantine if they want to travel to the UK to visit friends and family, as well as needing to pay around £160 for the compulsory travel testing package.

How do Brits in Italy feel about this?

British citizens resident in Italy and other countries reacted with anger and dismay to the news that they would not be exempt from the UK’s quarantine requirement, describing the decision to exclude them as “unfair” and “very hard to understand’.

“I’m just frustrated by all these twists and turns and the rule changes. I haven’t been home in two years, my mum and aunt are elderly, my godmother is very sick with cancer, but I am constantly trapped in this heart versus head decision,” said Emma Raymond in Bologna.

“It’s been the hardest year and this is just awful. I’ve played by every rule, I’ve been vaxxed. But it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

Some pointed out that they were reluctant to travel home due to the costs and the rising infection rate in England.

“To be honest, I don’t feel England has the pandemic under control either with rising numbers and large crowds gathering without masks which makes me even more anxious,” said Freya in Rome, who has not been back to the UK for two years.

“Whilst I’m desperate to see my family, in September my sister is getting married, it has to be safer, cheaper and without the heavy quarantine period.”

There was added frustration for British nationals in Italy following the news on Wednesday that UK authorities had also agreed to let up to 1,000 football fans travel quarantine-free from Italy to London for Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.

“This is so unfair, I am waiting to be able to go and see my family who I haven’t seen in over 18 months without quarantining, but they’re letting football fans in – what a joke,” said reader Stacey Incardona on Facebook.

What are Italy’s rules on travel from the UK?

As of June 21st, Italy requires arrivals from the UK to quarantine for five days on arrival and show two negative coronavirus test results.

People who were vaccinated in Italy can travel anywhere within the EU or Schengen zone using the EU digital vaccine passport. 

The UK is not currently part of the scheme, but talks are ongoing to allow mutual recognition of vaccine passports between the EU and the UK.

READ ALSO: How should travellers from the UK quarantine in Italy?

A European Commission source told The Local: “When it comes to the UK, the talks are ongoing at the technical level and are progressing well and going in the right direction. This is in particular because technically speaking the EU’s and the UK’s architectures are aligned.”

Italy meanwhile is already allowing travellers from the US, Canada and Japan to enter the country under the terms of the EU digital passport scheme.

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TRAVEL NEWS

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

A number of countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors.

EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks as long as they can prove residency in an EU country however they will still be caught up in any delays at passport control if the new system as many fear, causes longer processing times.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 countries to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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