The documents you need when traveling abroad

Written by gregory

8 August 2022

If you are an EU national, you do not need to show your national ID card or passport when you are travelling from one border-free Schengen EU country to another.

Even if you don’t need a passport for border checks within the Schengen area, it is still always highly recommended to take a passport or ID card with you, so you can prove your identity if needed (if stopped by police, boarding a plane, etc.). Schengen EU countries have the possibility of adopting national rules obliging you to hold or carry papers and documents when you are present on their territory.

Driving licences, post, bank or tax cards are not accepted as valid travel documents or proof of identity.

Under Schengen rules, in extenuating circumstances, where a threat to public policy or national security has been identified Member States are permitted to reintroduce temporary border controls.

Ensure that you have either your ID or passport in your possession when travelling to these countries.  Also bear in mind that even under normal circumstances you may be required to produce one of these documents.

The border-free Schengen area includes: Non-Schengen area includes:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, United Kingdom.

 In addition to the Vatican, San Marino (Italy) and Monaco (in France) that are not EU members but have no border controls and valid for entry into those that apply to members of the Schengen area.

 When travelling to or from a non-Schengen country you must show a valid ID or passport. Before travelling, check what documents you must have to travel outside your home country and to enter the non-Schengen country you plan to visit.

If you are a non-EU national wishing to visit or travel within the EU, you will need a passport:

  • valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting,
  • which was issued within the previous 10 years,

and possibly a visa. You should apply for a visa from the consulate or embassy of the country you are visiting. If your visa is from a Schengen area country, it automatically allows you to travel to the other Schengen countries as well. If you have a valid residence permit from one of those Schengen countries, it is equivalent to a visa. You may need a national visa to visit non-Schengen countries.

Border officials in EU countries may ask for other supporting documents such as an invitation letter, proof of lodging, return or round-trip ticket. For the precise requirements contact the local consular services of the EU country in question.

There are a number of countries whose nationals do not need a visa to visit the EU for three months or less. The list of countries whose nationals require visas to travel to the United Kingdom or Ireland differs slightly from other EU countries.

Travel documents for minors

In addition to their own valid passport or ID card, all children travelling:

  • alone; or
  • with adults who are not their legal guardian; or
  • with only one parent

may need an extra (official) document signed by their parents, second parent or legal guardian(s) authorising them to travel.

There are no EU rules on this matter, each EU country decides whether or not it requires such documents. Check, before the child travels, the requirements of the country you are travelling both from and to:

Bear in mind that, even where a country does not require minors to carry such an authorisation to leave or enter its territory, other countries they transit through may still ask them to show one.

When travelling by air it is highly recommended that you check with the airlines beforehand as many require such authorisations and have their own specific forms for this purpose.

Driving licence recognition and validity

If your driving licence is issued by an EU country, it’s recognised throughout the EU. 

So if you move to another EU country, you won’t usually have to exchange your licence. You can drive in your new country on your current licence as long as:

  • it is valid
  • you are old enough to drive a vehicle of the equivalent category
  • it is not suspended or restricted and has not been revoked in the issuing country.

The categories AM, A1, A2, A, B, BE, B1, C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D and DE are also recognised in other EU countries.

Check the rules and exceptions on driving licence renewal and exchange when moving to another EU country.

Standard format

Since 2013, all driving licences issued in the EU have a standard format – a plastic, credit card-sized photocard, with better security features.

You can still use your old-style licence, but you will be issued with the new format when you renew your existing licence and in any case at the latest by 2033.

Check the EU site about what travel documents you’ll need to cross the border into another EU country

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