When Can UK Citizens Use EU Passport Lanes?


Since Brexit there has been widespread confusion as to the rules, including several major media outlets not explaining the details. Speaking from over a decade of professional travel, I have found that even airport and border staff can be confused by the rules.

Standard tourists and business travellers who live outside the EU and Schengen.

You must use the “All Passports” lane. This would likely cover 99% of all UK citizens travelling to EU countries as the vast majority will not be residents.

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The subtle nuances

Airport staff will mostly direct you to a passport lane due to nationality alone. For the vast majority of people this would suffice, but there are also many people who do not fall into the blanket nationality-only criteria.


The Official Rules are clear and unambiguous

The Schengen Border Code, Regulation (EU) 2016/399, which has had minor amendments since, sets the rules regarding which lines people should be using.

The key part to note is in Article 10 – Separate lanes and information on signs. This covers just about every case imaginable.

Specifically Paragraph 2 mentions this key clause:

“…Persons enjoying the right of free movement under Union law are entitled to use the lanes indicated by the sign shown in Part A (‘EU, EEA, CH’) of Annex III.”

UK Residents in the EU and Schengen

This is where things become complicated. Your type of residence matters.

UK Residents who live in the EU prior to Brexit and benefit from Withdrawal Agreement — including family members

As stated in Article 14 of the Withdrawal Agreement, a key fundamental principle of the Withdrawal Agreement is that UK citizens living in the EU prior to Brexit still benefit from the right of entry and exit as per the Free Movement Directive (2004/38/EC) and are therefore allowed to use the EU passport lane.

As a Withdrawal Agreement beneficiary living in the EU, I have used this right across many other EU/Schengen border crossings when showing my UK passport and EU residence card. It is also the case that border officials are not meant to stamp your passport too, though this may happen occasionally. The stamp will have no meaningful effect.

And by extension, if you have a family member who lives with you and also benefits from the Withdrawal Agreement then they can use the EU passport lane too.

Non-EU Family members of EU citizens, including Withdrawal Agreement family members

If you are a UK citizen who holds a residence card as a “Family Member of A Union Citizen” then you are entitled to use the EU passport lanes as by its very definition you are treated as a beneficiary of the Free Movement Directive. (Ref. Article 3 of Directive 2004/38/EC and Article 2, Paragraph 5(a) of Regulation (EU) 2016/399)

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