The British Passport Post-Brexit: A Myth-Busting Guide to Working Holidays and Adventures Abroad

According to the latest statistics, between 183,000 and 232,000 18–24-year-olds take gap years every year with many choosing to work abroad to help fund the thrills of international travel. 

However, in the wake of Brexit, navigating the complexities of working abroad has become a subject of much confusion for aspiring travellers. 

In the last three months alone, the search term “new blue passport” has seen a +900% change in Google search data as users query the restrictions and flexibility of the British passport. 

SIA are market leaders in providing gap year ski season experiences and working holidays abroad. Academy Director, Gary Clark, said: “While Brexit has somewhat changed the landscape of international work and travel, the British passport still holds considerable value and flexibility. 

“Brexit has not closed the door on employment opportunities for British people abroad and often prospective travellers will just need to understand the necessary Visa and work permit requirements.” 

We explore some of the most common post-Brexit passport queries for those looking to spend their gap year abroad. 

“Brexit has rendered my British Passport useless for working abroad” 

Search tool, AnswerThePublic, records around 33.1K monthly search volume around Britain’s eligibility for working abroad. 

Contrary to popular belief, you can still travel to Europe for work, study and leisure. If you’re a UK resident with an EU passport or legally a resident in an EU country before 1st January 2021, then your rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. 

Travel to mainland Europe is visa-free for up to 90 days in every 180. 

“Will I need a Visa to work abroad?” 

Most countries will allow you to work there provided you have the right Visa documentation. A visa is a legal document which allows foreign citizens to enter, work stay and travel a country. 

Each country will likely have their own regulations, so it’s worth checking the GOV.UK website to see what applies to you. 

To work in most EU countries, GOV.UK stipulates you’ll need a work permit and most likely a job offer from your chosen country. The UK Government advises liaising with the UK-based embassy of the country you wish to work in to discuss what you need to do. 

“Can I still travel on my red UK passport?”

Google search data also reports a lot of search volume around the “British red passport” with a 900% year-on-year change. 

Fortunately, British citizens can still travel on their old burgundy passports provided it has at least six months’ validity left and is less than 10 years old. 

The red passport is still recognised worldwide, and you can continue to travel until six months before its expiry date. 

“Can I still get free healthcare in the EU post-Brexit?” 

If you have a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it remains valid until its expiry date. Once it expires, you’ll need to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to replace it.

New EHIC cards are now issued only to UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. This includes EU nationals living in the UK, UK students studying in the EU, and some British pensioners residing in the EU (who moved before January 2021).

Approximately 5.6 million EHIC cards expired in 2022, and many Brits may be unsure about the next steps. Ensure to get travel insurance prior to your departure.