Citizens of the member countries of the European Union are also citizen of the union itself, and this is recognised on the passports. They bear both the name of the European Union and of the issuing country (in the relevant language).
Citizens of the European Economic Area (the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) enjoy the freedom to travel and work in any European Union country without a visa, although transitory dispositions may restrict the rights of citizens of new member states to work in other countries. The same rights are also accorded to citizens of Switzerland, although they remain separate from the EEA.
European citizens travelling within the European Union may use standard compliant national ID cards rather than passports. Not all EU countries produced standard compliant national ID cards, and in other countries few people obtained one, which means that many persons need a passport anyway. Unlike most other EU ID-cards, the Swedish national identity card is valid only within the countries which fully implemented the Schengen Agreement, plus Switzerland.
The up to now 24 countries that have signed and applied the Schengen treaty (a subset of the EEA) do not implement passport controls between each other, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Some remaining EU countries, plus Switzerland and Liechtenstein, have signed the Schengen treaty, but are not allowed to be included yet. The main reason is that, according to EU law, the member states which joined the EU in 2004 would have to meet strict criteria with respect to their protection of EU external borders, before intra-EU border controls between the old member states and new member states would be lifted. Switzerland and Liechtenstein require some time to adapt their national airports and databases to the standards of the EU.
As a consequence of the above, a French citizen, for example, may travel to the United Kingdom, another EEA nation, and then freely work in that country. However, since the UK has not signed the Schengen treaty, the French citizen will have to carry at least a national ID card, which will be checked at the border. On the other hand, if and when Switzerland applies the Schengen treaty, the French citizen will be able to travel to Switzerland without being stopped at the border, but he will not be able to work freely in that country without authorisation, because Switzerland is not a member of the EEA. This is true notwithstanding the fact that, in most cases, authorisation to work would nevertheless have to be granted by Swiss authorities according to a specific treaty on free movement which had been concluded between the EU and Switzerland.
Some European countries require all persons to carry, or, at least possess, an ID card or a passport. So while Switzerland will not check French travelers’ passports at the border, they may have to show their national ID cards within the country, such as when required by police officers to do so.
Except at the border, ID cards are not required by UK law. There is, however, a de-facto requirement to prove one’s identity to conduct business. A European has to show a European national ID card to open a UK bank account or to prove eligibility to work.
Refugees and stateless persons, who do not have access to passports, may be issued a travel document by the country in which they reside. Holders of those travel documents generally require visas for international travel, and are not be entitled to consular protection. Exceptions to this include persons holding 1951 Convention Documents, who could benefit from some visa-free travel under the convention, persons who reside in the Schengen area, and persons who reside in the Nordic Passport Union area. Holders of UK passports and Irish passports do not automatically benefit from visa-free travel within the Common Travel Area.
Filed under: Schengen Visa