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Schengen Area VFR Flight Rules

Updated 2024

No Flight Plan Requirement

In general in ICAO DOC 4444, it is stated that a FPL always needs to be submitted for flights across international borders. However, some states have made an exemption eg Netherlands, so pre-flight flight plans are not necessary when entering or exiting. VFR flight plans are generally not required for flights within the Schengen Area unless specified otherwise. No flight plan is required for VFR flights to or from a State within the Schengen area unless: a. the relevant state has a flight plan requirement for VFR flights; b. the flight crosses the airspace of a state outside the Schengen area; or c. submission of a flight plan is required by paragraph SERA.4001, part b, subparts 1, 3, 4 and 6, of Regulation (EU) No. 923/2012.

For unknown reasons, as of August 2024 some members have yet to adopt this rule (eg Denmark and Germany). As it primarily about safety and administration, we assume it will be adopted soon.

Schengen countries

Table of Schengen Area countries as of 2024:

No.CountryDate of Entry
1Austria1995-12-01
2Belgium1995-03-26
3Czech Republic2007-12-21
4Denmark2001-03-25
5Estonia2007-12-21
6Finland2001-03-25
7France1995-03-26
8Germany1995-03-26
9Greece2000-01-01
10Hungary2007-12-21
11Iceland2001-03-25
12Italy1997-10-26
13Latvia2007-12-21
14Liechtenstein2011-12-19
15Lithuania2007-12-21
16Luxembourg1995-03-26
17Malta2007-12-21
18Netherlands1995-03-26
19Norway2001-03-25
20Poland2007-12-21
21Portugal1995-03-26
22Slovakia2007-12-21
23Slovenia2007-12-21
24Spain1995-03-26
25Sweden2001-03-25
26Switzerland2008-12-12

This table includes the current member countries of the Schengen Area along with their respective dates of entry into the agreement.

Night VFR

For VFR flights conducted at night, additional conditions must be met according to SERA.5005(c). These include the requirement to submit a flight plan if leaving the vicinity of an aerodrome and maintaining two-way radio communication.

UK Schengen crossings

For UK pilots, the government now requires GAR forms going both in and out of Schengen. They provide https://www.submit-general-aviation-report.service.gov.uk/welcome/index for this but you can also use onlinegar.com (for a small fee). Onlinegar will be updating their software to handle the “UPT” rules as and when they come in. For now, both systems work.

Universal Permission to Travel (UPT)

The UK is introducing a Universal Permission to Travel (UPT) requirement, which will be implemented through the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme by the end of 2024. This scheme will apply to all travelers, except British and Irish citizens, who wish to enter the UK.

Key Points of the UPT and ETA Scheme:

Applicability

  • The ETA will be required for visitors from visa-free countries, including EU nations, the US, Canada, and Australia. It will also be necessary for those transiting through the UK.
  • British and Irish citizens do not need an ETA. Residents of the Common Travel Area (including Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man) traveling directly from these areas also do not need an ETA, provided they hold acceptable evidence of their residence status.

Application Process

  • Travelers must apply for an ETA online or through the UK ETA app, providing personal details, passport information, and answering security questions.
  • The cost of an ETA is £10.
  • Decisions are typically made within three working days, but can be quicker.

Duration and Validity

  • Once granted, an ETA is valid for two years or until the passport expires, whichever is sooner.
  • An ETA allows multiple entries to the UK during its validity period.

Enforcement and Compliance

  • Carriers (ie helicopter operators) are required to check that passengers have valid ETAs before travel to the UK to avoid penalties.
  • The system aims to enhance border security by allowing UK authorities to conduct security checks in advance and deny travel to potential threats.

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