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Do I need a Green Card to drive in Europe?

Do I need a Green Card to drive in Europe?

Even after the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, residents can still drive their cars on the continent, and drive across the border into the Republic of Ireland. The UK is in a transition phase, until 31 December 2020, with rules around driving in Europe unaffected until then. However, as a future deal between the UK and EU is being negotiated, rules around driving in Europe may still change. From 2021, you may need to get a Green Card from your insurance provider. Read our FAQs to find out all you need to know…

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
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Posted 3 MARCH 2020

Am I insured to drive in the EU?

As things stand after Brexit, during the transition phase, all UK car insurance policies provide a minimum of third-party insurance for drivers in European Economic Area (EEA) countries. The EEA is made up of EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland is also included as it’s part of the European single market, as are Andorra and Serbia.

If you have comprehensive or third-party fire & theft car insurance in the UK, it’s possible you’ll only have third-party cover when driving abroad. Some, but not all, insurance providers maintain the UK level of cover, so you’ll need to check. If you are dropped to the minimum level of cover, you can ask your insurance provider for a foreign use extension. There may be a charge for this.

What happens after the Brexit transition phase?

As with all things associated with Brexit, this situation for drivers is complex. The golden rule, no matter the outcome, is to check with your insurance provider when planning to drive abroad. Currently, because the UK left the EU with a transition phase, UK car insurance policies are automatically accepted in Continental Europe and the Republic of Ireland, as they are now.

However, with the UK now in a transition phase, the next round of deal negotiating between the UK and EU is beginning. Rules around driving in Europe are subject to change, depending on the outcome of any deal. Drivers may need additional proof that they’ve got insurance. This will be in the form of a GREEN CARD. This is an international certificate of insurance – a physical document that drivers must take with them when they travel. It will be required across the EU and in the other countries listed above.

Depending on the post-Brexit deal negotiations, you might also need an international driving permit (IDP) if you are driving to the countries listed above (apart from Ireland). You can get an IDP from a Post Office branch at a cost of approximately £5.50. See government website for details.

How do I apply for a Green card?

You need to get your Green Card from your insurance provider, who will send it to you through the post. You should apply for your Green Card at least one month before you travel, even if an agreement hasn’t been reached for 2021 onwards. Allow more time if possible as demand is likely to be high.

Some insurance providers are offering to send Green Cards via email. If you opt for this method, you will need to print it double-sided in colour – it must have a green background by law. You’ll also need to trim any white edges so the green shows edge to edge.

You might be charged an administration fee by your insurance provider to get your Green Card.

Please note that, even if you bought your car insurance through Compare the Market, you need to apply directly to your insurance provider for your Green Card. Compare the Market can’t provide you with a Green Card.

What happens if I want to travel at short notice?

If an agreement isn’t reached between the UK and EU post-Brexit, it may become illegal to drive in the countries listed above if you don’t have a Green Card - so you shouldn’t do so. It’s always best to check for the most up to date information ahead of any travel bookings, to ensure you have the appropriate cover. An alternative would be to hire a car in the country you are visiting and arrange local insurance cover.

How long does a Green Card last?

Green Cards are normally valid for 15 days, but, if you’re going to be abroad for longer, tell your insurance provider and they may be able to extend it. If your car insurance is up for renewal while you’re away, it’s best to shop around for a competitive policy before you go and arrange a Green Card to run alongside the new policy. You can normally arrange for a policy to start 30 days in advance.

Will drivers in Northern Ireland need a Green Card?

Some insurance providers in Northern Ireland are automatically issuing Green Cards to their customers because they may make frequent crossings across the Irish border, which means they will be entering the EU regardless of the outcome after the Brexit transition phase.

What information do I need to provide?

Your insurance provider will need your policy number, as well as your travel dates and whether you’ll be towing a caravan or trailer. This is because some countries require the vehicle being towed to have its own Green Card.

You don’t need to provide details of where you’re going, unless you’re planning to drive outside the countries listed above.

Would a Green Card cover me for all my cars?

You’d need a Green Card for each of your cars. This is the case even if you have more than one car insured on a single car insurance policy.

Will there be checks at the border after the Brexit transition phase?

Depending on the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and EU, you may be asked for proof of car insurance at each border you cross, or you may be subject to a police check. If you do not have a Green Card, you might be fined or have your car impounded. During the transition phase, until 31st December, nothing will be changing.

What about travel insurance after the Brexit transition phase?

There may be some changes to travel insurance policies. At the moment, UK citizens are entitled to a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is valid in EEA countries and Switzerland. This entitles you to state-provided medical treatment on the same terms as a local resident.

UK residents can use their EHIC during the transition phase of the UK leaving the EU. This means that the EHIC can continue to be used in the same way until the 31st December 2020. What happens to the status of the EHIC after the transition phase will be decided as part of the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

This will make it more important than ever to have travel insurance in place. Travel insurance will cover emergency medical treatment costs, as well the cost of emergency repatriation to the UK, and provide cover if your baggage is lost or stolen, or your trip is cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

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