Expat Essentials

No deal, no problem Pt. 1: More EU countries guarantee British expats post-Brexit grace periods

(Editor’s note: We’ve broken up the original “No deal, no problem” post into two parts so it will load faster. This post, which replaces the original “No deal, no problem,” has countries listed alphabetically, Austria through Latvia. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would decide on 15 October whether British officials will end treaty negotiations with the European Union. He didn’t, but warned Brits to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.)

To hear the Brexiteers tell it, countries in the European Union have no autonomy. All decisions are made by the Little Dictators in Brussels. If only that were true. Then we wouldn’t have 27 countries plus Switzerland and Scandinavia scrambling to figure out what to do with their British expats should the United Kingdom and the European Union reach 31 January 2020 with no agreements on trade, freedom of movement or anything else.

That, and we wouldn’t have to figure out if our host country has a constitutive Brexit policy or a declaratory policy. It makes a big difference because under declaratory policy, the UK’s withdrawal agreement sets the rules for British expats in the EU, which automatically guarantee Brits the same rights they had as EU citizens. An example is Spain, which is the first country to start giving current British residents new cards documenting their long-term residence status.

Fourteen countries, including Italy and Portugal, have opted for a “declaratory” registration system that does not involve deadlines. Under a constitutive policy, British expats have to register and request a long-term resident status … and be granted that status. Thirteen countries have constitutive policies including France and Sweden.

Constitutive policies have the Johnson Government spending millions of pounds on an advertising campaign alerting British citizens in the EU as to what they have to do to remain in their host countries.

There are essentially three possible outcomes with hours left before the final deadline:

• A deal between the EU and UK with one set of reciprocal right-of-remain rules for the one million British expats in Europe, and three million Europeans in the UK.

• No deal, which theoretically could mean 27 different processes across the EU – depending on the UK’s rules allowing their citizens to remain – as Brits scramble to qualify to for long-term residency as third-country nationals. Failure to negotiate final agreements during the 11-month transition period could push British citizens who failed to apply for long-term residency in their host countries into a neither/nor purgatory where they would have neither EU citizenship status nor a separate post-Brexit third-country immigration status.

Concerns about their citizens in the UK have countries from Spain and Portugal to Poland making clear that ultimately, they’ll allow Brits to stay only if there is reciprocity and their citizens get settled status in Britain. For example, Spanish authorities are saying British expats will have the same rights in Spain post-Brexit as long as the UK extends residency rights to Spaniards already living in the UK.

• Some sort of EU-wide mandate for long-term residency rules for British citizens in return for the UK granting EU citizens a blanket settled status. (Editor’s note:Brits who move to an EU country before 31 December 2020 will have until at least 30 October 2021 to apply for resident status in their new EU host country under the terms of the separation agreement.) The whole process of British citizens getting guarantees of a right to stay in Europe has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Only three EU countries have begun implementing the withdrawal agreement: Italy, Netherlands and Malta.

After 31 December, open EU borders will close for British travelers since Boris and Home Secretary Priti Patel have said repeatedly freedom of movement will end. Most EU countries have already confirmed they will allow UK nationals to enter and remain for up to 90 days without a tourist visa. In Portugal it is 180 days, and Spain looks to be following suit.

Reciprocity aside, one big change is that Brits living in the EU are getting residence cards that will prove their status after 31 December. From Politico: 

The EU-wide residence document will have the same format in all member states, and will look like residence permits for other third-country nationals. The only difference would be an “Article 50” mention and an indication of whether it was issued under a declaratory or a registration system. Still, questions remain as to which former EU residence rights each country ultimately will extend to newly arrived British citizens, who instantly become third-country nationals in the event of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the 11-month transition period. (The EU has a running list of all 27 countries here.)

The good news is that UK nationals who have settled status before the transition deadline get to stay forever under the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement. But there are currently no protections for UK nationals arriving after 2020.

In some countries such as France and Spain, Brits never have had to register as permanent residents, which introduces another layer of anxiety. Until they get their long-term residence status as a third-country nationals, they’ll won’t be able to leave their host country after 1 January 2021, then return as anything but tourists.

So while British expats will be able to remain where they are living in Italy, the Netherlands and other countries, they could lose freedom of travel – unless they have long-term residence permits – within the Schengen Area until the UK can draw up separate reciprocal long-stay residence agreements.

Has your head exploded yet?

Bottom line: Wherever they are living now, British citizens should apply for a long-term residence permit sooner rather than later. Because they can take awhile to get and unless they have one, it will be hard for them to re-enter their country of residence should they, say, return to the United Kingdom for a visit.

Here are the changes in the countries with the most British citizens:

AUSTRIA (updated)

CliffsNotes Version:  Six-month transition period and permanent-resident eligibility for Brits who’ve lived in Austria for 5 years. But, British nationals will have to apply for a residence permit within 6 months in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The residence permit fee is 210 euros for a residence permit, as well as 195 euros for children up to six years old. The Austrian government has a complete and well-organized website with lots of details. (Come on, they’re basically better-organized Germans.) There’s also a Brexit hotline:  country code 43 (0) 800 222 666.

The Whole Story: Austria is dilly-dallying a bit on its Brexit rules. But the new rules require British nationals to apply for a residence permit within six months after the UK is out beginning 1 February 2020. And a new EU report states that Austria, along with Denmark, is considering expelling Brits it determines represent a danger to public order and security. Here’s the official Austrian Brexit page. There’s a lot of good info on the page in clear English about topics such as, “If I want to leave Austria after Brexit, will I be able to return?” (The answer is, “Yes, but you must apply for the new residence permit before you travel.”)

Austria has posted details of how British citizens living there should prepare for a no-deal Brexit. That includes a “special legal regulation” allowing British nationals to obtain said residence permit under the Settlement and Residence Act (Niederlassungs- und Aufenthaltsgesetz) with free access to the labor market, according to the official federal residency website.

If you’ve lived in Austria  (and they always state “legally,” though that’s a given) for less than five years, you’re eligible for a ‘Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte plus’ residence permit. If you lived there more than five years, you’re eligible for a permanent residence status (‘Daueraufenthalt – EU’). Please check out all the details on the website.

Here’s the link to the Austria page on the new GOV.UK Brexit website. About 10,000 Brits live in Austria. Austria has created a Brexit hotline – +43 (0) 800 222 666 (free of charge within Austria).

BELGIUM (updated)

CliffsNotes Version:  Brits can remain and work until 31 December 2020. BUT, you will need to have a residence document to prove these rights. Belgian lawmakers are already anticipating the UK will leave the EU without any deals and is in the process of making sure that doesn’t cause problems for businesses, assuring that employees will be able to stay. Also, as with almost every EU country, there are big differences in applying before Brexit and after Brexit. If you apply for a residence permit after Brexit, the rules for third-country nationals will apply. There are more details here on the new GOV.UK website. You can see the rules for a long-term stay in Belgium for third country nationals here.

The Whole Story: Belgium is a bigger political mess than the United Kingdom, if that’s possible, split between the Far Right in Flanders, the socialists in Walloon and the Greens in Brussels. Belgium has assured its British expats they can stay in place and work without a permit. That said, Belgium’s offer (like those of all European countries) is based on reciprocity from the UK and can be withdrawn.

Belgium plans a transitional period through the end of 2020 in which residence rights of British citizens are guaranteed including their right to work without having to get a new work permit. (This could change if things go really, really wrong.)

Bottom line: Brits are encouraged to monitor the situation, and they can apply now for long-term residence permits as third-country nationals. BUT, of course if there’s a deal, that might mean different rules for residence application.

You should really do a deep-dive into the official website because while there is a worst-case, no-deal Brexit transition period until 31 December 2020, the Belgians make it clear that after that, British citizens are on their own. There are about 25,000 Brits in Belgium, most working ironically for the EU or for Belgium-based multinationals such as AB InBev.


CliffsNotes Version: (updated) Bulgaria is a declaratory system. Bulgaria will have a transition period through the end of 2020 for Brits to re-register as third-country nationals with 10-year residency permits. In the event of a no-deal Brexit after the 11-month transition period, Bulgarian officials have stated that Brits will be still be treated as EU citizens. Bulgarian officials have launched an English-language page on their Interior Ministry website laying out their Brexit policy.

The Whole Story: Brits living legally in Bulgaria as of the official Brexit date  of 31 January will have until the end of 2020 to re-register as third-country nationals rather than EU citizens … as long as the UK offers a reciprocal deal for Bulgarians in the UK. All British expats will have to register as third-party residents, which is true in most EU countries. There are about 5,000 Brit living in Bulgaria, mostly business executives and tech entrepreneurs.

Here’s the link to the Bulgaria page on the new GOV.UK Brexit website.


CliffsNotes Version:  Croatia is a declaratory system. British expats will have up to a year to replace current residence documents with permanent long-term residence visas.

The whole story: Croatia is finally getting around to crafting legislation that could give its 650 or so British expats some breathing room post-Brexit. Like their British counterparts, Croatian lawmakers are weighing their options including a deadline for Brits to acquire a carte de séjour. But they’ll get up to a year to replace their current residence visas with new documents. Croatia is also considering swapping out current temporary national residence permits and replacing them with new temp docs. Whatever the case, Brits can stay in Croatia as long as Croat citizens can remain in the UK.

There’s more information on the Republic of Croatia official website. There’s also more here on the new official GOV.UK Brexit site.

CYPRUS (updated)

CliffsNotes Version:  Cyprus is a declaratory system. Croatia will honor existing permits through 31 December 2020, with applications for third-country permits starting 1 January 2021.

The Whole Story: Cyprus is the latest EU member state (a member since 2004) to officially sign on the list of countries giving British expats a grace period. “Cyprus stands ready to ensure that those British citizens residing in Cyprus presently … will be able to continue residing and enjoying the same rights as provided for in the (Plan B) withdrawal agreement,” Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides wrote in a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, according to media reports. By the way, we were shocked to learn that about 60,000 Brits live in Cyprus at least part time, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research. (The other side of the island is the Republic of Northern Cyprus … only recognized by Turkey, which is not an EU member.) Here’s the link to the Cyprus page on the new GOV.UK Brexit website. CZECH REPUBLIC (updated)

The Whole Story: Cyprus is the latest EU member state (a member since 2004) to officially sign on the list of countries giving British expats a grace period. “Cyprus stands ready to ensure that those British citizens residing in Cyprus presently … will be able to continue residing and enjoying the same rights as provided for in the (Plan B) withdrawal agreement,” Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides wrote in a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, according to media reports. By the way, we were shocked to learn that about 60,000 Brits live in Cyprus at least part time, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research. (The other side of the island is the Republic of Northern Cyprus … only recognized by Turkey, which is not an EU member.) Here’s the link to the Cyprus page on the new GOV.UK Brexit website. CZECH REPUBLIC (updated)

CliffsNotes Version:  The Czech Republic is a declaratory country. The Czechs are giving Brits a grace period through at least June 2021.

The Whole Story:

To stay in the Czech Republic after June 2021, during the transition period you have to submit an application for a temporary, a long-term or a permanent residence permit of third country nationals. Expats will need the certificate of registration to stay.

UK citizens who applied but whose application was not granted by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay until their application is processed. British citizens arriving in the Czech Republic after the Brexit date are third country nationals and fall under the rules for all third-country nationals. Only about 7,000 British citizens live in the Czech Republic, but about 40,000 Czech citizens live in the UK. “We are, of course, counting on there being a reciprocal move,” Emerging Europe quotes Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš as saying.

Here’s the official website. There’s also lots more info on the new official GOV.UK Brexit website here.


CliffsNotes Version:  Denmark is a constitutive country. Brits will have a transition period to 31 December 2020 with a possible extension of one or two years. In the event of no-deal after the 11-month transition period, Brits can still remain in Denmark, but just how long is unclear.

Here’s a link to a brief, yet confusing, post-Brexit statement from the Danish government.

Applications for registration certificates and residence cards must be submitted to the Agency for International Recruitment and Integration. You can see a lot of the details on the Brexit Act website here.

The Whole Story:

Danish government officials released an official statement last April that they were hoping the UK Parliament okayed May’s Plan B. It didn’t. BUT, presciently, the statement adds officials are preparing for “all possible outcomes of the negotiations” including a no-deal exit after 31 December. That includes guaranteeing residence documents already been issued in accordance with EU free movement rules will be valid for “a transitional period” though it doesn’t say how long that might be.

Indeed, Denmark passed a “Brexit Act” to cover all eventualities. If you are a British citizen in Denmark but do NOT have an EU registration certificate (issued for EU citizens) or an EU residence card (issued to third-country nationals) you had to submit a registration certificate application before 29 March 2019.

You can see the full statement here.

You can see the Danish government’s Brexit website here.

Here’s the link to the new GOV.UK site which also has detailed information.

There are about 18,500 British expats living in Denmark.


CliffsNotes Version: It’s all good ….

The Whole Story: Britain and the EEA EFTA countries –  Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – reached a no-deal Brexit agreement way back in February, 2018. The reciprocal agreement guarantees the right to remain of EEA EFTA citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EEA EFTA states. Norway is home to about 30,000 British citizens, most of whom work in the petroleum industry.

ESTONIA (updated)

CliffsNotes Version:  Estonia is a declaratory country. Estonia is guaranteeing a long grace period through 2021. Pending reciprocity from the UK, Estonians are basically giving British expats as long as they need to figure it all out. BUT, if you want to travel, you must exchange your current EU citizen residence document for a residence permit card. Estonian officials will start issuing new right of residence documents to Brits at beginning of 2021.

The Whole Story: No matter what happens including a no-deal Brexit, UK citizens will be able to continue living in Estonia. Estonians are granting Brits temporary residence permits for settling permanently – valid for up to five years – or a long-term resident’s permit, depending on whether they have temporary status or rights of residence.

“All UK citizens who wish to settle in Estonia after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU will have to apply for a residence permit like all other citizens of third countries,” the statement added.

Brits arriving in Estonia after April 2021 “would already fall within the scope of regulation of the Aliens Act, which means they will require a residence permit for living in Estonia like all other citizens of third countries.”

In March, TNW posted how Estonia is being flooded with requests for info from British businesses hoping the country’s e-Residency program will prove to be a quick shift to the Continent and continued business links to the EU. Estonia currently has 2,651 British e-residents that have set up 312 companies in the country, with 40 of those established in the first quarter of 2019, according to the post.

Here’s Estonia’s official Brexit info page.

Here’s a more current website with post-Brexit information.

Here’s the link to the new GOV.UK page on Estonia.


CliffsNotes Version: Finland is a constitutive country. Finland immigration services opened the application process on 1 October, and the fee is 48 euros. However, there are a few issues on the horizon because the withdrawal agreement has an expiration date. UK nationals in Finland have until the end of September 2021 to assert their Withdrawal Agreement rights. Our advice? Lawyer up.

The Whole Story: With Brexit official, Brits in Finland are advised to register their right of residence with the Finnish Immigration Service as soon as possible. Finland, like other EU member nations, sent letters to their British guests on Brexit Day. 

We went through that information and found a few new nuggets of interest:

• With Brexit, Brits are now limited to 90 days in Schengen should they leave their country of residence, in this case Finland.

• If British expats have a permanent right of residence in Finland based on the withdrawal agreement, they will lose that right if they remain outside of Finland for more than five consecutive years.

• Let’s say your company sent you to Finland for 2020, but you’re leaving afterward. Your right to residence is void when you leave. And if you try to move to Finland after 1 January 2021, you’re also out of luck because you’re now a third-country national.

Here’s the link to the Finland page on the GOV.UK Brexit website.

There are about 5,000 UK citizens living in Finland, most of whom are dreaming about Spain.


CliffsNotes Version (updated):  France is a constitutive country. France issued a Brexit decree guaranteeing a one-year transition period beginning on the day after Brexit, but only a 6-month window to apply for permanent residence under a constitutive scheme. Britons must apply for special residency permits stating they are protected by the terms of the withdrawal agreement. The French government has been promising for months it would relaunch its portal outlining which Brits can apply for special new “Brexit deal” residency cards. That’s apparently about to happen.

But we know every British citizen living in France will have to apply for a new residence status and a new carte de séjour this year, with the year rapidly winding down. Most current EU rights remain except freedom of movement and voting/political rights.

The problem is that unlike, say, the Netherlands and the rest of the EU, France never required British citizens who live there to register. Brits basically just showed up as EU citizens and settled down.

UK citizens must apply for residency as third-country nationals. The most important thing you need to know is, if you wait to register as a third-country national, you could go months without any official proof of residency status because French authorities are overwhelmed with thousands of applications. Which means if you leave France, you’ll have to re-enter on a tourist visa good for only 90 days.

The Whole Story: The France Rights: British in Europe Facebook community is is reporting the new Cart de Séjour application portal will debut Monday, 19 October. Although British citizens st be established in France by 31 December, they have until  30 June, 2021 to apply for the new permit. BUT there are still hoops to jump through including swapping old EU drivers license via a website and applying for a carte de séjour. (In order to get a residence permit, you have to have a residence, which has set off a scramble for homes.)

Brits who have a permanent carte de séjour as European citizens can just exchange it for a new carte de séjour, but be sure to bring along your passport and current residency card. (Be sure you have your immigration lawyer by your side as you work your way through the new rules, which are incredibly long and written in masterfully vague legal boilerplate.)

To complicate things, French law has multiple categories:

• employed/self-employed

• student

• retired or otherwise non-economically active

• family member of one of the above

If you’ve been living in France legally for five years or more, you are eligible to apply for a long-stay residence visa. But of course, you’ll have to prove you have substantial assets and health care policies and won’t be a drain on the French social services though the new law doesn’t give any details.

Other categories include rules for students and others. And by the way, the Ordonnance can be torn up if UK officials don’t offer French citizens the same rights.

France also has lots and lots of rules about proving you’re a permanent legal resident including self-sufficiency tests. And if you aren’t employed and don’t have sufficient net worth, it’s going to be really difficult for Brits to get legal resident status and receive a carte de séjour.

Expat group Remain In France Together reports that municipalities are already struggling to deal with processing the paperwork as an estimated 200,000 British expats try to apply for various long-stay visa options. See RIFT’s detailed post here.

Here’s the very, very detailed France page on the new GOV.UK Brexit website.


CliffsNotes Version: Germany is a declaratory country. Before the EU and UK reached a deal, Germany offered only an initial three-month period to apply for a residency permit. German officials have drafted (but never passed) legislation – The Brexit Residence Transition Act – guaranteeing current British resident permits. With a deal, all that got scrapped and now Germany – like most EU countries – is giving British citizens a grace period through 2020.

If you are living in Germany or moved there before 31 December 2020, you’ll have lifelong healthcare rights. Brits are encouraged to register with their local Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Authority) by the end of June 2021 – the deadline is six months after the end of the transition period. You must exchange your UK drivers license for a German license within six months of moving to Germany.

The real problem with Germany is that it’s a federal republic with 16 states making 16 different sets of rules. Officials in Berlin are already registering Brits. Other are only offering registration interviews and yet others didn’t start the process until Brexit Day.

Bottom line: If you are resident in Germany at the end of the transition period, you’re covered by the withdrawal agreement, and your rights will be protected for as long as you remain legal a resident.


The Whole Story:

That said, immigration officials in some parts of Germany were already pushing ahead to register British residents and issue residency permits. Dispatches Berlin contributor Laura Kaye alerted us that, despite the recent extension of Article 50, her local Ausländerbehörde, or Foreigners Registration Office, was pushing to get Brits registered and processed by the end of June.

From her email:

Thought you might like to know that Germany is issuing residency permits in advance of Brexit. They emailed us with an appointment date a couple of weeks ago. I went for my appointment today and was told we qualify for unlimited residency. We need to go back because my husband was travelling for work at the time, but other Brits were walking out with their visas already.

Germany has at least 100,000 British expats, most of whom are either corporate nomads, or who are married to German nationals. There are about 16,000 Brits in Berlin alone, the largest expat community in Germany’s capital city and most popular expat destination.

Here’s the link the the new GOV.UK Brexit website.

GREECE (updated)

CliffsNotes Version: Greece has taken the declaratory route, so the withdrawal agreement rules covers Brits through this year, guaranteeing them the same rights they had as EU citizens.

The Whole Story: Brits must apply for new residence document, though we couldn’t find the rules or the place to apply. They can also apply for citizenship after living in Greece for seven years. That might be lowered to five. If a Brit buys a house for 250,000 euros or more, residency is guaranteed, as is citizenship. You can see a full post about moving to Greece here. About 45,000 British expats live in Greece full-time and contribute heavily to the economy.

– Lynne Evans in Athens

Here’s the link to the Greece page on the new GOV.UK Brexit website.


CliffsNotes Version: Hungary is a constitutive country, but all documents remain valid for three years.

The Whole Story: In Hungary, the withdrawal agreement sets the rules. British nationals who are residents at the time of Brexit will be entitled to a national permanent residence permit on the basis of three years prior residence. Then, they have three years after the negotiation period to get a new permit. So for three years after Brexit, previously issued documents including registration certificates, residence cards and permanent residence visas all remain valid. Here’s the page for information about the EC permanent residence permit for three-country nationals.

ITALY (updated)

CliffsNotes Version: Italy is a declaratory system. As with all EU countries, Italy is extending to Brits a grace period at least through 31 December 2020.

However …. Italy is issuing a new document, the attestazione di iscrizione anagrafic,” and “all UK nationals living in Italy are advised to get it – even if they’re already registered as a resident with their local town hall,” according to The Local Italy.

Even if you have even if you already have a certificato di residenza (certificate of residence), an attestazione di regolarità di soggiorno (declaration of legal residence) or an attestazione di soggiorno permanente‘, (declaration of permanent residence), you might need the attestazione di iscrizione because, well, it’s Italy.

The Whole Story: On 25 March 2019, Italian officials passed legislation to guarantee British citizens a transition period through December 2020 to move to a third-country national status. British citizens legally resident in Italy on 29 March 2019 would keep most of their existing EU rights during the grace period. The grace period will apply to British nationals who have, by 29 March, registered or applied to register their Residenza or Soggiorno Permanente.

Brits will continue to enjoy access to healthcare, employment, education, social benefits and family reunification. BUT, British citizens living and working in Italy are required to register at their local Registry Office (Ufficio anagrafe) before the UK leaves the EU. Companies are people, too, and Italy just passed legislation for UK based firms in Italy. You can see that info here.

If you don’t have time, basically Italy is creating a grace period to allow British-based banks and other companies to keep operating up to a year post-Brexit.

There are an estimated 25,000 British expats living in Italy.

Here’s the official Italy website.Here’s the new GOV.UK Brexit page on Italy.


CliffsNotes Version: Latvia is a constitutive system, but EU rules under the withdrawal agreement apply for two years. The Whole Story: After 1 February, EU law will continue to apply to British citizens, who will be able to continue living in Estonia on the basis of right of residence for the next two years. British expats arriving in Estonia after April 2021 would fall under the Aliens Act, and will need to get a residence permit like all other citizens of third countries. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Aliens Act will apply immediately. From the official statement:

In such a case, the (new) act will grant them a temporary residence permit for settling permanently in Estonia, with the period of validity of up to five years, or a long-term resident’s residence permit, depending on whether they live in Estonia on the basis of temporary or permanent right of residence at the Brexit moment. 

In 2019, Latvian and British officials reached an informal gentleperson’s agreement allowing each country’s expats to remain in place even if there’s a no-deal Brexit. At the time, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said he was still concerned about reciprocity for Latvians in the UK.

(Editor’s note:Thanks to Joanna Storie in Latvia for the update.) Here’s the link to the Latvia page on the new GOV.UK Brexit website.

You can jump to Pt. 2 here.

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