(Editor’s note: This isn’t the end of Brexit, but we can see it from here … and it’s not pretty. A leaked European Union report states that countries across Europe are all over the place when it comes to crafting post-Brexit policies regarding their British expats. By one count, 11 of the 27 are guaranteeing Brits are welcome to stay indefinitely. But one of the trickier aspects to this is whether British citizens will be able to leave their resident countries during the transition to third-country resident status.)
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.
As the United Kingdom moves inexorably toward a no-deal Brexit, an increasing number of countries across the European Union are assuring British expats life will go on as normal. Well, at least for a few months.
This comes after the European Commission asked – but decided not to order – member states to grant temporary residence permits to British nationals so they’ll have time to apply for long-term residency status. Germany and Italy already notified their British expats at the end of 2018.
Questions remain as to which former EU residence rights each country will extend to British citizens, who instantly become third-country nationals with a no-Deal Brexit. If you’re an American in the Netherlands, for example, you have specific rights under the Dutch American Friendship Treat.
But a no-deal Brexit would push British citizens into a neither-nor purgatory where they would neither have EU citizenship status nor a separate post-Brexit immigration status.
What a lot of people – especially British politicians – don’t seem to understand is that no-deal means no transition time to implement new treaties.
In EU countries, reciprocity is becoming key to all expats’ fates, with Spanish authorities saying British expats will have the same rights in Spain post-Brexit as long as the UK extends residency rights to Spaniards in the UK.
So while British expats will be able to remain where they are living in Italy, the Netherlands and other countries, they will lose the right to move – or even travel – within the Schengen Area until the UK can draw up separate reciprocal long-stay residence agreements.
CliffsNotes Version: Six-month transition period & permanent-resident eligibility for Brits who’ve lived in Austria for 5 years.
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 Brexit is final (whenever that is.) 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.
About 10,000 Brits live in Austria.
CliffsNotes Version: Brits can remain and work until 2020.
Believe it or not, the Belgians are still debating what to do at this late date.
But, Belgium has assured its British expats they can stay in place and work without a permit in the event of a no-deal Brexit until 2020. 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, then apply as soon as possible for long term residence permits as third-country nationals.
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 at Belgium-based multinationals such as AB InBev.
CliffsNotes Version: In the event of a deal, Bulgaria will have a transition period through the end of 2020 for Brits to re-register as third-country nationals. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, there will be no transition.
Bulgarian officials have launched an English-language page on their Interior Ministry website laying out their Brexit policy.
If the UK leaves with some sort of deal, Brits living legally in Bulgaria as of the official Brexit date (whenever that is) 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.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, there will be no transition period, though the statement is confusing and contradictory. But it’s clear one way or the other, 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.
CliffsNotes Version: Up to a year to replace current residence documents with permanent long-term residence visas.
Croatia is finally getting around to crafting legislation that could give its 650 or so British expats some breathing room should we spiral into a no-deal Brexit.
Like their British counterparts, Croatian lawmakers are weighing their options including a deadline for Brits to acquire a carte de sejour. 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 when Brexit occurs (whenever that is) and replacing them with new temp docs.
There’s more information on the Republic of Croatia official website.
CliffsNotes Version: Croatia will honor existing permits through 31 December 2020, with applications for third-country permits starting 1 January 2021.
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, and until 29 March 2019, 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.
Cyprus has agreed to honor all existing residence permits through 31 December 2020. Application for third-country permits will be accepted from 1 January 2021.
By the way, we were shocked to learn that about 60,000 Brits live in Cyprus, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.
The other side of the island is the Republic of Nothern Cyprus … only recognized by Turkey, which is not an EU member.
CZECH REPUBLIC (updated)
CliffsNotes Version: The Czech Republic is giving Brits a grace period through 31 December 2020.
Emerging Europe is reporting the Czech government has proposed legislation that will allow British citizens to remain through 2020.
The Czech no-deal Brexit grace period would extend from withdrawal date (whenever that is) until the 31 December 2020. 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.
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.
CliffsNotes Version: Denmark will extend Brits a transitional period, but details haven’t been released. From 1 April 2019, applications for registration certificates and residence cards must be submitted to the Agency for International Recruitment and Integration.
Danish government officials released an official statement last month 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. 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.
There are about 18,500 British expats living in Denmark.
EEA EFTA COUNTRIES
CliffsNotes Version: It’s all good ….
Britain and the EEA EFTA countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – reached a no-deal Brexit agreement back in February. 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.
CliffsNotes Version: Estonia is guaranteeing a grace period through 2021.
Pending reciprocity from the UK, Estonians are basically giving British expats till 2021 to figure it all out. No matter what happens including a no-deal Brexit, UK citizens will be able to continue living in Estonia.
In the event of a “hard” Brexit, Estonia’s Aliens Act will apply to the citizens of the UK whenever Brexit actually happen.s BUT, the Estonians are granting them 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.
If the current deal struck with the EU somehow passes against long, long odds, British expats would stay under “right-of-residence, without anything changing in two years,” according to legislation passed earlier this month.
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.
CliffsNotes Version: Finland is extending a grace period to at least 2020, but details after that are TBD.
When Brexit (if Brexit) is ever official, Brits in Finland will unaffected. They don’t really need to do anything, though they are advised to register their right of residence with the Finnish Immigration Service as soon as possible.
Under new legislation, all UK citizens registered by 12 April will continue to stay, live, work and study in Finland in the event of a no-deal Brexit. And they’ll be good to go under Finnish social security legislation at least until the end of 2020. “The length of this period will be further examined during the preparation of the act,” according to the official website, which you can see here.
There are about 5,000 UK citizens living in Finland, most of whom are dreaming about Spain.
CliffsNotes Version: France just issued a Brexit decree guaranteeing a one-year transition period.
France is turning into the drama queen of the EU. The final French policy doesn’t appear to actually be final and might be contested in the French courts. But so far, post-Brexit terms are not great.
In the Ordonnace published in February, British citizens have three months after Brexit (whenever that happens) to stay and work without a residence permit. During that time, they have to apply for a residence card under third-country status.
Brits who have a permanent carte de séjour as European citizens cand 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. 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. But 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.
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.
CliffsNotes Version: Germany is offering only an initial three-month period to apply for a residency permit. But some officials are pushing to get everyone registered.
Brits will also lose certain benefits including new-parent allowance. (See the full post here.)
Of all European countries, Germany is notable in offering British expats the least generous transition period – 3 months – to permanent residence status post-Brexit … assuming Brexit ever happens.
That said, immigration officials in some parts of Germany are already pushing ahead to register British residents and issue residency permits despite the fact that almost three years after Brexit, no one has a clue what’s going to happen.
Dispatches Berlin contributor Laura Kaye alerted us that, despite the recent extension of Article 50, her local Ausländerbehörde, or Foreigners Registration Office, is 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.
CliffsNotes Version: With a deal or without, Greece is giving its British residents a transition period at least through the end of this year.
The Greek government has a new website with detailed Brexit plans.
The website has information based on two scenarios: The UK leaves the EU with a deal, and the UK leaves without a deal.
From the website:
Will it be necessary for British nationals to obtain a residence permit? What will be the steps to take to obtain a residence permit?
• If the Withdrawal Agreement enters into force: UK nationals living in Greece before 31 December 2020 will have to apply for the new title required for in the Withdrawal Agreement (see WA Article 18). They will be able to make the request according to terms and a schedule that will be specified later.
• In case of no deal (absence of withdrawal agreement): UK nationals permanently living in Greece before 29 March 2019 and already in possession of a registration certificate (βεβαίωση εγγραφής) or a temporary or permanent residence document(πιστοποιητικό έγγραφο άδειας διαμονής), will be asked to proceed, after 1 January 2020, to the municipal authorities and submit the relevant paperwork, in order to exchange their certificates with new biometric resident cards. A draft bill is currently being prepared on British citizens’ rights in Greece that may include provisions on this issue. Details will be communicated via this website soon.UK nationals living in Greece before 29 March 2019 but not registered with the police authorities, may need to apply for a registration certificate. After acquiring their registration certificate they will also be asked to proceed to the municipal authorities to submit the relevant paperwork and acquire their biometric resident cards. A draft bill is currently being prepared on British citizens’ rights in Greece that may include provisions on this issue. Details will be communicated via this website soon.
The website is fairly detailed and well-organized.
Brits can still apply for residence permits as usual. 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
CliffsNotes Version: All documents remain valid for three years.
Hungary finally got around to enacting its Brexit policy late in March. But it’s a very generous deal compared to other EU countries. (We’re looking at you, Belgium.)
British nationals who are residents at the time of Bexit will be entitled to a national permanent residence permit on the basis of three years prior residence. Then, they have three years after the withdrawal date (whenever that is) 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.
CliffsNotes Version: Italy is extending to Brits a grace period at least through December 2020.
On 25 March, 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 29th 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.
CliffsNotes Version: EU rules apply for two years.
Latvia just formalized its Brexit policy on 21 March.
If a deal – any deal – with the EU is approved, 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.
Last month, 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.)
CliffsNotes Version: Luxembourg is extending a grace period of one year after the original Brexit date, or until 30 March 2020.
In perhaps the wordiest formal declaration of all the EU countries, Luxembourg is giving British citizens one year – until 30 March 2020 – for a transition in the event of a no-deal Brexit. By that date, all Brits must have a residence permit of some sort. (The deadline to apply for a residence permit is 30 December 2019.)
CliffsNotes Version: Don’t even worry about it. You’re good to go for 10 years.
With its strong ties to the UK, Malta acted quickly and generously to assure Brits of their right to remain. Malta will grant UK citizens full residency permits good for 10 years even if there’s no deal.
Unlike other EU countries, there doesn’t seem to be any reciprocity demand for Maltese citizens in the UK. So done deal … an estimated 15,000 British expats get to keep on living in Malta as if they’re still EU nationals.
CliffsNotes Version: The Netherlands is extending a 15-month lifeline to their Brits.
The Dutch government issued a statement on 7 January that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, British citizens and their families “who are lawfully resident in the Netherlands prior to 29 March” will be entitled to live, work and study in the Netherlands for at least another 15 months. This transition applies to family members of British citizens who aren’t EU citizens according to the statement. So, British expats in the Netherlands are good to go for more than a year during which time surely something concrete will happen.
There are an estimated 45,000 British citizens living in the Netherlands.
CliffsNotes Version: Nothing concrete yet …
Better late than never, Poland has started the process of thinking about trying to decide what to do(maybe) with its 6,000-plus British expats in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Polish government has started drafting a bill allowing them to stay for up to a year. British citizens will have until the end of 2020 to apply for permits to stay on under the bill.
CliffsNotes Version: Brits have until 31 December to apply for a registration permit.
British expats hoping to stay post-Brexit must sign up for a temporary registration certificate or a permanent residence card if they’ve lived in Portugal for more than five years.
If Britain crashes out without a Brexit deal, only those already resident will have a legal right to stay.
This if from the government’s “The United Kingdom Nationals Keep their Right of Residence” notice pdf, posted last November:
IN CASE OF A NO-DEAL SCENARIO
As there would be no agreed implementation period, the guarantee to acquire the right of permanent residence would only apply to UK nationals who are resident in Portugal by 29 March 2019; all those UK nationals and their family members who are already in Portugal by that date would have until 31 December 2020 to apply for a registration certificate.
As we’ve mentioned so often before, Portugal has a liberal “Golden Visa” program that allows foreigners to stay permanently AND travel within the EU. Portugal requires a minimum investment of 350,000 euros, and there are lots of options.
Politico.eu has an interesting Brexit-related post on the Brits pouring a remote region of Portugal that has been losing population for years.
There were about 50,000 British citizens living in Portugal, but there are indications that number has risen even in the past few months.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (updated)
CliffsNotes Version: No deal, no problem.
On 8 May, the Brits and the Irish finally inked an agreement that – aside from border issues – codifies continuity.
The new agreement assures Irish citizens’ in the United Kingdom and British citizens that everything will remain the same, from rights to residency to insurance and pensions to the right to run in local elections, or even for the British parliament.
(Because of historic ties and the Common Travel Area, the Irish in Britain enjoy rights closer to full citizenship in the UK, according the Guardian.)
About 300,000 Brits live in the Republic, and about 350,000 citizens of the Republic live in the UK.
But … this has nothing to do with the Backstop. The border between the Republic and Northern Ireland is crucial to whether there is a no-deal Brexit. Hardline Brexiteers want to bring back a hard border with passport and customs checks; everyone else thinks that would be a violation of the Good Friday agreement and rekindle The Troubles.
That’s just one issue. As the Republic of Ireland is in the EU, it’s being inundated by British people seeking a second passport to keep their freedom of travel/migration. The Irish Times is reporting that the number of Republic passport applications by British citizens has risen to about 92,000 in the past 11 months from 46,000 in 2015, overwhelming the embassy passport services in London. About 4.4 percent of the 1.2 million UK citizens living across the EU have the family links back to Ireland that make them eligible for Irish passports, according to the Times post.
CliffsNotes Version: Brits have till 31 December 2020 to apply for a foreigner identity card.
Did you hear a huge sigh of relief on 1 March? That was the sound of 300,000-plus expats getting word Spanish officials have finally come out with a definitive no-Brexit policy: Everyone gets to stay in the EU country that’s home to the most British citizens.
Spain’s cabinet approved legislation for an estimated 400,000 Brits living in Spain remain in place if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. And under a reciprocity agreement, 150,000 Spanish citizens would remain in the UK. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in December that Brexit won’t change the status of British citizens in Spain … as long as the UK extends reciprocity to his citizens.
Under the plan, Britons living in Spain will have to apply for a foreigner identity card before 31 December 2020 to prove their legal residency status. The process would be “nearly automatic” for those UK nationals who already have permanent residency, according to media reports.
Now, here’s the tricky part: If there’s a no-deal Brexit, a Spanish contingency regulation provides a 21-month period starting from the withdrawal date (whenever that is) for the British nationals and family members to switch to third-country residence permits from EU rules.
There are a few uncertainties because the actual number of Brits in Spain is closer to 1 million, many of whom have homes there where they live only part of the year. That said, Brits in Spain hold a strong hand, injecting about 1.32 billion euros each year just into the economy of Alicante, where more than 25 percent of them live, according to Forbes.
CliffsNotes Version: No definitive policy yet. Brits will be allowed to stay, but no one knows for how long.
Swedish officials have talked about giving UK citizens a one-year extension with no change in residence status in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to Reuters. The waiver is to give Brits time to negotiate the paperwork of applying either for a third-country national residence permit or citizenship.
But Beyond Plan B and an orderly exit, the government’s official website here doesn’t commit to anything related to a no-deal Brexit other than to state the obvious: “Contingency planning to handle such an eventuality therefore needs to be in place.” That said, the Brexit website states that Brits in Sweden would be given the conditions” to continue to live and work in Sweden and have access to social security, health and medical care and education. It just doesn’t specify how long. And as with every country, Sweden’s policy is built on reciprocity.
There are about 30,000 British expats in Sweden.
CliffsNotes Version: No change for Brits already living in Switzerland.
Oh, the ignominy.
British citizens are about to join expats from Syria and Libya at the back of the line. Switzerland is instituting a quota system that will limit the number of Brits coming to work to 3,500. At first we thought this was The Onion.
But we found the Swiss official statement which says (emphasis ours):
As part of its ‘Mind the Gap’ strategy, the Federal Council decided at its meeting on 13 February to introduce a separate quota as a temporary measure, allowing 3,500 British citizens to work in Switzerland. This is intended to mitigate the consequences for the economy and the cantons of an abrupt change in the status of British citizens from persons benefiting from freedom of movement to third-country nationals; it will also prevent undesirable competition for jobs between British citizens and other third-country nationals.
The quotas would not apply to the 42,000 or so Brits already living in Switzerland, just new people trying to enter the Alpine paradise to work.
The release goes on to say “it should be possible to recruit a total of 3,500 workers from the UK: 2,100 residence permits (B) and 1,400 short-stay permits. This will guarantee the flexibility that the Swiss economy needs.” It’s not clear whether the 42,000 number will be a benchmark, or if the total falls below that, new visas will be issued.
The good news (sort of) is that there are talks are underway that might lead to Swiss officials lightening up a little bit on the Brits. (Can you say, “Kicking them while they’re down?”) This is also a harbinger of bad things to come because while Switzerland isn’t an EU member, it observes many of the EU rules and regulations. So if this is happening in Switzerland, then it could happen in other non-EU countries with large British expat populations.
As to residence rights (you thought we forgot), Brexit has no effect because Switzerland isn’t in the EU and it signed a Citizens Rights agreement with the UK last December guaranteeing nothing will change.