Expat Essentials

No deal, no problem, Pt. 2: 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 includes Spain and other expat centers. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would decide on 15 October whether British officials would end treaty negotiations with the European Union. He didn’t. But Johnson warned the British people to “prepare for a no-deal Brexit.” You can see Pt. 1 here.)


CliffsNotes Version: Luxembourg is a constitutive system. British nationals legally residing in Luxembourg before the end of 2020 can apply for a new residency card, and will have until the end June 2021 to do it. Current residency permits are still valid until June 2021.

But if you wait until after 31 December, expect a rush … a rush that might mean you have to wait for the residency card. Which means you won’t be able to leave Luxembourg and return as anything but a tourist.

The Whole Story: Brits in Luxembourg have to reapply for their residence status if they want to maintain their rights under the Brexit withdrawal agreement once the UK has left the EU. Luxemburgish officials previously said Brits wouldn’t have to apply for biometric residency cards, but now are requiring them to reapply by 30 June 2021.

Beyond that, no one can really predict what will happen if there’s no deal by the end of the transition period. It’s an issue because the number of British expats in the Grand Duchy is rising because Luxembourg has turned out to be the “surprise” winner in the contest to lure financial operations from The City, according to Financial Times.

Luxembourg has landed at least 72 companies, about the same number as Ireland and more than twice as many as France, the Netherlands and Germany.

Here’s the official government website.

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


CliffsNotes Version: Malta is a constitutive system.

With its strong ties to the UK, Malta acted quickly and generously to assure Brits of their right to remain before the withdrawal agreement. But now that it’s in effect, Maltese officials are keeping their cards close to their vests as they negotiate.

The Whole Story:

If you already have a residence document issued under EU free movement law, this is your temporary residence permit good for two years.

Unlike other EU countries, there doesn’t seem to be any reciprocity demand for Maltese citizens in the UK. So maybe it’s a done deal … an estimated 15,000 British expats get to keep on living in Malta as if they’re still EU nationals.

The Malta official website states “effectively nothing will change until the end of this (transition) period (i.e. status quo at least until the end of December 2020).”

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

Here’s the Maltese government’s policy statement.


CliffsNotes Version: The Netherlands is a constitutive system but is observing the rules under the withdrawal agreement, so nothing really changes during the negotiating period. If you want to stay after 31 December, you’ll need a residence document.

The Whole Story:

On Brexit Day, British citizens registered in the Netherlands received a letter from the Dutch Immigration Service outlining the terms of the withdrawal agreement including:

• after the transition period, they’ll need a residence document and that they’ll be getting a letter inviting them to apply online. The application cost is 58 euros for adults and 31 euros for children under 18 years old.

• you must wait for the invitation because the Dutch, being the methodical people they are, know they can’t get all 45,000 Brits registered at the same time. From February through June, the IND has sent 22,010 invitation letters to UK nationals living in the Netherlands, with 15,278 Brits submitting applications for a residence document. To date, the IND has decided on 10,072  applications.

• this is really important – if you already have a permanent residence document as an EU citizen, you’re going to need to change it – free of charge – for a new document. Again, you’ll get an invitation via post.

Now, here’s tricky part: You’ll have to meet all the conditions of obtaining a permanent residence permit … again. Find out here what those conditions are.

Read this updated Dutch information carefully here. Because no matter what happens this year as Boris negotiates with EU officials, Brits in the Netherlands are going to have some big decisions to make moving forward.

Here’s the Netherlands page on the GOV.UK Brexit website.

POLAND (new)

CliffsNotes Version: Poland is a declaratory system. Poland passed multiple bills in March 2019 including one applying to British businesses, one applying to recognizing professional credentials and one addressing the residency rights of UK citizens. Bottom line: Brits get 12 months from Brexit to get a temporary residence permit and/or apply for a permanent residence.

BUT, Brits who apply for long-term residency permits will have to prove they have not spent more than 10 months outside Poland during the past five years.

The Whole Story: Brits get through 2020 to apply for permits.

Poland, more than any other EU states, is adamant that the UK honor reciprocity and give Polish citizens and businesses in Great Britain (and there are many of both) the same deal they are extending to the Brits. Which is an on-going conversation.

You can see a thorough legal explanation here at the National Law Review.

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


CliffsNotes Version: Portugal is a declaratory system and all rights remain through the end of 2020. But Brits must be living in Portugal through the end of the transitional period, then continue living there and there rules regarding leaving Portugal for long periods. Brits will be issued new residence permits.

Here are the details.

The Whole Story: 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 after the 11-month transition period, only those already resident will have a legal right to stay.

Here is “The United Kingdom Nationals Keep their Right of Residence” notice .pdf, posted last November.

As we’ve mentioned many, many times 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.

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

And by the way, Portugal is one of the countries where British expats have received notice their banks will be closing their accounts because “passporting” is ending and with it London-based financial institutions’ rights to do business in the European Union.


CliffsNotes Version: No deal, no problem.

The Whole Story: On 8 May 2019, 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 ultimately 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 reported 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.

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

SPAIN (updated)

CliffsNotes Version: Spain is a declaratory country. Brits have till 31 December 2020 to apply for a foreigner identity card. But if they’re already living in Spain with residencia – the green certificate of residence – they can now register for the new Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjaro (TIE).

Spain also just created an 060 Brexit hotline to answer Brexit-related questions from Brits and Spanish citizens in English or Spanish. Out side Spain, call cc34 – 902 887060.

Information categories include residence requirements, healthcare, driving licenses, education, travel and business.

The Whole Story: Did you hear that huge sigh of relief last 1 March? That was the sound of 365,000-plus expats getting word Spanish officials have finally come out with a definitive 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 ultimately leaves the EU without a deal. And under a reciprocity agreement, 180,000 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 post-Brexit, a Spanish contingency regulation provides a 21-month period starting from the withdrawal date (31 January 2020) for the British nationals and family members to switch to third-country residence permits from EU rules.

Here’s the official Spanish website.

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. If they don’t have a long-term residency visa, they could be limited to spending only 90 days per year under Schengen tourist-visa rules.

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.

Also, don’t forget that Spain is one of the Golden Visa countries. The New York Times has new post about how you can buy a house in Spain and get a passport in the bargain.

However, it’s still not clear how much money/income/net worth British citizens will have to have to prove they’re self-sufficient.

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

Okay, about that whole Gibraltar thing … Gibraltar minister Fabian Picardo suggested it doesn’t make sense for Gibraltar, where 97 percent of residents voted Remain, to not be in Schengen Zone and accessible to EU citizens considering it’s attached to Spain and 1,500 miles from London. British officials replied, “In your dreams.”

Since the status of British citizens in Spain depends on what the UK does for Spanish citizens, Gibraltar could turn into major complication as the UK and EU enter negotiations.

About 15,000 people go back and forth between Spain and Gibraltar every day for work. The British have ruled Gibraltar since 1713 though Madrid continues to claim sovereignty over the 2.5-mile territory.  Stay tuned.

SWEDEN (updated)

CliffsNotes Version: Like France, Sweden has a constitutive system that requires applying for settled status. You can apply here.

Before the Brexit deal, Sweden’s Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson is proposing that Sweden just hand out residents’ permits to any Brit who’s lived in the country for more than five years. Because if they don’t, a no-deal Brexit would mean Brits would have to leave. “If nothing is done it will mean that the British who have a residence permit will lose it overnight,” Johansson said.

Fortunately, with a deal, Sweden is following the same script as all the other EU countries … British citizens get a 1-year freebie to stay with the possibility of extension.

The Whole Story:

Sweden’s Brexit website says it all:

According to the withdrawal agreement, each member state will formulate a procedure that makes it possible for British citizens to keep their rights even after the transition period. It is the Government that decides what Sweden’s procedure will look like. This website will be updated when more information on this is available.

So, “to be announced” is the official policy as we enter the 11-month negotiation period.

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.

But, there is one big complication: Brits who want to travel during the transition period need proof they are exempt from the requirement of a residence permit. That is, you already have right of residence.

Which means if you’re just arriving for, say, a job but don’t have a residence permit, you ain’t goin’ nowhere till there’s a permanent plan.

There are about 30,000 British expats in Sweden, about 20,000 of whom don’t hold Swedish passports, according to reports.

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


CliffsNotes Version: No change for Brits already living in Switzerland.

The Whole Story: Oh, the ignominy.

British citizens have joined 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 2019 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.

You can read the full release here.

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.

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

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