Should Theresa May's embattled government manage to squeeze the Withdrawal Agreement through the UK parliament, the approximately 1.3 million Britons living in Europe will have their right to reside in their host country, as well as rights to work and access to healthcare, protected by the deal.
If, however, the UK stumbles out of the bloc without agreeing a framework for the future relationship, Britons living in EU27 member states will have to rely on the terms offered to remain by their host government. Most countries have already made clear they do plan to offer British citizens some kind of protection of their current rights. Here's a breakdown of the current situation – member state by member state.
Austria, like many other EU nations, is set to pass legislation to protect the rights of Britons living in the country in the event of a no-deal departure becoming reality on March 29th. Britons will have six months to apply for the relevant residency permits after the UK's departure – residents however will be able to remain until their applications have been processed. There are two different offers by the Austrian government – which reflect to some extent the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement – based on whether Britons have lived in the central European nation for more or less than five years.
“British nationals who have been resident in Austria under EU law for less than 5 years will be able to apply for a 'Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte plus' residence permit. Examination of the application will essentially be restricted to checking whether the applicant poses a risk to public order and security. Applicants shall not have to provide evidence of German language skills when first applying for their residence permit,” reads a statement by the Austrian government.
“Moreover, it is possible for British citizens to apply for any other residence permit for which they meet the requirements.
British nationals and their third-country family members who have been legally resident in Austria for over 5 years will be able to apply for permanent residence ('Daueraufenthalt – EU'). Applicants will need to provide proof that they have been legally resident for at least 5 years and will have to meet the general requirements for the granting of a residence permit under the Settlement and Residence Act. These include providing evidence of adequate accommodation, comprehensive health insurance and sufficient financial resources, as well as verification that the applicant poses no risk to public order and security. A regulation issued by the Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs will determine whether applicants for the 'Daueraufenthalt – EU' residence permit will need to provide evidence of German language skills.
British nationals must apply for a residence permit within 6 months of the UK (United Kingdom) leaving the EU, but will continue to be legally resident until a decision has been made on their application. Confirmation that an application has been submitted and that the applicant continues to be legally resident can be issued upon request,” adds the statement.
More than 10,000 UK nationals live in Austria.
The Belgian government has hinted that it will protect the rights of the 20,000+ British citizens living in the country, although current guidelines suggest a harder approach than some other nations.
“It is important to point out that as long as the full agreement has not been ratified, the Immigration Office cannot guarantee the rights and obligations of the citizens,” state guidelines by Belgium's Office for Foreigners.
“Foreign Minister Zaharieva provided reassurance to UK Nationals in Bulgaria that in the event of a no deal exit from the EU, Bulgaria will provide a straightforward registration scheme for UK nationals legally resident in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government have told us that the Scheme will be based on reciprocity, meaning that Bulgaria will provide the same rights to UK nationals in Bulgaria that we have committed to provide for Bulgarians living in the UK. The Bulgarian government intends to introduce new draft legislation before the Bulgarian parliament in order to implement these arrangements,” states a post on the British Embassy in Sofia's Facebook page.
Approximately 2,600 Brits live in Bulgaria.
“The Interior Ministry in Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, told news portal Balkan Insight that “special rules will be applied UK citizens who, on March 29, 2019, have regulated status of foreigner in the Republic of Croatia, which will allow [them] to maintain the right of residence.” But the ministry said it was “still developing in details the modalities of residence” of British citizens in Croatia after Brexit and how new documents would be issued.” Approximately 850 UK nationals live in Croatia.
Cyprus, which has a decades-long close relationship with the UK – its former coloniser – and hosts two sovereign British bases, has not yet clarified its position. More than 20,000 Brits live in the Mediterranean island. Yet the Cypriot government has not yet said if, or how, it will safeguard the rights of Britons living there after March 29th should the UK leave the European Union without having first agreed terms of departure – a situation commonly referred to as 'a no-deal Brexit'.
The Czech Republic announced in early January 2019 that it would pass specific legislation, 'Lex Brexit', to allow British residents to retain the same rights they currently enjoy as EU citizens until December 2020.
“This legislation effectively creates a transition period from March 30, 2019 to December 31, 2020. During this time, and within specified areas, British citizens will be guaranteed the same treatment as if they were citizens of the European Union. We are of course counting on there being a reciprocal move,” the country's President Andrez Babis told Radio CZ.
More details on Czech Republic's conditions for UK nationals in the central European nation can be found here (Czech only). More than 6,000 UK nationals live in Czech Republic.
EU Brexit European Commission's Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier (L) and President of the European Council Donald Tusk speak ahead of a meeting at the European Council in Brussels on February 13th, 2019. The UK has just over 40 days to avoid exiting the EU without a deal that would secure the rights of its citizens living in the EU. Photo: François Walschaerts/POOL/AFP.
Denmark’s government is yet to pass any legislation regarding the future status of British citizens in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but has moved to reassure Brits they will be allowed to remain in the country and released details of contingency planning.
The Ministry for Immigration and Integration, in a statement published on its website on February 1st , said that the government wished to “avoid Denmark-based British citizens and their families, from one day to the next, reverting to the rules which apply to third-country [non-EU, ed.] citizens”.
According to the February 1st statement, the government has made plans to put forward a bill providing for temporary transitional arrangement which would enable British citizens and their families to remain in the country under EU free movement rules, provided they did so legally prior to March 29th .
Two areas of EU free movement will no longer be applied, however: EU rules for family reunification and deportation for example of those convicted of crimes. The bill is set to be put forward in the second half of February, leaving it enough time to come into effect by March 30th.
Brits living in Denmark who have not already obtained an EU registration certificate (EU-registreringsbevis), or have not already applied for one, are strongly advised to do so prior to March 29th. Family members of Denmark-based British citizens required to apply for Danish residence via their family member’s status are also advised to do so before this date.
British citizens who qualify for permanent residency (tidsubegrænset ophold) in Denmark in accordance with EU rules are also advised to apply for this prior to March 29th , although the temporary transitional arrangement will grant permanent residency to those who qualify for it under EU rules during the transitional period. Permanent residency can be applied for after five years’ residence in Denmark under EU free movement rules.
The temporary arrangement will apply indefinitely until a new rule set comes into force, according to the ministry statement. The government will continue to work towards a permanent arrangement.
Nearly 15,000 British citizens officially live in Denmark.
The Estonian government has not issued specific guidelines on how it plans to accommodate Brits in the event of a no-deal, although it has said that British citizens resident in the Baltic nation will be able to remain.
“Citizens of the United Kingdom can continue to reside in Estonia even if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a withdrawal agreement,” states the Estonian Ministry of the Interior's web page on Brexit.
“Estonia's intention is that the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union goes smoothly for those UK citizens and their family members residing in Estonia today, so that they could continue their everyday life without any notable additional bureaucracy,” adds that clarification.
Less than 500 British citizens live in Estonia.
“The Finnish government’s Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs has decided that a special act extending the right of residence of British citizens in Finland will be drafted for the eventuality of the United Kingdom leaving the EU at the end of March without an agreement.
Under this special act, those British citizens who are currently living in Finland and who have registered their EU right of residence can continue to stay and live in Finland without any separate measures for a fixed time period that will be specified in the act. The period will be further examined during the drafting of the act,” states a January 25th update from the Finnish Immigration Service, the government body responsible for the residency and rights of Brits in the Nordic country. Just under 5,000 Brits live in Finland.
France has recently put its no-deal contingency plan into action, which – from first impressions – didn't have the desired impact for Britons in France.
Instead of easing their worries it simply created more unease and anxiety and prompted the British embassy and campaign groups to seek talks with French officials.
While French ministers had repeatedly stressed that Britons living in France were a priority for them, the no-deal law that was published on February 8th gave a slightly different impression.
Britons found out they would be treated pretty much the same as other non-EU residents or Third Country Nationals. They will be given a year to get a residency permit, which must be given to their employer to allow them to continue working.
Pensioners will be given healthcare for two years after Brexit in the hope that Britain and France then agree a bilateral deal. And Britons will be able to claim basic unemployment benefits for a year.
But the new no-deal law sparked concerns because anyone without a residency permit – most Britons in France – will have to prove they have sufficient resources but the amount of income they need to prove will be set in a future decree. Given that some Britons also live off low incomes in France, this has sparked worry.
Plus the fact France has signaled it intends to charge up to €300 for the new permits in the case of a no-deal has sparked anger and concern, given that EU nationals in the UK won't be charged for gaining Settled Status. France's Interior Ministry told The Local a price has not yet been set.
“The French are saying 'we don't want to push you out on March 29th but you will be Third Country Nationals.' They are saying 'we will give you a slightly easier ride than Third Country Nationals but it won't be a walk in the park,” said Christopher Chantrey from the British Community Committee in France .
The big caveat for France's no-deal measures to protect Brits is that Paris stresses that everything depends on reciprocity, so London must guarantee by law the same rights for the French in the UK.
But given the concerns raised by the no-deal provisions the British government is also demanding reciprocity be respected. So watch this space.
More than 150,000 Britons live in France, although some estimates suggest the actual number is much higher.
The official numbers for British citizens resident in each EU country as of 2018. Graphic: The Local.
In December, Germany approved a draft bill that aims to guarantee the rights of people affected in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
By addressing social security, education, citizenship, as well as business and finance issues, the government hopes it will be able to cushion the effects of Brexit on everyday life.
“The German government is counting on the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the European Union,” the cabinet said in a statement. “At the same time, though, it is taking precautions in case it proves impossible to come to a comprehensive withdrawal agreement.”
The draft bill contains legislation that means anyone who’s applied for German citizenship before March 30th will be able to keep both passports in the event of a no-deal scenario, even if the decision on their citizenship is made after the Brexit leaving date.
On the issue of social security, the draft law aims to make sure people who have contributed to both the German and British systems before Brexit maintain their rights, such as health insurance, long-term care insurance, unemployment benefits, pension and accident insurance, even in the event of a no-deal.
Some states are also asking British people living there to register on top of the Anmeldung (registration) process that everyone is required to do.
More than 100,000 UK nationals live in Germany.
Greece has been quiet on whether it will create legislation to allow more than 15,000 Brits who live in the country to remain should the UK exit from the European Union (EU) political bloc on March 29th, 2019 without a deal.
As at February 6th 2019, Greece had made no announcements on the rights of UK nationals in the event of a no-deal, according to the Living in Crete website. The British ambassador says: “The UK has unilaterally committed to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK in the event of a no deal scenario, and want to see our EU Member States do the same. My colleagues at the British Embassy in Athens and I have been in frequent contact with the Greek authorities, including at the highest levels in government, to share details of our offer and to press for reciprocity for UK nationals in Greece.”
Hungary has committed to protecting the rights of the 8,000 or so British residents it hosts.
“In the event of a no-deal scenario, the Hungarian government has committed to protecting the legal current rights of UK nationals resident in Hungary on March 29th, 2019, on a broadly reciprocal basis with the UK,” British Ambassador to Hungary Ian Lindsay OBE said in a video posted on the embassy's Facebook page on February 6th.
“The Hungarian government is currently developing the legal and practical provisions for a no-deal scenario. They and we will publish further details as soon as they are available,” added Ambassador Lindsay.
Meanwhile, the Hungarian government advises all British citizens resident in Hungary to register with the Immigration and Asylum Office by March 29th, 2019. More details on how to register here.
Bilateral treaties between Ireland and the UK that predate the European Union define the rights of UK nationals to live in the republic.
“People who are citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) are entitled to live in Ireland without any conditions or restrictions,” states the Irish government portal Citizens Information.
The right of UK citizens to live in Ireland derives from Irish law. UK nationals are not subject to the Aliens Act 1935.
The Italian government says it’s working on legislation to limit the fallout of Brexit, including in the “undesirable scenario” of a withdrawal without an agreement.
While the details are yet to be finalized, the good news is that Italy has guaranteed that Brits will keep their rights to live in the country even without a deal – at least for a while. In the even of a no-deal Brexit, there’ll be a transition period during which British residents will be allowed to remain in Italy while they apply for whatever new visas or permits are required. During this period, expected to last between six and nine months, they’ll continue to benefit from their current rights to work, healthcare and education.
Estimates for the total number of UK nationals living in Italy range from 27,000 to 65,000.
Before the end of the transition period, they will be required to re-register their residence with the Italian authorities, this time as third-country nationals rather than EU citizens. Italy has promised to treat Brits “generously” during this process, and has indicated that they may not have to fulfill all the requirements that other third-country nationals usually need to meet to get residency.
In the meantime, all Brits living in the EU27's third largest economy are advised to register their residency officially as soon as possible, while those who are eligible should apply for permanent residence and/or Italian citizenship.
Latvia confirmed this week that it will also draw up legislation to protect the rights of 1,200 British citizens residing in the Baltic nation.
“The government-sponsored bill sets out the procedures by which UK citizens and their family members who are already legally residing in the Republic of Latvia will be able to receive new documents confirming their right of residence. To do this, there is a transition period until December 31, 2020, during which UK citizens and their family members will have the opportunity to register and retain the rights that they enjoyed while the United Kingdom was one of the Member States of the European Union,” clarified Latvia's public broadcaster LSM in a story on February 12th.
Latvia is also passing legislation to ensure Brits registered in Latvia by the March 29th cut-off point can continue to access healthcare after the UK's departure.
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The Lithuanian government has said Brits will be able to carry on living in the country after March 29th in the event of a no-deal scenario, although it has not yet published guidelines as to what the criteria or the terms will be.
“All the UK citizens will be able to stay in Lithuania in case of a no-deal Brexit. Nonetheless, residence registration in Lithuania is very important for ensuring legal stay in the case of any scenario for the future relations between the European Union and the UK. The Ministry of the Interior and the Migration Department will continue to keep the UK citizens informed of any further developments,” clarifies a statement published by the country's Ministry of the Interior on February 6th, 2019.
Lithuania hosts less UK nationals than any other EU state – just over 200.
Luxembourg has said it will allow British residents to remain until December 2020 in the event of a no-deal, in accordance with EU-wide guidelines published in November 2018.
Brits will have to apply for a new residency status by December 2019.
“Simple procedures will be applied when processing applications for residence permits of British nationals and their families,” states a web page on the Luxembourgish government web portal.
“The exact details and methods applicable to applications for a residence permit will be communicated later on the website www.guichet.lu,” adds the statement. More details here (FR).
More than 5,000 UK nationals officially live in Luxembourg.
Malta's strong ties with the UK have led the Maltese government to issue perhaps the most generous package of rights to British citizens of any EU27 member state.
The Maltese government's data suggests that there are roughly 13,000 UK nationals in Malta exercising their EU treaty rights, 5,000 of whom are in employment.
Crucially, Brits who arrive before or after the March 29th cut-off point – in the event of a no-deal exit – will be invited to apply for a 10-year work and resident permit. No distinction will be made between those who exercised treaty rights and those who haven't before the end of Article 50. Applications will be free of charge.
More details here.
On 7 January 2019, the Dutch government announced in its letter to parliament (available in Dutch only) that British citizens who have a right of residence in the Netherlands on 29 March 2019 can also stay in the Netherlands after a no-deal Brexit.
“In the event there is no-deal, a national transition scheme will take effect from 29 March 2019 to 1 July 2020. Under this transition scheme, British citizens retain their rights to live, work and study in the Netherlands. This also applies if you are the family member of a British citizen and you do not have another EU citizenship. Before 29 March 2019 the IND will send you a letter. This letter will be your temporary residence permit. You do not have to take action yourself to receive this letter.
After the transition period you will need a new national residence permit. You can obtain a residence permit if you meet the same residence conditions for residence that apply to EU citizens. With this residence permit you also have the right to work and study in the Netherlands. During the transition period you will receive an invitation by letter to apply for this national residence permit before 1 April 2020. These invitations will be sent in stages as in a deal situation,” states a Dutch government web portal (EN) on the subject.
More than 40,000 Brits live in the Netherlands.
Anti-Brexit protesters hold EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London on February 12th, 2019. More than 1 million UK nationals in Europe will have to rely on domestic legislation in their EU27 host countries if the UK departs the European Union without first agreeing terms for future relations after the divorce. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP.
The Polish government has also said it will safeguard the rights of British citizens resident there. Brits will have to apply for a temporary residence permit, which will be valid for three years. More details here.
Just over 2,000 UK nationals live in Poland.
“Portugal will create all the conditions for British citizens who reside in Portugal to maintain their residence. And all those who wish to visit or live here will be very welcome,” reads a statement (PT) by the Portuguese government on how it will deal with Brits in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
A February 14th statement by the UK government adds: “For those of you who are residents in Portugal now, your residence rights will be protected under any scenario. If the UK leaves the EU under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, your residence rights will be protected by that agreement. But the Portuguese government has also given a public assurance that if the UK leaves without a deal, those who are already resident, or can prove they are living here on 29 March 2019, will retain their residence rights.”
Some 15,000 British nationals officially live in Portugal, although like Spain, some estimates suggest the total could in fact be much higher.
The Romanian government is one of the only EU states yet to clarify its position on how it will treat UK nationals residing in the nation after March 29th should the UK depart the EU without guidelines for the future framework cooperation.
Romania is concerned that many of its citizens in the UK will not meet the criteria for Settled Status, the UK's post-Brexit conditions for EU citizens resident in Britain.
Roughly 500 UK nationals reside officially in Romania.
The Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it will offer Brits exactly the same package of rights that the UK affords Slovakian citizens in Britain.
“In order to achieve reciprocity, the Slovak Republic is preparing to adopt all necessary legislative changes so that the status of British citizens living in the Slovak Republic by March 29th, 2019, remains preserved also in the case of the UK´s withdrawal from the EU without agreement. The condition of the Slovak Republic is to keep reciprocity on the British side so that exactly the same treatment towards Slovak citizens living in the United Kingdom will be carried into practice,” states a communiqué released on January 21st, 2019, by the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The total number of UK nationals officially resident in Slovakia is just over 2,000.
The Slovenian government has not yet published guidelines on what it plans to do to safeguard the rights of just over 600 UK nationals who live in the country.
The British Embassy in Ljubljana is holding an open event in the capital Ljubljana on February 18th, in Bled on February 19th and in Maribor on February 21st to update British citizens on their future status in Slovenia. See the embassy's Facebook page for more details and all the latest updates.
Spain has made efforts to reassure Brits living in Spain that they are working on agreements to ensure their continued rights to live and work in the country in case of a no-deal Brexit.
In January Pedro Sanchez’s government announced that it is planning contingency measures to guarantee healthcare provisions to UK nationals living in Spain starting on the date of the UK's withdrawal from the EU if there is no agreement.
Sanchez emphasized that any such agreement would have to be on a reciprocal basis to also guarantee healthcare for Spanish residents in the UK.
Spain's government has also launched a special Brexit information page on their website where they update on the latest regulations concerning Brits in Spain and Spaniards residing in the UK.
In one piece of good news, Spain and the UK signed a reciprocal agreement to guarantee voting rights after the March 29th Brexit deadline.
This will mean British residents in Spain can continue to vote in municipal elections and stand as candidates for their local council even after Brexit. But they will have no vote in regional or national elections.
The government has also said it will hire an extra 1,735 new public workers to deal with the fallout from Brexit.
Spain hosts more British citizens than any other EU state. The official numbers say there are just over 300,000 British citizens resident in Spain – some estimates suggest the actual number is closer to one million.
Sweden is still ironing out the details for what to do for Brits in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but the government has said it is working to ensure they can “live as before” in its wake. A proposal is in the pipeline which, if it goes ahead, would guarantee Brits resident in Sweden a year in the country during which they could apply for permits to be allowed to stay.
This would give the 20,000 Brits resident in Sweden without Swedish citizenship time to apply for any residence and work permits needed to remain in the country, and to ensure that they fulfill the requirements for these. Third-country applicants usually need to be outside the country when they apply for these permits, but that won't be the case for British citizens.
The proposal has been put out for consultation, and a number of issues have so far been raised. The Swedish Migration Agency, for example, has urged the government to clarify exactly which rules would apply to Brits, and has noted it is possible that some Brits could even be denied right of residence if the government decides that the existing rules for third-country citizens would apply.
AND EFTA States
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union which means it has been carrying out separate negotiations with the United Kingdom on the future of bilateral relations between the two countries post-Brexit.
These talks are necessary because current bilateral relations are based on agreements between Bern and the EU which will cease to apply when the UK leaves the bloc.
The Swiss-UK negotiations appear to have been highly productive. The two countries recently finalized a post-Brexit trade deal while other bilateral agreements on issues including citizen’s rights, aviation and insurance are also in the pipeline.
In all cases, the agreements include mention of special measures to be implemented in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The key citizen’s rights agreement is designed to ensure the around 43,000 UK citizens living in Switzerland and 34,500 Swiss nationals living in the UK “will be able to continue enjoying broadly the same rights as they do now”.
With an eye on a no-deal Brexit. Switzerland has also announced it will establish separate work permit quotas for British nationals planning to come and work in the Switzerland ‘for the first time’ in the event of a disorderly UK departure from the EU.
This temporary quota measure, which would not apply to Brits already living in Switzerland, means UK citizens would not have to compete with other ‘third country nationals’ when it comes to getting a Swiss work permit in 2019.
Norway’s government proposed legislation last week to secure the rights of Norwegians living in Britain and of Britons living in Norway in the case of a no-deal Brexit, Reuters reports.
While Britain and EU outsider Norway agreed last year to apply the principles of a Brexit agreement in their bilateral relationship, the new legislation would also cover a no-deal scenario, it added.
“We hope Britain will have an orderly exit from the European Union. We must however be prepared for Britain choosing to leave the EU without a deal,” Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara said in a statement.
If approved, the proposal would delegate power from the non-EU nation’s parliament to the government, allowing it to protect citizens’ rights, the ministry added.
The rights of UK citizens living in Iceland have been secured in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to the UK's Ambassador to Iceland Michael Nevin. “Both the UK and Iceland governments have made commitments to each other’s citizens in the event of “no deal”. Citizens resident in our respective countries at the time of the UK’s departure from the EU will be able to continue living, working and studying here and in the UK as before,” wrote Nevin in a post on December 20th, 2018.
The Icelandic government had already confirmed this in an earlier post on October 31st in which it wrote: “The leaders of Iceland and the UK have agreed that Icelandic citizens in the UK and British citizens in Iceland will retain their residence rights after Brexit, even in the case of a no-deal with the EU.”
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