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Can Brits still move to Germany after Brexit day?

Can Brits still move to Germany after Brexit day?
Germany, British and EU flags outside of Tegel Airport in Berlin in May 2019. Photo: DPA
For British people already living in Germany, the last three years have been a period of nightmarish uncertainty over their rights to stay - but what about those who want to make the move in the future?

Many British people have been nursing a long-term dream to move to Germany one day – whether for work, love or just following a pipe dream of living abroad. But if you haven't made the move by the time the UK leaves the EU on January 31st have you left it too late?

Let's have a look at the rules for moving countries without the benefit of EU freedom of movement.

READ ALSO: Brexit: What do Brits in Germany need to think about before January 31st?

Transition period

Assuming that the UK leaves the EU with a deal on January 31st, which at present is looking the most likely scenario, there then begins a transition period.

This currently runs until December 31st, 2020, although it is possible it could be extended.

After the transition period, Brits may have to get a residency permit for Germany just like Americans and Australians. Photo: DPA

During these 11 months, the Withdrawal Agreement states that both British and EU citizens keep the rights that they currently have, including the freedom to move to another EU country.

So not only can you move to Germany during this period, you probably should if it's possible and if that's been your aim of course, because afterwards things are set to get a lot more complicated.

UPDATED: The ultimate Brexit checklist for Brits in Germany

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that British people who are already lawfully resident in an EU country have the right to remain there, and that includes people who move between Brexit day and the end of the transition period.

Many rights will be guaranteed for people who are legally resident in a country before December 31st, 2020 (or later if the transition period is extended).

The phrase legally resident is important though and it's not the same as simply being in the country by New Year's Eve 2020.

This applies also to people already resident and means that certain criteria – including being financially self sufficient – will likely need to be met.

Be careful to keep all paperwork relating to your arrival date in Germany – you may need it when you come to apply for residency.

German authorities have previously said that no British national would be forced to leave the country after Brexit happens.

What we do know is that everyone is required to have a residence permit, but just how residence permits for Brits will work is an issue that isn't clear.

To get a residence permit, you have to submit an application to your local foreigners authority (Ausländerbehörde). You have to be a legal resident in Germany to apply for this so if you have not done so already, register with your local residents registration office (Anmeldung) to obtain proof of residence.

After the transition period

Once the transition period ends things get more complicated.

Exactly what the rules will be for people who want to move to Germany after this date we don't yet know – it's one of the many issues that needs to be negotiated during the transition period.

This period was originally scheduled to last for two years, but repeated Brexit delays have whittled it down to just 11 months.

READ ALSO: Explained: What you need to know about applying for German citizenship

In that time a whole host of issues relating to citizens' rights need to be be agreed – as well as thrashing out a trade deal. It's an ambitious timetable by anyone's standards.

What could happen?

As far as the deal that will be agreed, we're really moving into guesswork here, but it seems likely that the rules will be similar to those already in place for American or Australian people who want to move to Germany.

And there are plenty of them living here, so clearly it's not impossible.

It is a lot more complicated though – and expensive.

People who don't take up permanent residency are restricted to spending only 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen zone – something that will have a big impact on British second home owners.

People who want to make the move permanently need a visa. 

Most non-EU citizens have to apply for a long stay visa in their home country before making the move, and have it validated as a residency permit within three months of arriving.

Often visas are linked to work or study, so people who want to move to Germany, live off savings for a while or set up their own business could find themselves being rejected for residency.

Any exceptions?

Once the UK leaves the EU, British people will cease to be EU citizens, with all the rights that go with that.

However there are a couple of ways that British people could still benefit from EU rules.

Are you looking to get a German passport? Photo: DPA

One of these is to become the citizen of an EU country.

Thousands have applied for German citizenship, while others have moved to safeguard their EU citizenship, by applying for Irish nationality. Both these routes come with conditions of course.

The other is to apply as a family member of an EU citizen, so if you are married or in a durable relationship with an EU national – or are a dependent child/parent – you can 'piggy back' on their rights. Although this too is more complicated than travelling under freedom of movement and you would still need to apply for residency within 90 days of arriving in the country.

Check out The Local's Preparing for Brexit section for more detail and updates as we get them. If you have questions, please send them to us here and we will do our best to answer them.


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