‘Some Britons might not have their papers in order yet’: How a UN team is helping Brits in Germany prepare for Brexit

'Some Britons might not have their papers in order yet': How a UN team is helping Brits in Germany prepare for Brexit
If Brits have registered by December 31st 2020, they have the right to stay in Germany. Photo: DPA
The International Organisation for Migration is best known for its work lobbying governments for improved channels for migration from the developing world. Now though, they’re helping Brits adjust to the post-Brexit world.

“This project is actually not out of the ordinary for the IOM. “We have been working in the sector of informing migrants and information dissemination for 75 years,” says Linda Gaertner, the teams communications officer.

“What is new here is that there is a developing situation for British nationals in Germany,” she adds.

A total of three full-time staff are working in the IOM project to inform Brits about the changes that are on their way when the Brexit transition period ceases at the end of the year. 

The IOM won a British Foreign Office contract to provide support to UK nationals in six EU countries including Germany, where they have offices in Berlin and Nuremberg and provide support across 12 of the 16 federal states.

The work involves assisting “at risk” groups of Brits, such as those who have limited German language skills, people with disabilities, or elderly people who might have trouble accessing information online.

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Brits automatically get right of residence

Robert Menzies, who is the project manager on the team, says that Brits in Germany are relatively fortunate compared to their compatriots in some other EU states.

“Germany opted for a declaratory system of residency status, meaning that UK nationals do not have to apply for residency themselves. Instead it will be given to them automatically,” he explains.

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Any Brits who have registered their residency in Germany up until the end of this year will thus be granted the continued right to live and work in Germany without needing to take any extra steps before the end of transition period.

However they should register with their local foreigners’ authority once the law has passed to obtain the new residence document.

Menzies notes though that some Brits “might not have their papers in order yet” on the issue of Anmeldung, the process by which one registers one's address with the local Bürgeramt.

He also stresses that UK nationals need to pay attention to the validity of their passport and driving licence. As a rule, German authorities do not accept a passport for official purposes if it has less than six months before expiring.

“This isn’t a major issue but it is something that people should be careful about,” he says.

Change your driving licence

Driving licences are a more pressing concern.

“Right now people should exchange to a German license as soon as possible,” says Menzies. “They could change to an international driving licence or to a German one. Getting an international one is more expensive and takes more time, so we advise people to get a German one.

“It is currently easy to switch from one EU driving license to another, but after the transition period ends it might be more complicated to switch to a German one,” he says.

READ ALSO: How to change your British driving licence to a German one

“It can be confusing to find the right office to apply for a driving licence as the name varies from state to state,” adds Gaertner. “We assist by providing people with the right address in their federal state.”

After setting up their helpline in July, the IOM say they have had a steady increase in inquiries over recent months.

While the IOM team can assist with filling out forms, they emphasize that people still need to submit the documents themselves. They also stress that they try to follow up with people who have reached out to them to make sure that their applications went smoothly.

Their advice: take action as soon as possible to make sure you don’t get caught out by the impending end to the transition period.

Contact information for the IOM team:


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