Brexit: What changes in Germany from January 2021?

Now the Brexit transition period has ended, Britons will start to notice some differences - especially when travelling between Germany and the UK. Here's what is set to change.

Brexit: What changes in Germany from January 2021?
A flag hangs outside of the British Embassy in Berlin on December 24th. Photo: DPA

Although the UK actually left the EU in January 2020, the rest of the year was a transition period, which meant that on a day-to-day basis not much changed.

But after the end of the transition period on December 31st 2020, the differences will start to be felt.

Here's an outline of what is changing.

And for more information on key dates read our story here.

Passport queues

From January 1st 2021, British people no longer get to use the EU passport queue at ports, station and airports.

This probably won't have a huge impact on most people but the non-EU passport queue tends to be longer so if you are planning a very tight connection it might be wise to bear this in mind.

REMINDER: What Brits in Europe need to know about travel from January 2021

Freedom of movement ends

After December 31st 2020, British nationals can no longer take advantage of freedom of movement. They must be resident in Germany if they want to take advantage of the more generous provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, which guarantees right to residency, work and life-long health cover.

And if they are resident in Germany at the end of the year, moving elsewhere in Europe after December 31st won't be as easy because onward freedom of movement comes to an end at the stroke of midnight. Sob.

READ ALSO: Brexit will throw up endless hurdless, but we'll be there to help

Documents for travel in 2021

German and UK authorities have also both said that if planning to travel in January 2021 (and possibly longer) Brits resident in Germany should take with them their proof of their residence.

That's because most British people in Germany do not have their residency document yet, which provides proof. So other documents to show this include an Anmeldung registration document, a rental contract, a work contract or a bill with your address on it.

If you are checked at the border, you can produce a document like this to show you live in Germany. However, there have been reports of authorities not accepting documents.

Adding to the complication is the UK travel ban in place over the mutant coronavirus strain. British people who are resident in Germany were told they could come back into Germany from January 1st but they must bring proof of their address and undergo testing and a quarantine period.



From January 1st, British passports that have less than six months until their expiry date will no longer be valid for travel within the EU.

This is the same rule that is already in place for British travellers to several other countries, including the US, but will now also apply when travelling inside the EU. So anyone whose passport is nearing its expiry date will need to renew.

A British Airways flight lands at London Heathrow in October. Photo: DPA


Any British national who wants to stay in Germany for more than 90 days out of every 180 will from January 1st need a visa.

This applies to both people who want to move here and holidaymakers or second home owners who want to spend more than 90 days at a time here.

There are still some question marks over how things will operate for cross-border workers, for example. We'll let you know as soon as we have more information.


Britons who were living in Germany before December 31st 2020 have until June 30th 2021 to report their residence to their local foreigners authority (Ausländerbehörde) in order to be able to obtain the new residence document.

Some states have already started the registration process. For example, in Berlin, many people registered their details months ago and have been told the Ausländerbehörde will get back to them. So don't worry if you have submitted your details but haven't heard anything yet.

However, if you are unsure, contact your local foreigners authority to ask what the process is.


There is still time but authorities have urged people not to wait until the last minute to apply for the residency document.

The document costs the same as a German identity card: €37 for people over the age of 24 and €22.80 for those under this age.

If you apply after this date, your application will most likely be dealt with under the much stricter rules for third country nationals.

READ ALSO: What Britons in Germany need to know about the law that guarantees residency


The UK government previously advised Brits to change their driving licence to a German one by December 31st 2020.

But now the updated advice from the government says Brits can continue to use their British licence in Germany until July 1st 2021.

From this date they say you may need to take another test to exchange your licence, so it's best to change it before July 2021.

If you hold a licence from Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, if you haven't exchanged your licence before January 1st 2021, you may need to take a test.

To obtain a German licence, start by looking up the information on what documents you need on the local government website of the city you live in. In Berlin you need to book an appointment online at your Bürgeramt (administrative office) and attend a meeting.

Generally, you need to apply for the licence through the Führerscheinstelle at your local administrative office.

An International Driving Permit is not a suitable alternative to exchanging your licence, the UK government has advised.

If your UK driving licence is lost, stolen or expires, you will not be able to renew it with the UK Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) while you are resident in Germany.


If you are a visitor you will also need to have either health insurance or travel insurance that covers health costs when travelling in Germany as British people will no longer be covered by the European Health Insurance Card (what used to be known as the E111) so if you fall ill or have an accident while travelling you could end up facing hefty medical bills.

British residents living in Germany will need to register with the German healthcare system if they have not already.

Identity cards

From October 2021, the UK will no longer allow entry from EU citizens with an ID card; only a passport will be accepted. This won't affect many Brits as German ID cards are only issued to German citizens, but if you're planning a trip to the UK with a German partner or friend you need to remind them that they will need a passport to travel.

We are phasing out the use of national identity cards as a valid travel document. From 1 October 2021, most EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will require a passport to travel to the UK.


— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) October 8, 2020


Probably the biggest post-Brexit travel complications are for four-legged travellers, since the EU Pet Passport scheme, which has allowed reasonably frictionless travel for dogs, cats and ferrets, will no longer apply.

An agreement of sorts has been reached on this, with the UK being granted 'listed' status. But travelling with a pet will still be more complicated and require different paperwork – full details here.

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How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.