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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Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!