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How Brits in the UK can get back to Germany in the New Year

Many Brits living in Germany ended up unexpectedly stranded in the UK over the holidays. If you're one of them, here's how to make it back to the Bundesrepublik.

How Brits in the UK can get back to Germany in the New Year
British Airways planes at London Heathrow. Photo: DPA

Nobody planned on a simple Christmas this year, but for Brits in Germany who opted for a quick jaunt home this festive season, the last few weeks have seen things get a lot more complicated.

On December 20th, the discovery of a new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 in the UK led to a sudden barrage of travel bans across Europe and beyond. 

Acting swiftly to stem the spread, Germany announced that it would be stopping all travel to and from the UK that evening. By the 22nd, the ban had been extended until January 6th.

For Brits in Germany – who won’t receive their new residence documents for months – being stuck on the wrong side of the border in the run-up New Year has been the stuff of nightmares.

Although official guidance from the EU Commission states that UK citizens should be allowed to travel back to their home countries, Brits in the UK have been worried that things might change when the Brexit transition ends on December 31st. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's UK travel ban 

According to the British Embassy and campaign group British in Germany, if you’re stranded in the UK right now, there’s no need to panic just yet. Germany plans to start allowing residents of the country back in on January 1st 2021, and has assured campaigners that British citizens who live in Germany will be treated like anyone else. 

Nevertheless, there are a number of conditions of UK citizens will have to meet to be allowed back into Germany – such as providing a negative COVID test, and proving their right of residence. If you need to re-enter the country in January, here’s everything you’ll need to know beforehand. 

How to prove your residence in Germany

According to a statement from the Bundespolizei obtained by British in Germany, border guards will be fully aware of the rights of British residents in Germany after the end of the transition. Travellers will, however, be asked to show some form of proof that they live in Germany in order to be allowed back in after January 1st.

READ ALSO: Brexit: What changes in Germany from January 2021

In normal cases, this would involve getting what’s known as a Fiktionsbescheinigung – a provisional certificate that allows someone to travel when they are still waiting for a decision on, say, a visa. But with immigration authorities taking longer to issue documents thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, these certificates are unlikely to be issued in time for immediate travel. 

“The border authorities have therefore been instructed to initially recognise other certificates as proof of the right of residence from January 1st 2021,” said a spokesperson for the Bundespolizei. “These can be, for example, address registration certificates, rental contracts or employment contracts.”

The best proof to bring with you when travelling is likely to be the Meldebescheinigung – official proof that you are registered at a German address – but if this isn’t available, one of the following documents can be used as evidence instead:

  • recent bank statements

  • a rental contract 

  • your employment contract or recent salary statement

  • a benefits or pensions statement

  • your health insurance card or documents

  • an enrolment certificate from a German university

  • evidence of self-employment in Germany

If you still have your boarding cards from when you travelled out of Germany before Christmas, these can also be used to support your case – although they won’t count as proof of residence by themselves. 

A holiday traveller arriving in Mainz. Photo: DPA

Navigating COVID-19 rules and restrictions

When re-entering the country from a high-risk area such as the UK, you’ll also need to provide authorities with a negative COVID-19 test. The test should have been taken no longer than 48 hours before your arrival in Germany, and can be shown in either paper or electronic form. 

As well as a standard COVID-19 test, Germany will also accept PCR and antigen tests, providing they meet the quality standards set out by the World Health Organisation. 

If you need to return to Germany urgently and can’t get tested before you travel, you will need to get tested at the airport. A word of caution, though: if you opt for the on-arrival test, you will probably have to wait at the airport until the result is available, which can apparently take a very long time. You may also need to contact the airport beforehand to see if and when the testing centre will be open. 

Even with a negative test result, you’ll still need to quarantine for 10 days after arrival. If you want to escape your bedroom sooner than that, you may be allowed out after five days if you can secure another negative test result

Planning to travel later in 2021? 

If you need to travel in and out of Germany later in the year, it may be worth trying to get hold of a Fiktionsbescheinigung while waiting for your new residence document to arrive. Contact your local Foreigner’s Registration Office to find out more about the process. 

READ ALSO: These are the documents Brits in Germany should carry when travelling after December 31st

If you don’t manage to secure this document in time, don’t worry. Just make sure you have a few documents to hand that can help you prove your residence in Germany. Once again, your certificate of registration at your German address is probably your best bet here – but employment contracts or university enrolment certificates should also be fine.   

British in Germany also recommends familiarising yourself with the rights you have under the Withdrawal Agreement, and being prepared to share links to official summaries of these rights in case you deal with officials who aren’t aware of them. 

If you need urgent assistance on arrival in Germany, you can contact the British Embassy’s emergency helpline 24/7.

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BREXIT

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. 

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