Brits in Germany: what do you need to do to secure your post-Brexit rights and by when?

If you’re a British citizen who was living in Germany before the end of the Brexit Transition Period on December 31st 2020, you’re free to continue life in your adopted country. You'll need to take some action to keep all your rights and access to services, however.

Brits in Germany: what do you need to do to secure your post-Brexit rights and by when?
Photo: Getty Images

This guide, presented in partnership with the UK Government, tells you what you need to do in four key areas: residency, exchanging your driving licence, travel and healthcare.

1. Reporting your residency by June 30th 2021

Germany passed a law in November 2020 that gives UK nationals living in the country before the end of 2020 a secure residence status. If you were legally resident in Germany at the end of the transition period on December 31st 2020, and still live in Germany, you’re covered by the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU – meaning your rights will be protected for as long as you remain resident in Germany.

But you should now obtain a new residence document (Aufenthaltsdokument-GB). To get this, you must report your residence to your local foreigners authority (usually called Ausländerbehörde) by June 30th 2021.

Depending on where you live, the entire process from reporting your residency to presenting your paperwork and eventually receiving your new residence document can take some time. Don’t worry, the June 30th deadline concerns reporting your residence – you do not need to be in possession of your new residence document by this date.

“If you were legally resident in Germany before 1 January 2021, and still live here now, you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement,” said Jill Gallard, British Ambassador to Germany. “You should report your residence by the end of June, so the German authorities can then issue you a new residence document. You will then be able to prove your right to carry on living and working in Germany when, for example, travelling or applying for a job.”

While your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement will not be affected if you miss the deadline, the UK Government recommends you obtain your new card as soon as possible. You will need to show a valid UK passport when requesting your new residence document.

If you become resident in Germany after January 1st 2021, you’ll be subject to the immigration requirements that apply to all third country nationals. This means, for instance, you’d need a visa for anything beyond a short stay or certain business visits. More information is available in the German Government’s guidance for third country nationals.

2. Exchanging your driving licence by June 30th 2021

Germany is famed for its autobahns. But if you want to see the country by road, or even just drive locally, it’s time to exchange your British licence if you still have one.

Young commuter woman driving in Berlin Mitte. Photo: Getty Images

The requirement to exchange your UK licence for a German one within six months of moving to Germany hasn’t changed. But if you moved to Germany before January 1st 2021 you’ll be given some flexibility; the German Government has confirmed that you have until June 30th 2021 to exchange your UK licence for a German one even if this exceeds the six-month deadline and that in the meantime you can continue using your UK photocard licence to drive in Germany, providing it remains valid.

You will not be required to take a driving test to exchange your licence.

Remember that driving licences are issued at local authority level in Germany. Your local Bürgeramt can tell you where you can exchange your licence. The UK Government warns that an International Driving Permit is not a suitable alternative to exchanging your licence.
What about trips back to the UK with your German driving licence? Good news here: EU licence holders wishing to visit the UK will be able to do so on their valid EU licence without the need for additional documentation. And if you move back to the UK, you can exchange your German licence for a UK one without taking a test.

3. Checking you’re ready for trouble-free travel

You live abroad – so crossing borders is no big deal, right? But you face some new rules on travel within Europe in 2021, so doing your homework now could save you a lot of trouble later.

For travel outside the Schengen Area and Ireland, you might now need six months validity remaining on both adult and child passports. If you renewed your current passport early, it’s possible it had extra months added to its period of validity beyond ten years. Those additional months may not count towards the six months you must have left.

Photo: Getty Images

Check the UK Government travel advice for your destination before you travel. You can also check your passport’s validity on the UK Government website and know for sure if you need to renew it before booking a trip. You’ll need to renew your passport before travelling if you don’t have enough time left.

4. Ensuring you have health insurance

If you were living in Germany before December 31st 2020, you’ll have life-long healthcare rights in Germany for as long as you remain legally resident. However, Germany’s health system works differently to the UK’s; health insurance is compulsory and you may still have to pay to use some parts of the system.

As a resident, you must register with a health insurer (called a Krankenkasse) and pay monthly contributions to access healthcare. Most residents join a ‘statutory’ health insurer (gesetzliche Krankenkasse) while around 10 percent join a private insurer (private Krankenkasse). It’s free to add any dependants to your statutory insurance plan.

If you’re employed, you usually join a health insurance scheme through your German employer, whereas the self-employed join an insurer directly. If you receive a UK State Pension or certain other benefits, you may be able to register a UK-issued S1 form with a statutory health insurer.

Once you’ve joined an insurance scheme, your insurer will send you a health insurance card, which you should take with you whenever you visit a doctor, dentist or healthcare provider. Visit the UK Government’s healthcare in Germany page for further details on referrals, how to know which practitioners treat patients with statutory insurance, and when you’ll have to pay something extra.

Staying up-to-date 

Take a look at the Living in Germany guide for the latest information on these topics, and sign up for email alerts. You can also follow the British Embassy on Facebook. Since 2017, the Embassy and the Consulates have run over 60 information events for British citizens in Germany. However, they won’t have reached everyone – so do tell your British friends and family that they need to take action! If you need practical support with the residence process you can contact one of the UK Government’s UK National Support Fund partners in Germany.

Want all the latest official guidance for UK nationals in Germany? Visit the UK Government’s Living in Germany web page for updates on all these topics and more

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Hassle-free tax preparation for Americans in Germany

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Hassle-free tax preparation for Americans in Germany

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Name of Interviewee: David McKeegan, owner

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