Germany extends ‘trust’ period for employing UK citizens after Brexit

The German government has told employers that until the end of 2021, they can continue to trust the word of British citizens on their right to live and work in Germany after Brexit.

Germany extends 'trust' period for employing UK citizens after Brexit
A UK citizen hands over their passport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Gebert

The change came with little fanfare in a minor tweak to a memo on the Interior Ministry’s website, and was soon picked up by citizens’ rights campaign group British in Germany.

The memo reads: “Until the end of 2021, you can trust a statement by UK nationals and their family members to have a right of residence under the Withdrawal Agreement.

“You can at least always assume that this is the case if the entitled employee was living in Germany on 31st December 2020.” 

Previously, officials had only advised employers to follow this “trust” policy until June 30th – the date by which British citizens are advised to register with their local foreigner’s office (Ausländerbehörde).

READ ALSO: What happens if Brits in Germany don’t apply for post-Brexit residence card by deadline?

While registering with the foreigner’s office is not a prerequisite for securing post-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement rights in Germany, it is currently the only way for Brits to be issued a residency card, which confirms those rights. 

However, with around a week to go until the June deadline, many British citizens in Germany are still waiting for their card. 

Brits face long wait for residence card

With the revised guidance for employers, the Ministry appears to be acknowledging the long lag that many Brits have faced between their post-Brexit appointments and receiving their new residency title. 

While most German states have been conducting appointments since the start of the year, some Brits have been left waiting up to three months for their card to arrive, with no way to prove their right to remain or work in the country. 

In a survey carried out by The Local on Brits’ experiences of securing their rights, around three quarters of respondents said they had already had their appointment, but only half of these had received their documentation. 

READ ALSO: Postcode lottery: Brits in Germany on what it’s like to apply for the post-Brexit residence card

“If your employees are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, they are entitled to work for you, even if they do not have the relevant document,” the Ministry for the Interior said in a statement to employers.

“If you know that your employee is entitled, you are not required to take any further steps.”

British citizens are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement if they were resident in Germany before January 1st 2021, when the post-Brexit transition period officially ended and Britain left the Single Market and Customs Union.

This gives them broadly the same rights as EU citizens to live and work in Germany, but without onward free movement rights around the European Union. 

According to the Ministry, the “trust” policy should apply to both current UK employees who were working for the company before the cut-off date, and new employees who are due to start this year. 

“In some cases, it may take the authorities until the end of 2021 to finalise the processing [of the residency document],” they said. 

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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.