EXPLAINED: What Brits should know about Germany’s next Brexit deadline

A British passport
A police officer checks a UK passport in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Gebert
At the end of 2022, Germany's post-Brexit 'grace period' for Brits to get their residency titles expired - meaning some may now be asked for proof of their rights by their employers. Here's what you need to know.

What’s going on?

After an arduous four years of negotiations, the UK completed the final stage of its exit from the EU on December 31st, 2020, when it left the Customs Union and European Economic Area (EEA). This brought an end to free movement for Brits wanting to move to continental Europe and EU citizens wanting to move to the UK. 

Since then, British citizens who arrived in Germany ahead of the cut-off date have been asked to register with officials in order to get a hold of a residency title card, known in German as an Aufenthaltstitel-GB. When The Local conducted a survey of Brits in May, however, a large number of them reported that they hadn’t been offered an appointment or received their card.

To give Brits time to book their appointment and get hold of their residence title, the Interior Ministry wrote an open letter to employers asking them not to request any evidence of UK employees’ status until 2022. 

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

The ministry acknowledged that it would take at least until the end of the year for local authorities to finish conducting interviews and processing all the new documents for the 100,000 or so Brits estimated to be living in the country. 

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

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See also on The Local:

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

What does this mean?

As the Interior Ministry’s ‘trust’ period draws to a close, you may find that your current employer, or any future employers, suddenly start asking for proof of your status. If you were already in Germany before 2021 were working for them before this cut-off date, this may seem a bit illogical – but employers are generally keen to keep their paperwork up to date to avoid finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.

A residency title card
A residency title card. Brits are more likely to be asked for this in 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

So if you already have your Aufenthaltstitel-GB, you don’t need to do anything but keep it to hand in case you’re asked for it. If you don’t have it yet or you’ve mislaid it, make sure you chase it up, order a replacement or ask for a letter from the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office) to confirm your status until your card is issued. 

Most employers should give you time to source a replacement card or other evidence, but if you run into any difficulties, it might be worth getting in touch with the British Embassy for assistance.

What about travel?

Nothing looks set to change on this front.

In response to reader questions, The Local has contacted border police at various airports in and around Germany this year to ask whether Brits should be concerned about travelling without their residency title. Reports of over-zealous border guards stamping Brits’ passports as they re-entered the country have understandably made people nervous, but the information we’ve received over the past six months has been reassuringly consistent.

Speaking to us in September, a spokesperson for the Frankfurt Border Police confirmed that Brits should have “no problem” re-entering the country – with or without their residence card. 

“If no application for a residence title has yet been made, the right of residence in the federal territory can also be proven by submitting other suitable documents, such as a rental contract, employment contract, registration certificate, etc.,” he said.

READ ALSO: 

Under the terms agreed between the EU and the UK, Brits with no residency rights in Europe are allowed to spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU, so you shouldn’t be turned away at the border.

Of course, there could be difficulties if the country you’ve visited is outside the EU and is placed on the Robert Koch Institute’s ‘virus variant’ list, meaning only citizens and residents are allowed to travel to Germany from the country. The UK was on Germany’s virus variant list over Christmas and New Year. 

In this case, it’s important to try and get hold of Fiktionsbescheinigung confirming your rights or carry as much evidence as possible to show that you live in the country. Again, contact the British Embassy in Berlin if you have any issues. 

Does any of this affect my rights?

No! This is hugely important. With or without a card to prove that you have the right to live and work in Germany, your rights are still assured under the Withdrawal Agreement and under the Freizügigkeitsgesetz (Free Movement Act).

“British citizens who are in scope of the Withdrawal Agreement have an automatic residence status in law,” Matt Bristow from citizens’ rights campaign group British in Germany told The Local. “This means that they have that status whether or not they have received their card yet.
 
Shaking hands

People shake hands after a job interview. Though not having a residence title doesn’t affect your right to work in Germany, it may make it harder to prove it. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose
 
“The guidance from the Interior Ministry therefore doesn’t change the legal position that British citizens in scope of the Withdrawal Agreement are allowed to work in Germany both now and the future, whether or not they have an Aufenthaltsdokument-GB card.”
 
However, he adds, there’s one major benefit of getting the Aufenthaltsdokument-GB: “It makes life much simpler proving that you have the right to work in Germany if you do have the card!”
 
Bristow’s comments were echoed by a spokesperson for the British Embassy in Berlin. 

“We strongly recommend eligible UK nationals request the ‘Aufenthaltsdokument-GB’, as this makes it much easier for them to prove their rights, for instance with an employer or when travelling,” the spokesperson said.

“Nevertheless, under Germany’s ‘declaratory’ system, UK nationals legally resident in Germany before January 1st 2021 have the right to continue to live and work in Germany, even without this document.

“Those who are waiting to receive it can use other evidence that they were living in Germany before December 31st 2020 to show that they have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. We are encouraging the German authorities to provide clear information to UK nationals and employers.”


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