EU Commission vows to look after Brits in EU as member states plan new residence schemes

“The Commission will make sure that each and every one of the 27 Member States lives up to their commitment [to British nationals living in the EU],” EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said during a speech at Queen’s University Belfast on January 27.

“But we will also be watching closely to make sure that the UK government does the same for the more than 3 million EU citizens residing in the UK,” he added. Barnier promised to “continue to be particularly vigilant to this.”

Under the agreement on the withdrawal from the EU, the UK will set up an Independent Monitoring Authority to oversee the rights of EU nationals in Britain, while the European Commission is tasked to oversee the rights of British nationals in EU countries.

The agreement protects most of the rights enjoyed by British nationals living in the EU by the end of the transition period (but not the right to move freely to other EU countries). However, new residence documents may be needed to prove such rights. Each country will decide the system to put in place in this regard,

Prior to Brexit, British in Europe, a coalition representing Britons living in the EU, had urged EU states to make registration plans known “as soon as possible” to end the uncertainty of some 1.2 million UK citizens impacted by Brexit.

“We ask them to opt for a scheme that will automatically register Brits in their countries rather than make them reapply,” British in Europe said in a statement.

“Although there has been some information, as yet, in the majority of member states, no detailed official plans or legislation have been communicated to British residents about what they will have to do to secure their rights post-Brexit under the withdrawal agreement,” said British in Europe co-chair Jane Golding.

On Brexit day, EU member states started to publish information on the schemes they will introduce for British residents. This is what emerges from national governments’ websites.

In Austria, after the end of the transition period, on 21 December 2020, British residents will have to “apply for documentation of further residence rights on the basis of the withdrawal agreement.” More information will be published “as soon as possible,” says the government Brexit page.

In Belgium, British citizens and their family members will be “personally invited” to apply for a new residence card at the commune where they reside “towards the end of the year”. Old residence cards remain valid in the meantime.

In Bulgaria, the government plans to issue new residence cards to UK nationals after the transition period. The cards will contain a specific reference to the withdrawal agreement (“Beneficiary Article 50”).

The Czech Republic plans for UK nationals a settlement scheme that mirrors the one for EU nationals in the UK, but is yet to publish the details.

In Cyprus, the government decided that UK nationals and their family members “will not be obligated to apply to replace their existing residency documents in order to obtain any new residence documents” issued after the transition period. Those who have residence rights under the withdrawal deal but have not applied for residence documents before 31 December 2020 “will continue to have the right to apply within a new procedure” that will be launched on 1 January 2021. They will be required to submit evidence of their residency prior to the end of the transition and be issued a statement that the document is “in accordance with the withdrawal agreement.”

In Denmark, information about the “envisaged application procedure” will be published on the Brexit webpages of the Ministry of Immigration and Integration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

British citizens in Estonia can continue using their ID cards until they expire. Their family members from third countries can continue using their residence permits too. Only after the transition period (from the beginning of 2021), Estonia will start issuing documents proving residence rights under the withdrawal agreement.

In Finland, UK nationals will be required to apply for a new status. “The purpose of the application procedure is to verify that the applicant has the right of residence under the withdrawal agreement,” says the government website. Those who have obtained permanent EU residence before 1 January 2021 may change their status to permanent residence under the withdrawal agreement.

In France, British nationals will also have to apply for new residency permits that will mention the withdrawal agreement, but they won’t have the obligation to hold such permits until July 1, 2021. Applications will be received from July 2020 on the website:

In Germany, the Ministry of the Interior is “currently preparing” additional regulations for the people whose rights after the end of the transition period depend on the withdrawal agreement, after having already adopted new rules about citizenship.

In Greece, the parliament passed a law to guarantee the rights of Britons living in the country prior to Brexit. UK nationals will have to apply for new residence documents before 31 December 2020 under terms that will be detailed later in 2020.

Arrangements on the new status of British nationals in Hungary have not been set yet. But the current registration and residence cards are “expected to be an essential conditions for the future status.”

In Ireland, British citizens will continue to enjoy the same rights they have now under the arrangements of the Common Travel Area that pre-dates the EU.

In Italy, the government plans a “simple” registration. Britons registered in the Councils where they reside after the transition period will be protected on the basis of a declarative procedure, so it is important to register by 31 December 2020 to be able to claim such rights.

In Latvia eID cards or paper documents confirming residence rights that have already been issued will continue to be valid until 31 December 2020 (unless they expire before). An application must be submitted with the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs before 30 June 2021 to obtain new residence permits.

In Lithuania the status of UK nationals and their family members will remain unchanged during the transition period. Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Interior will draft legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement and will “keep UK nationals informed of any further developments” on the new procedure. The government website says: “We assure that those procedures and requirements will be smooth and clear.”

In Luxembourg new residence documents will be issued to British residents and their family members who already live in the country or arrive during the transition period. Details about the procedure will be published on the website:

Malta will require UK nationals to exchange their residence documents with new ones by submitting an application in person to the Identity Malta’s Expatriates Unit. The application process “will be staggered and there will be no processing fees,” says the government agency. “In the coming weeks Identity Malta will be reaching out to all potential beneficiaries who have a valid residence document,” the website says.

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) in the Netherlands will send a letter to British residents explaining how to apply for new residence documents. Nothing changes during the transition period and the IND specifies that temporary residence permit sent to UK nationals in 2019 in preparation for no-deal Brexit are no longer needed. The IND will invite Brits to apply for a residence document under the withdrawal agreement. “The IND wishes to carefully consider every application. For this reason, the IND will send out invitations to submit an application online spread over the transition period,” says the online note.

In Portugal, British residents will continue to follow the same administrative procedures as before Brexit. Expired residence permits will be renewed under the same conditions and current fees will continue to apply. No action is required for holders of permanent residence cards, unless these have expired and need to be renewed, a government leaflet says.

Spain recognizes current registration certificates and resident cards to prove the legal status of British nationals and their family members. During the transition period, they can start requesting a new residence document specifying they are beneficiaries of the withdrawal agreement.

Sweden’s residence procedure is still to be decided. “The Swedish Migration Agency’s website will be updated as soon as more information is available,” says the government website.

Although they have Brexit-related web pages, Croatia (English and Croatian), Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia do not appear to have published specific provisions about UK nationals on their territory yet.

Prior to Brexit, UK Minister for Europe and the Americas Christopher Pincher urged British citizens living in the EU to register in the country of residence under the current system, check access to healthcare, ensure their passports and other documents are valid or renew them, and sign up for alerts from the Foreign Office.

Citizens’ rights group British in Europe also published a series of guides on the rights of Britons in the EU “partly to counter the confusion stemming from outdated information,” as residence schemes announced last year were part of no-deal Brexit contingency plans.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.

Photo via Image by Rainer Prang from Pixabay.

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