Residence, citizenship, social benefits: what changes for British residents in the EU – part 2

EU governments are taking measures to guarantee the status of British residents as the UK leaves the European Union.

The separation deal negotiated by London and Brussels secures many of the rights currently enjoyed by people who moved across the Channel. But the British parliament has voted down the agreement, so EU states are preparing for the possibility of a no deal Brexit. Plans concern registration procedures to ensure that British citizens remain legally resident, social security rules to safeguard rights accrued across borders, and exceptions to citizenship rules in some countries where dual nationality is not allowed.

In its no deal plans, the European Commission encouraged EU governments to “take a generous approach to the rights of UK citizens”. On January 30, the Commission also proposed a regulation to preserve social security rights accrued before Brexit. This provides a uniform solution, across the EU, for people who paid contributions in more that one EU country and in the UK. In practice, if a person worked for 10 years in the UK before Brexit, this period should be taken into account when pensions are calculated where that person retires.

Beyond these measures, if the UK leaves without a deal, Britons in the EU will be subject to EU rules on “third country nationals” and it will be up to each country to decide how to register them and safeguard their rights. This is a summary of the measures that have been announced so far (some countries are yet to make formal announcements).


“Whatever the [Brexit] outcome may be, British citizens in Austria can rest assured that they will still be welcome and their rights will be protected. You are a valuable addition to our country and we want you to stay!”, tweeted Minister of Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl. The government is adapting the law so that British nationals can maintain free access to the labour market “under simplified conditions”.

UK nationals will have to apply for a residence permit within 6 months from Brexit and can receive a confirmation that they have submitted the application. Those who have been living legally in the country for 5 years can apply for permanent residence. They will have to prove that they have adequate accommodation, comprehensive health insurance and sufficient financial resources. There will be checks that the person “poses no risk to public order and security”. UK nationals who have been resident in Austria for less than 5 years can apply for a residence permit.

The government has set up a web page, a hotline and an email address for information about Brexit.

Austria is one of the countries that allow dual nationality only in special circumstances. The Austrian government is considering an exception to the rule for Austrians living in the UK in the event of no deal Brexit.


The Belgian government approved on January 18 a draft law covering a number of sectors in the event of no deal Brexit. Social Affairs Minister Maggie De Block wrote on her blog: “The UK withdrawal from the European Union will have important consequences in terms of social security, residence and healthcare. We will safeguard these rights in Belgium.”

The draft establishes a transition period, until 31 December 2020, during which nothing will change for British residents and their family members. British under 26 who enter the job market will continue to be considered EU nationals until 31 December 2019 (employers with more than 50 staff have an obligation to hire young people, but there are different conditions for EU and non-EU nationals). Social security contributions will continue to be recognised as if the UK were an EU member until 31 December 2020. A 1957 Convention allows the recognition of pension contributions, but it is not as comprehensive as EU law, so the 2020 deadline will give the time to negotiate other solutions. These measures are on condition of reciprocity from the UK.


According to the Sofia Globe, the Bulgarian government approved on January 30 both the draft agreement on the UK withdrawal from the EU and an action plan for the event of no deal Brexit. Measures should guarantee “maximum continuity” to citizens’ rights, it has been reported. As part of the plan, the government will also increase the number of staff at the Bulgarian consulate in London, open a new consulate in Edinburgh, and organise information sessions for Bulgarians in the UK.


The Migration Department has published guidance for the registration of UK nationals. If there is a Brexit deal, holders of residence documents, including those issued during the Brexit transition period (up to 31 December 2020), can continue using them as proof of their rights. After the transition period, they can request a new document stating that it is issued in accordance with the withdrawal agreement. Plans for a no deal scenario have not been published yet.

In a letter to UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt cited by Cyprus Mail, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides promised that in the case of a no deal Brexit, British residents in Cyprus by 29 March 2019 “will be able to continue residing and enjoying the same rights as provided for in the withdrawal agreement.”

Czech Republic

In August 2018 the Czech Ministry of the Interior urged British nationals to apply for a certificate of temporary residence or for a permanent residence permit “for reasons of legal certainty and to save time and avoid possible more complicated administrative procedures in the future”. 

The Czech Cabinet approved on January 7 a draft bill to safeguard the status of British residents in the event of no deal Brexit. Fast-tracked in parliament, the bill was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on January 23 and it has now to go to the Senate.

The planned law establishes a transition period until 31 December 2020, during which British nationals will continue to be treated as EU citizens when it comes to employment, healthcare, education, social security, professional qualifications, taxation and citizenship. After that date, British nationals will become third country nationals and will be registered as long-term residents. The bill addresses issues related to partnerships and marriages, unemployment and social benefits, as well as the recognition of professional qualifications (including for medical staff). Proposed measures are on condition of reciprocity from the UK.


In a speech delivered in October, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen promised to “look after” Britons living in Denmark. Responding to a question on Twitter, he recently confirmed that legislation will be put in place to protect their status. Meanwhile, the Danish Ministry for Immigration and Integration has urged UK residents to apply for a registration certificate or a permanent residence card by 29 March.

In the event of no deal Brexit, the Danish government “wants to avoid that British citizens and their family members who are legally residing in Denmark abruptly fall back on rules applying to third country nationals.” If the situation requires it, says the website, legislative measures will be proposed in the second half of February to extend current EU rights for a transition period. EU cards will continue to be valid during this time. The temporary scheme will apply until a permanent solution will replace it. This will depend on the “outcome of the negotiations in Brussels”.

The temporary scheme carries forward almost all existing rights, with the exception for rules on removal and family reunification, says the website. For family reunifications, the more favorable EU rules will apply for Britons legally resident in Denmark on 29 March 2019, provided that the family relationship existed before that date. Children born or adopted after 29 March 2019 will also be covered. Denmark will not apply EU rules on enhanced protection against removal for British citizens who committed crimes, meaning that deportations will be easier.


The Estonian government proposed an act to ensure that British residents and their family members can continue living in the country “in accordance with the EU withdrawal agreement”. ID cards will remain valid until the expiry date and new residence documents will start to be issued, in 2021. In the event of no deal, measures will be put in place so that Britons can “continue their everyday life without any notable additional bureaucracy,” says a government statement.

The bill passed in first reading at the Riigikogu, the Estonian parliament, on January 24. It establishes a transition period until March 2021. British nationals arriving in Estonia from April 2021 will be subject to non-EU immigration rules but will be excluded from the immigration quota, like American, Japanese and Swiss citizens. The parliament is trying to finalise the bill before the elections of March 3.


The Finnish government proposed a special act of parliament on the rights of British citizens on February 7. In the event of no deal Brexit, the act establishes a transition period until the end of 2020. “This way, all UK citizens now living in Finland can continue to live, work, conduct their business and study in Finland without interruption,” said Minister of the Interior Kai Mykkänen. “The length of this period will be further examined during the preparation of the act,” adds a government statement.

A government notice says: “The special act would only apply to those who have been registered. If the registration has not been made, in case of a no-deal Brexit, unregistered UK citizens in Finland will be third-country nationals, and they will not have the right to reside in the country as of 30 March, unless the EU and the United Kingdom agree on visa-free travel. In this case, they could reside legally in the country for a further 90 days.”

Criteria to determine the municipality of residence may also change, so registration before Brexit will ensure this is maintained for the future.


The French parliament passed a bill that gives the government the mandate to make fast executive decisions in a number of areas in the event of no deal Brexit. One of these areas is the status of British residents in France and French citizens in the UK. The parliament agreed to ensure a “favourable treatment” for Britons living in France compared to third country nationals, if the UK reciprocates. Also possible, the negotiation of a bilateral agreement between the UK and France. 

As a follow up, the French government published on February 7 a decree setting out the residency rights of Britons in the country. There will be a transition period between 3 and 12 months (to be established by a further decree) during which UK nationals will not need a residence permit to continue carrying out their activities. But in this period they will have to apply for a residence document, which will be issued depending on the status of the applicant (student, worker, business person, unemployed receiving benefits etc.) and under the conditions of third country nationals. There will be a fee of up to 280 euros depending on the permit. In some cases health insurance will be required. People with uninterrupted legal residence for 5 years have the right to a permanent resident permit and will be issued a card valid for 10 years, renewable. The right to permanent residence is lost after 2 years of absence from the country (it is 5 years in the draft Brexit agreement).

The decree also says that British nationals can continue benefiting of healthcare for up to 2 years, except if a different agreement is reached with the UK beforehand. After the 2-year period, the situation will be reassessed. The right to the “solidarity income” for those eligible will also continue for up to one year after Brexit. Social security contributions (pensions, unemployment allowances etc.) accrued in the UK up until 6 months after Brexit will be taken into account.

Professional qualifications obtained for up to 5 years after Brexit will continue to be recognised. The decree specifies that lawyers qualified in the UK can continue exercising the profession for a year, during which they have to apply for a recognition of qualifications under a 1971 law. Additional measures cover British nationals employed in the public administration, who will be able to stay in their jobs even if they are no longer EU nationals.

All benefits which are not based on accrued rights are on condition of reciprocity from the UK and can be suspended, says the decree.


Assuming there will be a Brexit deal, British citizens have until 31 December 2020 to register and provide proof of residence to the Foreigners Registration Office in the area where they live. Berlin’s Foreigners Registration Office has been the first to open the online applications.

In the event of no deal, British citizens will become “third country nationals”, said the Minister of Interior. The Federal government plans an initial transition period of three months that could be extended. During this time, British residents and their family members will be able to continue living and working in Germany as before, but will have to apply for a new residence permit with the local foreigners authority.

The German Federal government also prepared a draft bill to guarantee social security and education rights in the event of no deal. Anyone who has accrued rights in the UK and Germany at some point before Brexit should be able to maintain them, either through a bilateral agreement that has been in place since 1960, or through a new one. In the meantime, social security contributions paid up to five years after Brexit should be taken into account as if the UK were still a member of the EU.

With regard to education, German trainees and students who have enrolled in UK programmes, or vice versa, will be able to complete their studies without losing agreed loans and subventions. Nothing should change for people in the UK who receive a pension from Germany, based on the proposals.

Separately, the German parliament (Bundestag) approved a law that allows British and German nationals to maintain dual citizenship if the naturalisation application is made during the Brexit transition period, until 31 December 2020. The transition, however, will only be activated by the ratification of the withdrawal agreement. In the event of no deal, this benefit will be limited to applications made before 30 March 2019 as Germany permits dual nationality only to citizens from other EU countries. 


Citing a foreign ministry official, Bloomberg says that Greece is likely to maintain the current status of British residents and not treat them as third country nationals. But formal plans are yet to be announced.


According to media reports, the government is preparing legislation to maintain the rights of British residents and their family members (residence, access to the job market, healthcare and social benefits) also in the event of no deal Brexit. British citizens will be contacted about the arrangements in due time, says the article.


Ireland and the UK will maintain the Common Travel Area (CTA) that existed before the two countries joined the European Union. On this basis, Irish and British citizens can move freely and reside in either country enjoying reciprocal rights on employment, healthcare, education, social benefits and certain elections. Measures in these fields, however, have to be adapted to the new reality, especially in a no deal scenario.

This is why the Irish government published, on January 24, a Brexit omnibus bill. This includes provisions so that healthcare in Ireland for British nationals, as well as reimbursements for Irish in the UK, can continue. Emergency treatment during temporary stays will be guaranteed. The bill also ensures that the 1,500 Irish students in the UK and 200 UK students in Ireland continue to qualify for grants. Also covered, social protection benefits, such as the payment of Irish pensions in the UK.


The Italian government promised a simple declaration system for British residents and urged them to register in their towns if they haven’t done so yet. “There is a shared commitment to offer the maximum possible protection even in the case of withdrawal without agreement,” says an official statement. Officials told campaigning group British in Italy that there will be a transition period, after which UK citizens will be registered as third country nationals. During a visit in London, the Italian Foreign under-secretary said that Italy is ready to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the UK to guarantee 100% of current rights.

Italy recently changed citizenship rules and, as a result, British nationals now face longer waiting times to obtain an Italian passport.


The Latvian parliament adopted on February 7 a declaration on the protection of rights of British residents. The document aims to “reassure the UK citizens residing in Latvia and their family members that their residence, work and other conditions would remain unchanged”. The parliament expects similar reassurances on the part of the UK regarding Latvian citizens.

The parliament urged the Latvian government to draft amendments to the relevant laws and set up a transition period. UK citizens who are lawfully resident in Latvia by 29 March 2019 would have until 31 December 2020 to re-register and obtain a new residence card, even in case of no deal Brexit. A statement says they will “receive favourable treatment in regard to their rights and obligations in the area of social security”. The Cabinet proposed on February 12 a bill to ensure that, even in a no deal Brexit scenario, British nationals in Latvia will keep having access to state-funded healthcare. The parliament has to endorse the bill.


If there is a Brexit deal, British living in Luxembourg and their family members will be given a special residence permit stating that they are protected under the withdrawal agreement. This document will be issued during the Brexit transition period (from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020). In the meantime, current documents will remain valid. “People affected do not need to take any specific step for the replacement of their residence permits,” says a government statement. The details on the future procedure will be published on the website

In a no deal scenario, Luxembourg will consider British nationals as EU citizens until 29 March 2020. During this time, they will be able to apply for the EU permanent residence. Passed the deadline, they will be considered third country nationals and will need a different residence document. The government aims to ease the procedure and expects the UK to reciprocate.


British nationals living in Malta by 29 March 2019 can continue using their residence card until another one is issued reflecting their new status of third country nationals, says a government notice. The new document will be valid for 10 years with the possibility of renewal. This will guarantee full access to the labour market without the need of an employment licence.

Reciprocal healthcare coverage will continue on the basis of the Health Care Convention of 1975, specifies the note. But only social security contributions paid in the UK before 29 March 2019 will be aggregated for pension entitlements. Posted workers in a cross-border situation (such as mariners working on Maltese-flagged vessels), will have to be insured in their country or residence rather than where they work.

In the event of no deal Brexit, the government says that the Ministry for Education “will enter into reciprocal agreements with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to agree fee structures” for students moving across the two countries. Meawhile tuition fees for third country nationals will apply.

British residents can continue voting in local elections (like Maltese in the UK), but will no longer be able to vote for local candidates in the European elections.


The Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND) has written to British residents about their post-Brexit rights. If the Brexit deal is approved, UK nationals will be invited to apply for their new residence status between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020. The cost of the new residence card will be equal to that of an EU document (57 euros for adults and 30 euros for under 18). Those who already have a permanent residence card will not need to pay. 

In case of no deal, there will be a transition period of 15 months, until 1 July 2020. Before 29 March 2019 the IND will send British residents a letter that will work as a temporary residence document. British nationals and their family members will retain their rights during the transition, but will have to apply for a new residence permit. The IND will send a letter inviting them to apply for this permit granted on the same conditions applicable to EU citizens.

The Netherlands, which allow dual nationality only in certain cases, may ease citizenship rules in the future but not in time for Brexit. A draft bill is being tabled by Democrats 66 party to grant an exception and permit dual citizenship for Dutch nationals in the UK and British in the Netherlands.


The Polish government submitted to a 10-day consultation a draft law on the residence status of UK nationals and their family members in the event of no deal Brexit. The draft introduces a transition period of a year, during which UK nationals will be considered legally resident but will have to apply for a new document. They will receive a permanent or temporary (3 years) residence permit, depending on whether they have lived in the country for more or less than 5 years. Fingerprints will be taken. Successful applicants will receive a residence card with the word “Brexit” that will confirm their rights in Poland. The UK Embassy in Warsaw has translated the draft law in English.


The Minister of the Interior urged British residents who have not registered in the country yet to do so by March 29. “We want them to continue living in Portugal and we welcome their presence in Portuguese society,” he said.

The government published a contingency plan with a list of measures that will be taken for British citizens in Portugal and Portuguese in the UK in the event of no deal Brexit. Legislative changes will be made so that British nationals and their family members can apply for a new residence document by 31 December 2020. A flyer informs that UK nationals who already have a permanent residence card (valid for 10 years) will maintain the same rights and “no further action is required”.

In the event of no deal Brexit, UK residents in Portugal by 29 March 2019 will have until 31 December 2020 to apply for a registration certificate. A 1978 bilateral agreement is expected to cover rights to healthcare and Portugal plans to renegotiate and expand it. New measures will address the recognition of professional qualification. The government also plans to increase the capacity of its consular services in the UK and open a hotline to provide information.


The government will propose legislative changes for the event of no deal Brexit by February 15 asking parliament to grant a fast-track procedure, said Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini in January, According to the Slovak Spectator, British citizens in Slovakia can expect to maintain the same rights of EU citizens.


The Spanish government said it will adopt in February a decree to cover citizens’ rights in the event of no deal Brexit. The intention is to “globally” preserve the rights of British citizens in Spain, “considering that they have made vital decisions believing in the European project,” says a statement. The government will establish a system allowing them to transition from the current status to third country nationals. In the meantime, it urges British residents to register and get a certification from the Central Registry of Foreigners.

The decree will include to guarantee social security rights, healthcare and the recognition of professional qualifications for both Britons in Spain and Spaniards in the UK. Contingency measures will also concern the rights of people working across the border in Gibraltar.

web page has been launched to inform individuals and companies on how to prepare for the different Brexit scenarios.

Spain has also signed a bilateral agreement with the UK allowing Britons who have lived in the country for at least three years and Spanish in the UK to continue voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections.


In the event of no deal Brexit, the government will guarantee that British residents can stay in the country on similar terms to now. The government has published a “memorandum” specifying that UK nationals and their family members will be exempted from the requirement of residence and work permits for one year. Their rights will remain unchanged during this period.

Legislative adjustments will be proposed to transition from the current status to long term residence under EU rules on third country nationals. The period of residence in Sweden before Brexit will be considered for this purpose and easier procedures will be introduced (e.g. accepting applications from people who are already in Sweden). The time-limited “ordinance” should enter into force on 30 March 2019 and the legislative changes on 1 July 2019.

This text updates a previous article published on January 21. The story, further updated on February 13, is still in development. We will keep adding information to the website as new details come in. If you are aware of new official measures not mentioned here please get in touch: hello[at]

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved

Photo via Pixabay.