Britons in Europe face Brexit deadlines with many yet to apply for residency

Britons living in countries across Europe are running out of time to either register or apply for residency as a new report reveals thousands are yet to secure their post-Brexit status in the EU.

Britons in Europe face Brexit deadlines with many yet to apply for residency
Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

Tens of thousands of Britons living in countries across the EU have not registered as residents or obtained the necessary residency permits to secure their post-Brexit status.

A recent EU report highlights the fact that Britons living in the 27 member states are still waiting to obtain the necessary permits and with only weeks before the deadlines in certain countries many are likely yet to have even applied.

Overall some 190,000 Britons out of an estimated 300,000 Britons living in those EU countries which have made applying for post-Brexit residency permits compulsory – known as a constitutive system – had applied for the cards by the end of April.

In France for example, where the deadline to apply for a compulsory residency permit is June 30th, some 73,700 have received their necessary carte de séjour residency permits but around 26,000 were yet to have even applied by mid-April.

In Denmark, by the end of March, only 3,400 out of 19,000 resident Britons have applied for a residency permit but they have until the end of the year to do so.

In Austria only 3,100 out of 11,500 Brits had applied by the end of February, but they too have until December 31st to do so.

In Sweden, some 7,200 Britons out of an estimated 17,000 Britons living in the country had applied for residency. The deadline for applications in Sweden is September 30th.

There are concerns for Britons living in smaller countries like Malta and Luxembourg, where deadlines are approaching and thousands are yet to receive the necessary post-Brexit permits.

Citizens’ rights group British in Europe is calling for deadlines to be extended across all member states until December 31st.

In a statement on its website British in Europe said: “The report makes for depressing reading.

“By mid-April, less than half of the estimated 148,000 UK citizens living in France had applied for and received a decision on their application.

“In Luxembourg, the figure stood at just over 50 percent and in Malta, a paltry 37 percent of UK citizens had applied and received a decision. Overall, nearly one in five UK citizens in the countries with a June 30th deadline (France, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta and the Netherlands) had not even applied.

“These figures are shocking and should be a wake-up call to the Member States in question, as well as the European Commission and the UK.

“It is clear that thousands of UK citizens who are currently legally resident in their host states face waking up on July 1st as undocumented migrants. They could be fired from their jobs, made homeless, and lose access to social security, student grants and loans, and non-emergency healthcare yet no-one has spelled out the consequences of missing the deadline.”

The Netherlands has since extended its deadline to October 1st. Other countries could follow its example.

British in Europe says both EU governments and the UK must do more to ensure all Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement are given legal residency.

“The communication plans and activities outlined in this report bear little or no relation to the reality we are seeing in host countries,” the group says.

“Although Member States have published website pages containing information about how to apply for a permit or request a card, only a handful have carried out any active outreach or awareness-raising campaigns via local, national or social media. The UK government too has an obligation here towards us which it is also not meeting.”

Netherlands has since extended its deadline to October 1st.

Other member states in the EU chose a declaratory system which meant the residency status of Britons living in the country before December 31st last year was guaranteed under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Residents in these countries have mainly had to register their presence as a British resident before a certain date and in some cases have had the choice whether to apply for a new post-Brexit permit.

As the table below shows relatively few British residents compared to the overall total have applied for new residency permits.

For example in Italy only 5,300 out of an estimated 38,500 British residents had applied whilst in Spain some 115,600 out of an estimated 380,000 have requested the new document.

READ ALSO: Why UK and Spain now strongly recommend exchanging old residency document for new TIE

There was no available data for Britons in Germany.

It is likely the estimated number of Britons living in the EU is lower than the real figure. 

Member comments

  1. I completely support an extension for anyone who has applied for permanent residency but not received a decision yet. But for those who have not even applied? There is no way anyone living here could NOT know they have to do this to remain.
    Reminds me of a conversation overheard between two fellow Brits while waiting for the B1 test. They were talking about a friend of theirs who was not bothering to do anything to attain either permanent residency or Dual Citizenship. The attitude was “What are they going to do, throw him out?” with a disbelieving laugh from both!

    1. As a pensioner who owns his own home, and has been employed, paid taxes, has a Swedish pension, and lived here “illegally” for 20 pus years, I wonder if they would turn up , and drag me in chains to put me on a plane back to the UK. I guess not but you can never be certain.

      1. If you have paid taxes, have a Swedish pension, then you are not considered as being there ‘illegally’ anyway…

  2. Completely agree with Richard’s comments that an extension should be granted for anyone who has applied for residency within the correct timeframe – but not received a decision yet.
    Also absolutely agree that those who haven’t applied yet shouldn’t get such an extension … because how could they NOT know?
    F’sure it was a hassle applying for it here in Italy, but we knew we had to … so just got on with it…

  3. My wife and I been here in Italy for 40 years working for an Italian Company. Paid all taxes, so have full Italian pension and health care. Have had the green residency card as “tempo indeterminato” or permanant resident for many years, (over 25years) but now find ourselves having to apply for the bio metric new residency card at the Questura which we will only give us 5 to 10 years before renewal again. However we understand that Italian citizens in UK signed up for the pre-settled status will have this for life, even if they return to their home country to live there up to 5 years, and then return to UK.

    Doesn’t seem fair to us. Can someone explain why the Italian Authorities have gone this route for us

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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”