What does Brexit change for bi-national couples ?
With Britain finalizing its departure from the European Union at the end of 2020, the circumstances for bi-national couples - in which one partner or spouse is a U.K. or EU citizen - have changed, but there should be little to worry about as couples’ rights are protected under the U.K.’s Withdrawal Agreement. Find out how it may affect you below.
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For British citizens living in the EU with a non-EU partner
Before Britain left the European Union, U.K. citizens had the automatic right to live, work, and study in all other EU states, and the partners of EU nationals without EU citizenship themselves could also live in their host country, subject to local rules on residency permits, and the recognition of partnerships. However, with Britain leaving the EU and transitional arrangements coming to an end on 1 January 2021, this situation has changed.
The first important point is that under the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, U.K. citizens of EU countries who have been living in these states before January 2021 have the right to continue living there - as long as they register their residency before 1 July 2021 and gain a permanent residency permit. As the Withdrawal Agreement replicates EU law on free movement, your spouse or partner will be able to live with you in the EU, providing they present a valid passport, a document attesting to the existence of a family relationship or a registered partnership, or proof of a durable relationship, as well as proof the person has a right to reside within the EU. If you have been living in the EU for fewer than five years, a temporary five-year residency permit will be issued, if longer, a permanent permit renewable after 10 years can be issued. As a permanent resident, you can study and work within the EU.
It is, however, important to check your legal partnership is recognized by your host member state as this may affect your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
What if I split from my partner during our time residing in the EU?
The Withdrawal Agreement protects non-EU spouses who divorce from an EU citizen. If you have been married for at least three years before you initiated divorce proceedings and have lived in the host EU state for at least one year before the initiation of divorce proceedings, you can continue to reside in the EU. There are also exceptions available for cases in which you retain joint or full custody of children, are the victim of spousal abuse, or as stipulated by a court order.
What if I am a U.K. citizen who is married or in a legal partnership with an EU national, and live in the EU?
Like all spouses or partners of EU citizens, you have the right to reside alongside your partner within EU member states, providing you can present a valid passport, a document proving the existence of a family relationship or a registered partnership, or proof of a durable relationship, as well as proof of your spouse or partner’s EU citizenship. You can gain a temporary residency permit lasting up to five years and can apply for permanent residency when you have lived in your country for five years. If you have lived in the EU for longer than this you can apply for a permanent residency document, renewable every 10 years.
In addition to applying via your partner, if you have been living in the EU since before the end of the transition period at the start of January 2021, as a U.K. citizen you have the right to register as a resident of your host country in your own right under the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, before the end of June 2021. It may be a good idea to do this, especially if you have been married for fewer than three years, as it will protect your right to reside in the EU in the case of divorce.
What are my rights if I am married to a U.K. citizen who is planning to move to the EU in the future?
British citizens looking to move to the EU after January 2021 will have to apply for residency in their host country in the same way as non-EU nationals - usually by proving they have a qualifying offer of employment, are starting a business, are studying, or have funds to support themselves while living within their host EU state. If you are the spouse or partner of someone planning to do this, if they qualify for residency you should have the right to join them in the EU - but as a condition of your residency, you may be asked to prove you can support yourselves as a family, if you are a dependent, or qualify for residency in your own right with your own offers of employment.
What are my rights if I am an EU citizen living or wanting to live in the U.K. with a partner or spouse who is a British citizen or resident?
Before Brexit, EU citizens had the automatic right to live, work and study in the U.K., regardless of whether they were married or in a legal civil partnership with a British citizen. This situation has now changed, but those who were living in the U.K. before 1 January 2021 can continue to live in the U.K. by applying to the government’s EU Settlement Scheme. You must do this by 30 June 2021. This will protect all your rights to live with your partner in the U.K., as well as allowing you to work and study without a visa after Brexit.
Those who did not reside in the U.K. before 1 January 2021 will need to apply in the same way as non-EU citizens who are the spouse or partner of a British national or a person with the legal right to reside in the U.K. To do this you need to prove you are in a legal partnership or have lived together for more than two years and that you and your partner earn enough, or have enough savings, to support your family. The amount required varies depending on whether you have children but starts from £18,600 per year before tax for those with no dependents. After living with your partner in the U.K. for three years you can apply for British citizenship. You may also be asked to pay a medical surcharge for use of the NHS for your first few months in the U.K.
It is important to note that these conditions also apply to binational couples both of whom are citizens of EU countries but not the U.K. Provided you and your partner or spouse were both living in the U.K. before 1 January 2021, you can both apply to remain in Britain under the EU Settlement Scheme. However, if you are living in the U.K. and your partner is still living in the EU, in that case the process that requires you to prove earnings of at least £18,600 applies.
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- What does Brexit change for bi-national couples ?
Frequently asked questions about how Brexit will affect binational couples
As an EU citizen living in the U.K., will my rights be protected if I leave to stay with a spouse who is yet to move to Britain?
Providing you have EU settled status, you can leave for a period of up to five years and retain your right to live in the U.K.
Do the rules on registering for residency in the EU vary from country to country?
Yes. The basic criteria for registering do not change - if you have lived and worked in your host country you will be able to remain - but the process for registration varies.
Do I have to be married or a legal partner of a U.K. citizen to move to the U.K.?
No, providing you can prove you have an enduring relationship - for example, by living together for more than two years.