What does Brexit change for U.K nationals living in Europe ?

How has Brexit changed matters for U.K. nationals living in the European Union ?

Following Britain’s departure from the EU and the end of its transitional arrangements at the end of 2020, the status of U.K. nationals living in countries within the EU has changed. Before Brexit, Britons had the automatic right to live, work, and study in any EU state. However, this is no longer the case as freedom of movement provisions have ended.


If you were already living in the EU before 1 January 2021, however, you still have the right to stay in the EU and access public services like healthcare under the provisions of the U.K.’s Withdrawal Agreement, as you did before - but in most countries will need to register before 30 June to secure your rights.


The documents and processes you need to do this vary from country to country, but generally, you will have to register and provide your passport, and evidence you were resident in your host country before 1 January 2021. You will receive either a temporary residency permit for five years or a permanent permit renewable every 10 years, depending on how long you have been living within the EU. Your host country’s foreign ministry or local authorities should have an online portal where you can apply, but you may also need to attend an appointment in person.


Those who have not already registered for healthcare and social security should also do so to secure your right to treatment and other social security programs if available.


Brexit will not affect family or friends’ ability to visit you in EU countries on trips lasting fewer than 90 days, as the U.K. and EU have a visa-free travel arrangement. The same applies to EU citizens visiting the U.K., so for example, if you have a partner who is an EU citizen and are unmarried you will be able to visit family in Britain without the need to apply for a visa.


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Spouses and partners

Should you have a spouse or partner still living in the U.K., they will not be able to automatically move to live with you as they could have under freedom of movement rules, but will be able to join you in your EU host country under family reunion rules.


Obviously, assuming they are already living in the EU and are a U.K. citizen, they can register for residency themselves, as well as being entitled to remain as your spouse. In the case you legally separate from a spouse who is an EU national or resident, you will also be able to remain if you lived as a couple in your EU host state for more than one year.


Other effects of Brexit and the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement for U.K. citizens living in the EU

One benefit of the Withdrawal Agreement is that most U.K. drivers will still be able to keep their U.K. driving license and will not have to take a new test to qualify in their host country. However, this does not apply to those who have a paper license rather than the modern photo card or for licenses issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man.


One area of regulation that was not included in the Withdrawal Agreement was the automatic mutual recognition of professional qualifications between the U.K. and EU countries. As a result, your qualification may not be recognized by your host nation - or there may be restrictions on how you can practice. There may, however, be bilateral agreements between the U.K. and authorities setting out mutual recognition of qualifications - so you should check with your professional body as to whether this is the case.


This lack of mutual recognition affects a range of professions including law, accountancy, and architecture and you must requalify in the EU. For example, in the Czech Republic, U.K. lawyers will have to be a resident in the country to provide legal services.


The lack of mutual recognition could change in the future, however, if the U.K. government and EU officials reach a deeper agreement in the coming years.


Brexit will also affect those who are looking to import products from the U.K. to the EU for personal or business reasons. There may be additional costs and regulatory paperwork to undertake on products you want to import for the U.K. Travelers without authorization also cannot take products of an animal origin such as meat, milk, or products containing them into EU countries, with the exception of infant milk, infant food, or special processed pet feed.


Those wishing to temporarily move goods between the U.K. and EU for business purposes will also need to comply with new customs rules - something that will affect, for example, British craftspeople, filmmakers, or musicians who live in the EU but take work in the U.K. and need specialist equipment.


Related topics on Brexit and the Schengen zone


Frequently asked questions about Brexit changes for British citizens living in the EU

Is additional support available to U.K. citizens residing in France?

Those needing help to complete their residence application or registration - such as the elderly or disabled - can get support from organizations funded by the UK Nationals Support Fund.

As a French resident - can I travel to other EU countries?

Those with permanent residency in Schengen states - like France - are free to travel to any country within the visa-free area for short stays of up to 90 days - longer stays will be subject to local rules. You should travel with your residency card.

As a U.K. citizen who is a resident of one EU country can I move to another EU country?

Not automatically. You must meet the residency conditions and apply.

Will healthcare be free for me in EU countries after Brexit?

Your residency will entitle you to the same healthcare provision as a citizen of your host state - but this may not be free.