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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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.