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BREXIT

Brits waiting to return to UK with EU families given boost

There was relief this week for all those British citizens waiting and hoping to return to the UK with their EU partners before new Brexit rules make it far more complicated.

Brits waiting to return to UK with EU families given boost
British nationals wanting to return home with EU partners face long delays. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP)

The British government has stepped in to ease the worries of those British nationals facing a tight deadline to return to the UK with their EU partners.

Britons can return to live in the UK anytime but under Brexit rules if they want to return with their EU partners without the hassle of having to get a visa then they had to have applied for the EU settlement scheme in the UK before March 29th.

To do that they first need to have obtained a family permit before returning to the UK however the application process has been hit by long delays leaving many stuck in limbo in the EU facing an anxious wait to know if they will be able to move home.

After coming under pressure from citizen rights groups like British in Europe the UK government has finally relented this week. The Home Office now says those who don’t have the required family permit by March 29th will not be punished by the delay in processing applications and will still be able to move back to the UK as long as they have launched their application by the March deadline.

“This is good news,” Jane Golding co-chair of British in Europe told The Local. “This effectively gives people more time.”

The Home Office move means that as long as people have applied for a family permit by 11pm on March 29th they will then be able to move to the UK and apply for EU settled status once they are in possession of the family permit.

Previously families were told they had to have the permit and to have applied for EU settled status in the UK by March 29th.

“Families will be able to use the delays in processing family permits as reasonable grounds for a delay in applying for EU settled status,” said Golding.

“For those people who applied six months ago and are still waiting for the permit they can still move to the UK after March 29th.”

The reason British nationals would want to move back to the UK under the EU settled Status scheme is that their EU partners would not be subject to strict immigration criteria.

Those who don’t apply for family permits before March 29th will have to apply for a visa for their EU spouse which comes with strict conditions such is fixed income requirements.

The rules and the short grace period for moving home has caused huge stress for Britons in the EU and forced many who planned one day to return to the UK, perhaps to retire or be closer to elderly relatives to make a decision.

The full statement from the Home Office read: “Where an application for an EUSS family permit is made on this basis by 29 March 2022 but is not decided by that date, it will continue to be processed and an EUSS family permit will be issued where the applicant meets the requirements.

“Family members of returning British citizens who are granted an EUSS family permit, which they applied for by 29 March 2022, will be considered to have ‘reasonable grounds’ for applying in the UK to the EUSS after that deadline. They should apply to the EUSS as soon as they reasonably can after their return to the UK.”

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BREXIT

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?

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