A key plank of Brexit was European governments had lost their sovereignty and power to make autonomous decisions.
But British expats in the European Union can vouch that is not true as their right to live, work or study on the continent depends on which of two policies their new home country has adopted now Britain has become a ‘third country’ outside the EU and European Economic Area blocs.
Figuring out if a constitutive or declaratory policy applies means delving deep into the pages of each country’s online immigration service.
Here’s the most up-to-date information, but the data is subject to change at sort notice due to the coronavirus pandemic, so remember to check before travelling.
What Residence Documents Do Expats Need In Europe?
Because Brexit means British expats living in Europe are treated as having the same residence status as nationals from other non-EU states, most will have to apply for a new biometric residence card from January 1, 2021.
The card allows expats to live, work and study in the EU and to travel within the EU without a visa for business or travel for up to 90 days. However, expats moving to a new EU country to live or work must reapply for residence status if they lived there prior to Brexit and the transition period, which ended on December 31, 2020.
Expats and their families who already have a residence card can simply apply for the new biometric card and can carry on using their old papers while their application is processed.
The thinking is a physical card will make claiming healthcare and benefits as a British expat easier in an EU27 country rather than having to show a digital certificate because not everyone has or knows how to use the required technology.
What Are Constitutive And Declaratory Residence?
British expat residence status is the same under both constitutive and declaratory categories – but how to apply for residence permission varies.
Countries with declaratory residence automatically allow residence providing the British government fulfils the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Basically, that means EU27 governments will grant the same rights to British expats after Brexit as the British government gives to EU27 citizens in the UK.
Expats living in countries with a constitutive scheme only have residence granted on application and their rights may vary.
How Do Expats Know Which Residence Scheme Applies?
Each EU27 country has elected which residence scheme applies to them and those with choosing the constitutive model have a strict deadline for receiving residence applications from British expats.
The table below covers each country and includes a link to their immigration web site for more information and downloading application forms.
|Country||Residence policy||Deadline for residence applications||Online immigration information|
|Austria||Constitutive||31/12/2021||Find out more|
|Belgium||Constitutive||31/12/2021||Find out more|
|Bulgaria||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Croatia||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Cyprus||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Czech Republic||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Denmark||Constitutive||31/12/2021||Find out more|
|Estonia||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Finland||Constitutive||30/09/2021||Find out more|
|France||Constitutive||30/06/2021||Find out more|
|Germany||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Greece||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Hungary||Constitutive||31/12/2021||Find out more|
|Ireland||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Italy||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Latvia||Constitutive||30/06/2021||Find out more|
|Lithuania||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Luxembourg||Constitutive||30/06/2021||Find out more|
|Malta||Constitutive||30/06/2021||Find out more|
|Netherlands||Constitutive||30/06/2021||Find out more|
|Poland||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Portugal||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Romania||Constitutive||31/21/2021||Find out more|
|Slovakia||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Slovenia||Constitutive||31/12/2021||Find out more|
|Spain||Declaratory||–||Find out more|
|Sweden||Constitutive||30/09/2021||Find out more|
Residence For British Expats In EEA Countries and Switzerland
If British expats were resident in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before December 31, 2020, then their right to stay is protected under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Like the EU27, British expats in the EEA and Switzerland can renew their residency if they lived in the country before December 31, 2020.
|Country||Residence policy||Online immigration information|
|Iceland||Constitutive||Find out more|
|Liechtenstein||Constitutive||Find out more|
|Norway||Constitutive||Find out more|
|Switzerland||Constitutive||Find out more|
UK Residence For EU27, EEA and Swiss Nationals
Expats from the EU27, European Economic Area (EEA) – which is the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – and Switzerland is open for applications until June 30, 2021, under the EU Settlement Scheme.
The scheme covers expats living in the UK before December 31, 2020 who have their rights protected under the Withdrawal Agreement.
EU27 Residence Brexit Update For Expats FAQ
Brexit has added bureaucratic layers to the already complicated lives of European expats who live and work in different countries or even work in one place and live in another.
Life has changed for these expats and keeping up with the permits and visas they need to carry on working is a job in itself.
Here are some answers to the most asked questions about residence in the UK and EU27 for post-Brexit expats.
The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is the formal document laying out the details of Britain’s departure from the EU.
The Withdrawal Agreement covers a wide range of issues to do with Britain leaving the EU, like citizen’s rights and border agreements.
A summary of citizen’s rights is available online, together with the full text of the agreement
If you are moving after the end of the Brexit transition period – which ended on December 31, 2020 – you join the ranks of ‘third party’ countries that must have a residence permit to stay in the EU27.
Constitutive and declaratory residence does not apply, and you must make a residence application in the country where you intend to live.
The rules stay unchanged as the Common Travel Area between the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey applies.
Under the agreement, citizens from each place can move freely, access benefits and healthcare and live wherever they want.
More about the Common Travel Area
In theory, yes. Cross-border or frontier workers can apply for special permits if they were in their job before December 31, 2020, but those taking up a post after this date must apply for work permits in the country where they will work and a residence permit in the place where they will live.
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