On the 30th of April, the British Embassy in Berlin hosted two info events for British citizens living in Germany. Rachel King from the British Embassy introduced the event and discussed the current situation. She was followed by Herr Engelhard Mazanke, head of the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Registration Office in Berlin, LABO) in Berlin. To round up the speeches, Prisca Merz, the Embassy’s regional policy advisor, spoke about what the Embassy in Berlin is doing to keep UK citizens informed during these febrile uncertain times. The key points of the speeches in the order they were delivered are as follows:
From Rachel King: first, the current Brexit extension is to last until 31st October 2019. If a deal is ratified by both the UK Parliament and the EU before that date, the UK will leave on the first day of the following month. The withdrawal agreement protects the rights of residents in their current country of residence and allows for a transition period until 31.12.2020, this is the preferred course of the EU and the British government. The government of the UK does not accept a no deal scenario. Please see the policy paper on citizens’ rights in a no-deal scenario on the UK government website (www.uk.gov/world/living-in-germany). The policy paper discusses rights to work, study, receive benefits/ services, and pensions in Germany in all scenarios. It also gives dates and guidelines for families who are moving back to the UK, and explains how their family members can join them within the time limit.
The UK has decided to guarantee EU citizens in UK the ability to bring a partner, spouse, or dependent to the UK until 29 March 2022. It is unclear what the requirements would be after this date. In terms of higher education, EU nationals are eligible for home fees for 7 years after exit day if they have started their studies before exit.
If the UK leaves without a deal, UK nationals will not need visas for short stays elsewhere in the EU. You will be able to stay up to 90 days in another EU country, within a 180 day period. The request from the UK government is that the EU countries will respond in kind.
During the event, Germany government officials repeated many times that no UK citizen in Germany will be asked to leave due to Brexit.
The extension also means that UK citizens can take part in the EU elections. They should register before 7 May for UK and before 5 May for Germany.
As a result of the uncertainty surrounding exit day, the German government has passed a law regarding social security contributions. This law also allows for UK citizens to join German health insurance:
Steps recommended to take now:
1. Register with German authorities (Anmeldungsbescheinigung)
2. Contact your local LABO for new documentation–for example, Berlin provides online registration. If you have not already registered, please do so. This is to help ensure you can continue to live and work Germany regardless of the uncertainty of not knowing when exit day will happen.
3. Change your UK driver’s license to a German one. You will be allowed to drive in the UK on a German license, but it is unclear at this time if you will be able to drive in Germany with a UK licence.
4. If you have qualifications that have not yet been recognised in Germany, you should do so now. This is not required for academic qualifications, such as a B.A.
5. Ensure that your passport is valid for a minimum of 6months after 31.10.2019.
Information is constantly updated on the embassy website and you can follow them on social media, sign up for emails, and check the website frequently for updates.
After Ms. King’s speech, Herr Mazanke, Head of the Foreigners Registration Office in Berlin started his speech with apologies. At this time he is unable to give any concrete details about what is in store for Brits in Germany after exit. With the lack of clarity in outcomes, he does not have all the information yet.
The process is still open and ongoing. He stated clearly that his advice is for Berliners only and that he cannot speak for other Bundesländer and is not informed as to how each of them is handling Brexit and the registration process.
He encourages all who are not from Berlin to make themselves known to their individual Ausländerbehörde and follow the instructions given.
What has changed in Berlin since the last information meeting? 10,000 of 18,000 (registered as living in Berlin at the local Rathäuser) Brits in Berlin have signed up with the LABO. 4,000 UK citizens in Berlin have been invited to appointments. Those invited so far have shown a long-term commitment in Germany and have been resident for over 5 years. 400 have already had their appointments and each have received a Niederlassungserlaubnis, a form of permanent residency in Germany.
There have been three main responses from UK citizens in Berlin that Herr Mazanke’s office have received:
1. Why have I been invited? You are all still EU citizens and no one is required to attend these appointments. If you choose not to come, please inform your case worker, so that they can offer the appointment to someone else. For every five people invited, four have shown up.
2. Fear. With responses such as: “my file isn’t complete,” “I do not have a valid passport,” or “will I be deported?,” etc. Herr Mazanke reiterated that no Berliners will be deported. You are here on your right to free movement as an EU citizen. Please come to the appointments.
3. Relief. People have expressed gratitude for the smooth process. Come what may,their residency in Germany is resolved. Please take the appointments seriously. There is no fee for permanent residency. UK families living in Berlin are being invited as a unit. If a person has not lived in Germany for five years they will receive a two year permit. This can be renewed until five years’ residence is reached. This is being done so that families can continue to live and travel together within the Schengen zone.
The current set of appointments given out by LABO has filled up all slots available to Brits until the end of June. All those who have yet to receive an invitation should check back on our website, as there will be a step-by-step process depending on happens in the UK from 1 July, dependent on whether the UK takes part in the EU elections – which is now certain.
The goal of the LABO is that all UK citizens in Berlin are given the chance to go through the registration process and that everyone has a residency title appointment before 31.12.2019. Of course this is dependent on how the Brexit situation develops. Herr Mazanke reiterated: please register online and follow our FAQs on the LABO website. Finally, Herr Mazanke thanked all Brits in Germany for their patience and understanding in this uncertain time.
At the end, Frau Prisca Merz, Regional Consular Policy Advisor at the British Embassy, then introduced the different tables at the information fair. These tables included information about health insurance, pensions, DAAD (education and access to universities), the German Federal Employment Agency, Citizenship and our British in Germany Verein . She concluded by repeating that anyone registered with the Ausländerbehörde and awaiting an appointment can continue to work and live in Berlin until they receive a decision on residency. It was suggested that the final acknowledgement screen is printed out and kept as evidence of having completed the online registration.
At the British in Germany table Jane, Jenny, Rachel and I spoke with many people about their concerns and about what British in Germany as an organisation does. We received many thanks for the hard work being done behind the scenes in Germany, and by our umbrella organisation British in Europe. Most who came to the table signed up for our emails and others offered to volunteer. We look forward to seeing many of those at the next Stammtisch on 11 May.
BiG Volunteer and Stammtisch leader.
NOTE: The next BiG Stammtisch in Berlin will take place on 11 May at BrewDog (Berlin-Mitte) from 1pm-5pm. BrewDog is a British bar with craft beers and cider on draft. This week we will be discussing the current Brexit situation, new information from the Ausländerbehörde Berlin, and your questions. Please note that the Stammtisch will now be monthly, so don’t miss this chance to meet up with other Brits and have a pint. We look forward to seeing you there!