Category Archives: Your Rights

everything on citizens’ rights, etc.

Registering in Berlin and elsewhere

Update 4 April, 2019

Important news from British in Bavaria about the official letter regarding residence for BRITS IN MUNICH – if this applies to you, please read carefully. Further, please note that Brits living in Munich who haven’t yet registered with the Kreisverwaltungsreferat (that’s the Meldeamt in Munich) as a resident, need to get their skates on. And do kindly pass this info on to anyone who it might help.

So here it is:
The Foreigners´ Office (Ausländerbehörde) in Munich is today (Wednesday, 3 April) sending out letters (with English translation) to all UK nationals registered as resident in the City of Munich, setting out what´s next. So, look out for these letters in your postbox in the next day or so.

Note: All the Ausländerbehörden around the country are finding it difficult to plan at the moment, given the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit deadlines. Munich´s solution is to nominate 15 April as the start date for online booking of appointments to go along and discuss your application for a residence title. If the UK leaves on 12 April, online booking opens on 15 April (not before). If it´s still not clear by then, the start of online booking will also be delayed.
Please also take a look at the website of the Munich Ausländerbehörde.

So: patience is required, on all sides. If you haven´t heard yet from your Ausländerbehörde, this is not necessarily a cause for concern. But of course if you are not registered as a resident (angemeldet) with your local authority (Meldeamt), then you need to do this asap, to ensure you will be notified about arrangements for applying for a residence permit.

Update 1 April, 2019

The UK Government has provided a list of all the Foreigners Authorities in Germany which they know about and if they are requesting Registration as in Berlin. Please check this list for updates as we will not be able to highlight changes other than for the biggest places.

Leipzig is missing from the list but has also announced a pre-registration form in a message to British Nationals.  (Please note that the submission stages of the form might not work on all browsers. Should you encounter difficulties, try using Firefox.)

Update 22 March, 2019

Following the European Council the UK’s departure from the EU has been put back until at least 12 April, 2019. The Berlin Ausländerbehörde have updated their website, but are unable to provide additional details until 29 March, 2019. However, we are concerned to learn that of approx. 18,000 UK Citizens registered in Berlin (Angemeldet) only 8,600 have so far registered themselves on the Berlin Website for a future Residence Permit. Please ensure you do as soon as possible and check with all UK acquaintances that they have too.

Original Article:

Whether there is a withdrawal deal or not, British citizens will require a residency title or other proof of their right of residency in Germany following Brexit.

If there is no deal, as it stands, all British citizens in Germany would have to apply for a residency title by 30 June 2019.

If there is a deal (i.e. the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU is ratified), British citizens would still be required to prove their right to residency.

Until the UK leaves the EU, British citizens continue to have the right of freedom of movement. However, some local immigration authorities are introducing a voluntary registration process so that they can contact affected citizens more easily, whatever happens.

For example, the Berlin immigration authority is already inviting UK nationals resident in Berlin to pre-register for a residency permit application. While it is technically voluntary, it is strongly recommended that you register before 29 March 2019 if you are resident in Berlin. The confirmation of registration ensures the residency rights acquired in Germany will remain valid from Brexit until a decision is taken on the subsequent application.

BiG have liaised with the Berlin immigration office and requested clarification on a number of points, including questions from BiG members. These have been addressed through an extensive FAQ page in English and German. Please also read the explanatory notes on the registration page carefully.

If you live outside Berlin please check the website of your local immigration authority for more information on the planned process where you live.

Both Berliners and those living elsewhere might also like to refer to the Federal Ministry of the Interior’s FAQs on right of residence in the context of Brexit in English and German.

Unofficial translation of BMI FAQs on residence after Brexit

Below is our unofficial translation of the BMI’s FAQs on residency issues related to BrexitHowever since publication the BMI has also produced its own official translation which can be found on their website.

Here you will find information on the plans of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) on the residence rights of British nationals living in Germany and their family members, as well as measures for those applying for citizenship.

What is the legal status of British nationals and their family members until 29 March 2019? What can I do now if I am affected?

Until the UK leaves the EU, British nationals and their family members retain their freedom of movement. However, the general obligation to register at your local registration office applies.

Some immigration authorities [federal Foreigners Registration Offices] are planning a voluntary registration process to reach affected citizens better and to inform them about their rights. We will keep you informed.

What happens if the UK leaves with a deal?

If the withdrawal agreement is concluded, there will be a two-year transitional period until 31 December 2020, immediately after the departure on 29 March 2019. During this period, Britain will continue to be treated as an EU Member State. EU free movement rules continue to apply during this period.

Broadly speaking, the withdrawal agreement provides affected citizens with the life-long retention of rights associated with freedom of movement. At the end of the transition period, eligible British and EU nationals and their family members are entitled to reside in the EU or in Great Britain.

If you are a British citizen (or a family member of a British citizen) who moved to Germany before 31 December 2020, you will most likely be able to refer to the withdrawal agreement. For this you will have to apply to the Foreigners Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) responsible for you, and if you have not already done so, you will have to register at your local Residents Registration Office as proof of your residence. Some immigration authorities are already planning a voluntary registration/application procedure before the departure date.

What happens if there is no deal? Will the British have to leave Germany immediately?

No, no British citizen will have to leave Germany immediately in the case of ‘no deal’. The Federal Government is planning a transitional period of initially three months, which can be extended. During this time, British citizens and their family members will be able to continue to live and work in Germany without a residence permit.

To stay longer, however, all those affected are required to apply at their local office for a residence permit before the end of the transitional period and, if they have not yet done so, to register at their local Foreigners Registration Office. During the time from the application to the decision, further stay is allowed.

Some immigration authorities are already planning a voluntary registration / application procedure before the withdrawal date.

What permanent status do British nationals and their family members have after a ‘no deal’ Brexit?

If the UK leaves the EU without an agreement, the legal status of the affected British citizens will change permanently. They lose their status as EU citizens (or family members of an EU citizen) and become third-country nationals.

To stay in Germany after the end of the three-month transitional period, those concerned will need a residence permit, and will have to apply for this at the local Foreigners Registration Office. During the time from the application to the decision, further stay is automatically allowed.

Information on residence permits is available at the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, as well as at your local Foreigners Registration Office. Some immigration authorities are already planning a voluntary registration/application procedure before the withdrawal date.

Am I affected?

If you have British and another EU citizenship:

Nothing changes for you. As an EU citizen, you are still entitled to freedom of movement. You may also keep your British nationality.

If you have British and German citizenship:

As a German, you are naturally entitled to reside in Germany without a residence permit. In some circumstances, you will still derive additional rights from the Withdrawal Agreement (e.g. professional recognition, etc.).

If you are a British citizen and also a family member of an EU national:

You can probably continue to exercise free movement. Nevertheless, you should also register at your local Foreigners Registration Office, if such a procedure is provided. You may be issued a residence card for EU citizens’ family members.

If you are a British citizen and not a national of another EU member state

You will need a residence permit for your permanent stay in Germany. If you have not already done so, you should also register at your local Registration Office (Anmeldung) and Immigration Office.

Which immigration office is responsible for me?

This depends on your place of residence. You can search for your local office here.

Can German citizens travel to the UK for short stays without a visa, and can British citizens come to Germany?

Probably, yes. The EU has initiated a legal agreement on reciprocal visa-free travel. This includes stays of up to 90 days per 180 days. British citizens can travel throughout the Schengen area.

What changes for people applying to become German citizens?

If the withdrawal agreement is concluded, the Federal Government’s Brexit Transition Act contains transitional provisions for British citizens applying for German citizenship, and German citizens applying for British citizenship before the end of the transition period (until 31 December 2020). You should be allowed to retain your previous British or German nationality, even if the decision on naturalization is made after the end of the transition period, and as long as all other conditions for naturalization are met before the end of the transition.

In the event of a ‘no deal’ departure, similar arrangements will apply to those applying for citizenship before the date of departure (until 29 March 2019). For details, see the draft bill of the Law on transitional provisions in the field of work, education, health, social affairs and citizenship’ on the website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

German Federal advice on residence and Brexit

The Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) posted an FAQ on its website just before Christmas about Germany’s plans regarding the residence rights of British citizens in Germany after Brexit. The FAQ covers both deal and no deal scenarios.

The BMI explains that, until 29 March 2019, British citizens remain EU citizens with rights of free movement, but of course are still subject to the obligation to register with the relevant administration where they reside.

After 29 March 2019, the position will change.

Deal Scenario

In the case of a deal, there will be a transition phase until December 2020 during which the rights of British citizens in Germany will stay the same as they are now. Any British citizen who arrives in Germany before that date will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and will be able to apply for a status under that agreement in Germany, which will secure (most of) their rights in Germany going forward. To this end, some federal immigration authorities (Ausländerbehörde) are already planning a voluntary registration system before the UK’s withdrawal.

No Deal Scenario

The BMI also gives more details of what is planned in the case of a no deal. In this case, Germany is planning a three-month transition phase from 29 March 2019, which could be extended, during which time British citizens and their family members can, without a residence permit, live and work in Germany as before. However, after this, British citizens will need such a permit, since after Brexit, they will no longer be EU citizens but third country nationals. They are advised to apply for this before the end of the three-month transition phase (the BMI then links to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) information on residence in Germany), and their rights to live and work in Germany remain the same until a decision is taken on their application. As noted above, some Ausländerbehörde are already planning a voluntary registration system to this end.

How different categories of British citizens will be affected

The BMI then explains how different British citizens will be affected by the two scenarios:

British citizens who also have another EU citizenship will not need a residence permit.

British citizens who have German citizenship will obviously not need a residence permit but may obtain additional rights under certain conditions under the Withdrawal Agreement.

British citizens who are family members of an EU citizen of another EU country are expected to keep their free movement rights but are asked to register with the relevant Ausländerbehörde where that (voluntary) registration is already envisaged (see above).

British citizens without another EU citizenship will need a residence permit and should make sure that they are registered properly where they live and are asked to register with the relevant Ausländerbehörde where that (voluntary) registration is already envisaged (see above).

Citizenship applications

The BMI also sets out the position on citizenship applications and dual citizenship in both scenarios. In the case of a deal, those applying before 31 December 2020 will be able to keep both citizenships (German and British) even if the decision is after the transition phase, and if all the conditions for citizenship were filled before that date. Similarly, in the case of a no deal, those who applied by 29 March 2019 will have the right to keep both citizenships.

Unanswered questions

The FAQ sets out some first useful information but by no means answers all the detailed questions you may have about your future status. These issues include: how each Land proposes to implement these measures; in the case of no deal, the position of people who already have a permanent residence document but do not have German citizenship, or those with less than five years’ residence in Germany; and details of which status to apply for in the case of no deal, as well as how to apply for the status in the case of a deal, and so on. The British in Germany team will be seeking clarification on these and other questions raised by these proposals and have requested meetings with both the Auswärtiges Amt, along with representatives from other ministries such as the BMI, and with the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, early in the New Year. We have also collated the types of questions raised by our members on social media so that these can also help inform our discussions with the German authorities in the New Year, and will be putting out a call for case studies shortly as well. In short, we are following up to confirm how the government’s proposals will apply to all British citizens, as well as their family members, currently resident in Germany, whatever their circumstances.

More information on this website as soon as we have it.

You can read the original FAQs in German.

You can also read The Guardian‘s 22 December article on residency for Brits in Berlin.

Financial issues for UK Citizens in Europe on BBC’s Moneybox

Moneybox – the BBC’s personal finance programme on Radio 4 has an episode on finance for UK Citizens living in Europe. Jane Golding was one of 3 experts on the panel to explain the issues and give their own personal perspectives. Listeners had contacted the programme before transmission to submit their questions and these covered, amongst others:

  • The impact of a No-Deal Brexit.
  • The loss of Free Movement, specifically working or offering services to a range of EU countries.
  • Recognition of Qualifications.
  • Healthcare and the transfer of UK Healthcare to another EU country.
  • Study, Erasmus and the treatment of UK Nationals resident in the EU who then wish to study in the UK.
  • Couples returning to the UK including the cost of returning and selling property abroad or even buying in the UK.
  • Aggregated Pensions across EU countries.

The programme is available via the programme’s Website.

New information on your rights now available

At the InfoAbend events many of the same questions regarding Citizenship, Permanent Residence and the impact of a No-Deal Brexit are raised.

We have therefore pulled together the information we have available and have published it on two new information pages.

You can find them under the main menu option “Your Rights” or click on the links below:

We hope you find this information of use.

Image: Ralf Roletsche CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

New guidance on the proposed Dual Citizenship law now available

Following consultation which British in Germany took part in, the Germany Government have released their proposals for Dual-Citizenship during the transition period following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 29th March, 2019.

British in Germany has now analysed the new draft law and can provide you will all the information you need.

Take a look at our Dual Citizenship – The Facts page and keep a look out for additional information we will publish as it becomes available via the “Your Rights” menu option at the top of the website

British in Europe survey – registering your residence

This survey, for British in Europe and its member groups, is designed to help us find out more about our members’ experiences of registering residence as a British citizen when first arriving to live in Germany, and also applying for a permanent residence card after 5 years. We’re carrying out similar surveys amongst our members across the EU.

Why are we asking you these questions? The EU 27 countries will shortly be considering how to ‘register’ UK citizens living in the EU after 31 December 2020: to continue the current declaratory system, or to introduce a new constitutive system where we would be required to apply for a new status, in keeping with the UK’s wish to oblige EU27 citizens to apply for ‘settled status’ rather than simply confirm their existing rights. We’d like to know your views and experiences to help our input into the process.

If members of your household or friends have also registered here in Germany, please pass on this link and ask them to complete the survey too

The survey is open until Wednesday, 9 May. 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfx29oyTus42VSKTyFyYVUsMY864IgTG1Hwro8L57lvjTXSVA/viewform

Freedom of Movement survey

British in Europe is carrying out a survey of its coalition members and individual supporters to gauge support for a last big push on free movement.  We know that there is a good deal of support for this in British in Germany, but want to get feedback from all our members. Please take a minute to help by filling out the survey and distributing the link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfJHO9On5eIqmm8dR5kILcWRw4jsu35WTECg7a3BzvlbGz-pg/viewform  

Update: This survey is now closed. Thank-you to those that participated.

Where does the March Agreement leave me?

On Monday 18 March, the European Commission published its third draft legal text for the Withdrawal Agreement and announced that it and the UK had reached “complete agreement” on citizens’ rights.

You’re probably wondering whether that is in fact the case, and where the March agreement leaves you. This is a quick (and non-exhaustive) general summary of the state of play. It’s a mixture of good news, bad news and unfinished business, the balance of which is different for each of us, depending on the particular situation that we are in.

We are still hoping that the unfinished business, such as whether we have free movement across the EU 27, will be discussed in the second phase and we at British in Europe are continuing to campaign hard for that. Our big concern is that it could get lost in the mass of issues now to be discussed such as airline slots. And until the final agreement is signed, none of this is set in stone – although it is unlikely that what has been agreed so far will be changed, if there is no deal then there is no guarantee of our rights.

One big change following the draft agreement is that there will – assuming that the final agreement is ratified – be a transition period which will last until 31 December 2020, and that almost all our rights will remain unchanged until then. This is the ‘effective date’ referred to in the paragraphs that follow. This also means that anyone who arrives during this period will be covered by the protections of the Withdrawal Agreement on the same terms as those present before Brexit day itself.

The good:

  • If you are ‘legally resident’ on transition day you can stay – but in some countries, you may have to make an application to secure this (see below). This includes people who have moved to the EU27 up to the end of transition on 31 December 2020.
  • The current conditions for a right of residence under EU law will apply unless an EU country decides to require an application to secure status (see below) . For the first 3 months there are no conditions. After 3 months you have to be working/self-employed, self-sufficient, a student or a family member of any such person. People who are self-sufficient or students have to have health insurance (for pensioners or others who hold one, the S1 form is sufficient). After 5 years these conditions fall away and you will either be entitled to ‘permanent residence’ or may have to apply to secure it.
  • The 5 years can include years both before and after the effective date.  Anyone with less than 5 years’ residence can build up their years until they reach 5, when they are eligible for permanent residence, under the same conditions as now (see above).
  • If you have acquired permanent residence, you can be away from your host country for 5 years and still retain the right to return and keep your rights of permanent residence.  This includes where you have acquired permanent residence before the effective date but are not actually resident in the country on the effective date e.g. because you are on a work posting or studying.
  • Reciprocal healthcare is agreed, so that those who have an S1 or will be eligible for one when they retire will still have their healthcare funded by the UK. For these people this includes a UK issued EHIC which will cover travel across the EU27 and, we believe, to the UK.  This means that for those who pay into the national system in their country of residence e.g. a British person working in Germany, the rules will also remain the same as they are now.
  • Aggregation of social security contributions is agreed, both before and after the effective date.
  • Lifetime export of uprated pensions is agreed – so your UK state pension will be increased annually just as it would be if you were living in the UK.
  • There is some agreement on recognition of professional qualifications – if you have an individual recognition decision re your qualification including through automatic recognition e.g. doctors, architects, your qualification will continue to be recognised but only in the country where the decision was issued.
  • If you are a ‘frontier worker’ according to EU rules – living in one country and working in one or more other countries at the effective date – you will still have the right to work in each country.
  • Subject to the next bullet point certain close family members (spouse, civil partner, direct ascendants/descendants who are dependant on you) will be able to join you if your rights are protected under the withdrawal agreement. This will apply for the whole of your lifetime. If you have children after the effective date they also are protected under the withdrawal agreement if you and the other parent are also protected or a national of the country you live in.
  • The present wording excludes children born after transition to parents one of whom (i) is a third country national (ie not an EU or UK citizen covered by the agreement) or (ii) is an EU or UK national not residing in the host state at the end of transition, but British in Europe has challenged whether this omission was intentional.
  • The rights will have direct effect, which means that they are binding and you can rely on the rights set out in the Withdrawal Agreement directly before the courts even if the country where you are living doesn’t apply the provisions of it correctly in national law.

What hasn’t been included:

  • Continuing freedom of movement – which includes the ability to move, reside and work in EU27 countries other than our country of residence/frontier working, as well as other rights such as visa-free travel. If the final Withdrawal Agreement does not include a right of free movement across the EU 27 for UK citizens in the EU, there is EU legislation dealing with rights of third country nationals (non-EU citizens) to move within the EU. How this might apply to UK citizens in the EU would have to be agreed but it is fair to say that it doesn’t offer free movement rights, which we have now as EU citizens, and is considerably more limited.  And we will also need to see what the future UK-EU agreement says on this point.
  • The right to provide cross-border services as self-employed people.
  • Some professional qualifications e.g. lawyers practising under their home titles and EU-wide licences and certificates are not covered, and recognition of qualifications outside the country of recognition/residence across the EU 27 is unlikely to be discussed further as part of the Withdrawal Agreement.
  • The right to be joined by a future spouse or partner – ie one that you weren’t in a relationship with on the effective date.
  • The right to return to the UK with a non-UK spouse or partner and other family members under the much more favourable EU law regime.
  • Partners who are not married and do not have a civil partnership are not covered as “family members” and have more limited rights under the Withdrawal Agreement unless they have an independent right of residence of their own[1] in the host state.  Although this is the same as the position under existing EU law, given the greater scrutiny and bureaucratic barriers which may apply after transition, people in that situation should consider whether to ensure their position as family members now by marriage or a civil partnership.
  • Those whose right of residence at the end of transition is purely as a family member will never obtain e.g. their own family reunification rights. British in Europe has challenged the negotiators to amend the Agreement to clearly exclude from this group those who have resided in their host state for 5 years at the end of transition:  the understanding reached in December, which this Agreement is supposed to implement, clearly did so.
  • Ring-fencing of the agreement so far.

So should you be happy?

It’s reasonable to say that for those who are happily settled in their country of residence, work solely in that country, have retired there or are pre-retired, have no wish or need to move to or work or study in another EU country, fulfil all the requirements for exercising treaty rights (see here) and don’t rely on professional qualifications, then your rights are should be covered.

But 

The agreement allows each EU27 state to choose between 2 options for ‘certifying’ our rights after Brexit. 

EITHER: they can adopt what’s called a declaratory system, which mirrors what happens now and simply confirms the rights that we already hold, whether as permanent residents (5 years or more) or temporary residents (less than 5 years). If an EU country adopts this system, the current system won’t change much but we will be able to apply for a residence document to prove our status.

OR: they can adopt a constitutive system. Under this, we would have to APPLY for a new status; the application process would include checks on whether people had been exercising treaty rights, as well as criminality checks. This is the equivalent of the UK proposal for EU citizens of ‘settled status’; the concept of reciprocity has led to this being an option for each EU27 country if they wish to adopt it.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement could give the impression that the constitutive system is the default, devoting many paragraphs of detail to it.  We have no idea yet whether any EU country will choose to impose this system – though it must remain a possibility given that all EU citizens in the UK will be subject to it. It’s not good news, because (i) it means we would have to apply for a new status instead of having our existing rights confirmed (ii) some people would struggle to find the proof that they meet the statutory requirements of ‘legal residence’ and (iii) as we all know, bureaucracies can make mistakes.

This is one of the major objections by British in Europe to this agreement.

Another is, of course, the fact that free movement isn’t included. This is a big deal for many people whose livelihoods depend on being able to work in an EU country other than their country of residence and who don’t fall under the definition of a frontier worker. This particularly affects cross-border workers, especially the self-employed. It also matters to our children, who would find their rights to study elsewhere in the EU27 curtailed without it. And it has a big knock-on effect for the territorial scope of professional qualifications and economic rights (e.g. to run a business), which currently would only apply in our host country.

In a nutshell, we think the draft agreement has more holes than a piece of French Emmental.

We shall be continuing our strong advocacy campaign on all these issues in months to come to ensure that outstanding issues don’t fall off the table.

[1] See “current conditions for a right of residence under EU law” above.