IMPORTANT NOTE: The UK formally left the EU on 31st January 2020 after signing a Withdrawal Agreement which included provision for citizens’ rights. So the information on this page is no longer current but is retained here for archive purposes.
For information about rights for UK citizens in Germany from 1 January, 2021, please go here.
+++++++++++ ARCHIVE INFORMATION ONLY+++++++++++
While we all hope for a Brexit deal, the risk remains of ‘No Deal’ which would bring a sudden end to the rights we currently have. It would be sensible for everyone to review and take the necessary actions to prepare for this possibility. This checklist for UK citizens in Germany has been prepared using material from:
- Remain In France Together:
- The UK Government’s advice for UK citizens in German: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/living-in-germany
- German citizens’ advice sites
While we have done our best to provide factually correct information, we cannot be held responsible for any actions you decide to undertake. You should seek separate professional advice where necessary.
- Make sure that you’re legally resident in Germany under current rules.
That means you should:
- Make sure you are registered as living here (angemeldet);
- Make sure you have German health insurance;
- Check out the time limits for applying for dual citizenship and permanent residence in our Q&A here.
- Check your passport
- You’ll need to comply with different rules to enter and travel around the Schengen area. There are two important issues that may affect your right to travel or to live here legally after exit, so it’s really important to start thinking about this now.
- Firstly, Schengen Border Code rules mean that existing passports which were renewed early and therefore have over 10 years validity will no longer be valid right up to the expiry date written on the passport, but will be limited to the 10 years immediately after their issue date. For example, if your passport was renewed (under the old rules) 6 months before its expiry date, it would show a valid period of 10 years and 6 months. After a no deal Brexit, you will effectively ‘lose’ the last 6 months validity, as third country nationals’ passports must have been issued within the last 10 years. Note: this may affect you even if you don’t travel – in order to remain a legal resident in Germany you need to make sure that the issue date on your passport is later than 5 years before a no deal Brexit date.
- Second, your passport must have at least 6 months’ validity on arrival, after discounting the period above.
- There are more details on all of this in the UK government guidance here. It’s a good idea to read it now.
- We don’t yet know what rights, if any, we will have to cross the border to or from any EU27 country if there is no deal, but dealing with these two issues now is a sensible precaution.
- Check your driving licence
- If you’re still using a UK driving licence, apply for a German licence now. After a no deal Brexit, the EU rules under which UK licences are recognised in the EU27 will lapse. At present a UK licence can usually be exchanged for a German one without too much difficulty, although a driving test may be needed if there is no deal and you wish to exchange after a no deal Brexit. The UK has confirmed that EU licences will still be valid in the UK after a no deal Brexit, but you will need an International Driving Permit to drive in the EU27 on a UK licence.
- Think about moving money
- If you have bank accounts, savings or investments in the UK, consider what action you might need to take such as moving them to Germany now. Sterling may drop suddenly in the case of a no deal exit; there may also be temporary problems moving money in and out of the EU. If you do not have a German bank account, consider opening one now. How much of your savings do you want to retain in the UK and how much should be with you in Germany? Are your investments based on living in the UK or are they international or Germany focused? Consult your UK financial adviser, if you have one.
- Try to have a financial backstop
- If at all possible, try and make sure you have access to enough cash in a German bank account to see you through two or three months, especially if your income comes from the UK and is transferred monthly.
- Consider your personal pension
- If you have a personal pension in the UK (this doesn’t apply to state or public service/occupational pensions) and have not yet retired, think about getting advice about how to deal with this and cashing it in if you’re old enough, or moving it. There may be issues with the rights of UK insurers/financial services providers to operate in the EU without having a formal presence there after Brexit and these could cause problems, e.g. with insurers making payments to those living outside the UK. Write to your insurer/private pension company in the UK to ask them what plans they have put in place for post-Brexit scenarios.
- Top up your medication
- If you currently rely on an S1 form for access to the German health service and you need regular medication, think about making sure you have a good supply of it on a no deal Brexit date – if the worst happens and the reciprocal health care system stops on that date it might take several weeks to get an alternative system up and running and there may be short term chaos. Making sure that you have the permitted 3 months of long-term medication would mean that you’d avoid having to pay full whack for your meds while the situation was resolved.
- Look at ways you could maximise your income and minimise your expenses
- This applies particularly if the bulk of your income is in Sterling, which may take a serious hit after a no deal exit. Can you survive if sterling hits parity? Goes below parity? What’s your bottom line? What can you do to turn your income into Euro income?
- Create a personal financial contingency plan. Look at ways you can cut your spending temporarily, and at ways you could create additional income.
- Get any potentially expensive dental or optical work done now.
- If you have a business that relies on attracting people from the UK
- Start thinking about changing your client demographic. If there is a no deal Brexit people may not want to travel to the EU next year and you’ll need to find new clients if you’re to survive financially. Make sure you have a website in German, if you haven’t already, and that you begin to advertise NOW to attract German and EU27 customers.
- Put contingency plans in place now to deal with potential issues with VAT, excise, billing, professional insurance cover, etc.
- Make sure that you’re in Germany on the no deal Brexit date
- This is probably not the best time to make a family visit to the UK! Transport could be chaotic, with no agreements on air or other travel between the UK and EU. If you can’t be in Germany, try to be somewhere in the Schengen zone.
- Put some serious work into your German language skills
- For example, the German citizenship application process requires you to have adequate German language skills (B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
- Think about, or rethink about, applying for German citizenship
- German citizenship won’t guarantee all the rights you currently hold as an EU citizen (mutual recognition of professional qualifications, for example) but it will guarantee you the right to reside and to work – and as an EU citizen you’d continue to benefit from full free movement rights.
- Get your professional qualifications recognised now.
- The European Commission has said that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, Brexit does not affect decisions made pre-Brexit by EU27 countries recognising UK qualifications under the general EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC). For details of which qualifications are covered see https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/services/free-movement-professionals/qualifications-recognition_en. If you have a UK qualification covered by that Directive and you need to use it, apply to get it recognised before a no deal Brexit date.
- Marry a German citizen
- Marriage to a German citizen can speed up your application for German citizenship. See our Q&A here.
- Above all … don’t panic!
- This is about hoping (and working) for the best, while preparing for the worst. Whatever happens you won’t be alone and will always find help and support here.