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How will Brexit affect individuals

Since the UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, the UK has been in a transition period to prepare for the consequences of Brexit. This transition period will end on 31 December 2020 and major changes are expected to take place for individuals across the UK and Europe. This guide will help explain how these changes might affect you, and how best you can prepare for them.

As the UK will no longer be part of the EU, there are new restrictions in place that might affect the way you travel and the rights you have within EU countries. It’s important that you have all the correct travel documents and plan effectively before visiting an EU country in 2021. 

Visas 

If you are only visiting an EU country for a short period of time (eg a two-week holiday), you will not be required to purchase a visa. 

UK citizens will be allowed to enter and stay for up to 90 days in the EU within a 180-day period. This means from the date that travellers first enter any EU country, they are permitted to remain there or travel to other EU countries for a maximum of 90 days. For country specific information, you should check the visa requirements of your destination on the UK government’s foreign travel advice page. 

If you plan to stay in the EU beyond this 90 day period (eg to study or work in that country), you may need to apply for a visa or permit. Please note that individual EU countries may have their own additional requirements for individuals travelling on business, so you may need to check on the UK government website for information on your specific business trip destination. 

Passports 

Before entering an EU country, you should make sure that your passport will be valid for at least 6 months on the date of travel, and less than 10 years old. 

If you are concerned that you might not meet these requirements, the UK government has set up a check your passport service to determine whether your passport will be valid on the date of travel to enter your destination country. 

If you do not meet these new requirements, your passport may require renewal. This can be a lengthy process so you should factor this along with any potential delays before your travels.

Entering the EU

When you arrive at your destination country in the EU, the border control authorities may require you to:

  • display a return or onward ticket

  • prove you have enough money for your stay

  • use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing

In 2022, the EU is introducing a new system of electronic travel authorisation, named ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), similar to the US ESTA system. This will mean British citizens entering the EU from 2022 onwards will likely need to register their details on an online platform for security purposes before travelling. Once registered under ETIAS, British citizens are allowed to enter the EU as many times as they want within a 3 year period, after which they must re-register. Naturally this is subject to the 90-day limit set out above. 

Driving in the EU

For individuals intending to drive a vehicle in an EU country, there are new restrictions to be aware of.

If you plan on driving your own car and using your UK driving licence, you should have:

  • a GB sticker

  • a ‘green card’ from your vehicle insurance company to prove you have adequate insurance cover

  • an International Driving Permit (IDP) for some countries

These requirements may be different for renting a vehicle in an EU country, so be sure to check this with your rental car provider before your date of travel. For more information, see Driving Abroad

Healthcare in Europe

European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) will no longer be valid beyond 31 December 2020, so free healthcare in Europe will no longer be available. The UK government has strongly encouraged travellers to obtain appropriate travel insurance that covers healthcare before entering the EU. This is important for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, as many travel insurance policies will only provide coverage for unforeseen health problems. 

Mobile roaming in the EU

After 31 December 2020, free mobile roaming in Europe will no longer be guaranteed for UK mobile users. You should check what roaming charges will apply to you in Europe with your network provider. 

The UK government has passed a new law to limit roaming charges to £45. Once this cap is reached, the user will have to opt in to spend more and continue using their mobile phone abroad. 

Travelling with pets

The current pet passport scheme will no longer apply to UK citizens after 31 December 2020. Instead, individuals travelling with pets must follow a new process, depending on the future ‘listed status’ of the UK. The new process can take up to 4 months to complete, so any pet travel should be planned far in advance of your departure date.

The UK government has provided useful advice on pet travel to Europe. This will be updated once the UK’s listed status is decided by the EU.

When returning to the UK, your pet must have one of the following documents:

  • a UK pet health certificate

  • an EU pet passport (issued in the EU or in the UK before 1 January 2021)

  • an Animal Health Card issued in Great Britain used to travel to the EU (which you can use up to 4 months after it was issued)

The Withdrawal Agreement (the agreement setting the terms of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU) provides certain rights to UK nationals living lawfully in EU member states beyond the transition period. This will allow individuals to continue living, working and/or studying in an EU country after the transition period. However, there are a number of key considerations that UK citizens living in the EU should be aware of and prepare for by the end of 2020. 

Residency documents 

UK nationals must apply for the relevant residency documents to prove that they have been living in an EU country legally since before 31 December 2020. These documents can be obtained until 30 June 2021. Part of this process may require proof of identity and criminal/security checks.

To find the relevant documents, you should search for advice on residency documents on the government website of the EU country you are residing in. 

Family members

Close family members of UK nationals lawfully residing in an EU country will be allowed to move to that country and live with their relatives after Brexit has occurred, provided that the relationship began before 31 December 2020. Close members are defined as:

  • spouses and registered partners

  • parents and grandparents 

  • dependent children and grandchildren 

Any children born to or legally adopted by a close family member listed above will also be permitted to move with their parent(s), provided that they have legal custody of the children.

Property in the EU 

UK nationals who currently own property in the EU will not face any issues relating to their property ownership. The laws on ownership, rent, taxation and shared ownership will remain the same. 

Individuals intending to buy property in 2021 in the EU will have to follow new rules on the acquisition process. This is because some EU countries have separate property ownership laws for EU and non-EU citizens. Therefore, it’s important to check with local authorities on whether your status as a non-EU citizen will impact your acquisition plans. 

Wills and Inheritance 

Departure from the EU will not invalidate your will, even when the will includes property in the EU. Inheritance tax laws in the UK are not impacted by Brexit. 

If you live permanently in the EU then inheritance tax will only be paid on your UK property (eg land or bank accounts that you own in the UK). However, if you have had your permanent home in the UK at any time in the last 3 years or lived in the UK for 15 of the last 20 years, HMRC will treat you as living permanently in the UK for inheritance tax purposes.

Ask a lawyer if you have any questions regarding inheritance abroad. 

Healthcare 

The healthcare rights of all UK nationals lawfully living in the EU after Brexit will remain the same. This includes situations where the UK pays for their healthcare, for instance through the S1 scheme

It should be noted that EHIC cards will no longer be valid after 31 December 2020.

Pensions and Benefits

The UK government will continue to pay state pensions, child and disability benefits to UK nationals living in the EU in 2021, provided all eligibility requirements are met. This applies even if individuals only start claiming their pensions after 31 December 2020. 

For more information, please see the government’s guidance on benefits and pensions in the EU.

Driving in the EU

The government has recommended that UK nationals living in the EU replace their UK driving licence for a local licence as soon as possible. 

This is because licence exchange arrangements may end in 2021 and UK licence holders may have to retake their driving test in the EU country they reside in. 

Studying in the EU

The EU has agreed to allow all UK students currently enrolled onto the Erasmus scheme to continue to study abroad. It’s not yet clear whether the Erasmus scheme will continue beyond 2021 for UK students in the future.

Voting rights in the UK

UK nationals living in the EU after Brexit will still be able to participate in UK elections up to 15 years after they were last registered to vote in the UK. To do so, you must register as an overseas voter

Returning to the UK 

UK nationals living lawfully in the EU retain the right to return, get a job and access benefits and services in the UK after Brexit once the transition period has ended.

Close family members who are citizens of EU countries will be able to return to the UK with these nationals, and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme until 29 March 2022, provided the relationship began before 31 January 2020.

The UK government has announced the introduction of a points-based system of immigration. This will take effect from 1 January 2021 as the EU’s Free Movement of People comes to an end.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, it is recommended that you apply for British citizenship before Brexit takes place. 

Visas 

After 31 December 2020, EU nationals will be allowed to enter the UK and remain in the country for up to 6 months without a visa. If you intend to remain in the UK longer than 6 months, you will need a visa. 

The UK government will release new immigration forms at the end of 2020 for students and workers to apply for visas online. They will require:

  • a digital photo of your face (for EU/EEA and Swiss citizen)

  • a fingerprint and digital photo of your face (for non-EU citizens)

EU nationals living in the UK 

Any EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their family members living in the UK before 31 December 2020 should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. For more information on Settled Status in the UK, please read our guide on the Rocket Lawyer website

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens can use the UK government’s online tool to view their immigration status and to prove their status to others.

Skilled Workers

Some workers will be able to enter the UK to carry out a skilled profession. They will need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor

  • for a position that requires at least A level (or equivalent qualifications)

  • must speak English

  • must be paid at least £25,600

There is also a UK government Global Talent Scheme to fast-track immigration for highly-skilled scientists and researchers to enter the UK without a job offer. This scheme will continue to apply to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens after Brexit takes place.

Students 

Student visa routes will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. Students will be able to apply for a visa to study in the UK if they:

  • have been offered a place on a course

  • can speak, read, write and understand English

  • have enough money to support themselves and pay for their course

A new graduate immigration route will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. They will be able to work, or look for work, in the UK at any skill level for up to 2 years, or 3 years if they are a PhD graduate.

Tourists 

Nationals of the EU, EEA and Switzerland will not be required to get a visa to enter the UK when visiting the UK for up to 6 months. 

All migrants looking to enter the UK for other reasons (such as work or study) will need to apply for entry clearance in advance.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will also be able to use ePassport gates (this will be kept under review).

Until at least January 2026, the UK government will continue to recognise identity cards used for travel by EU citizens and their EU family members who are both resident in the UK before the end of the transition period and hold status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The government will also recognise ICAO compliant identity cards from this group beyond 2026.

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