Those following the progress of Brexit may be feeling as though they are trapped in a kind of Groundhog Day. Fishing rights have continued to be a big sticking point, with some sources suggesting that there remains a “very wide gap” between the UK and the EU on this issue. Frontline nations, such as France, are becoming increasingly concerned about the ticking clock. Nonetheless, at the start of the last full week of November, Whitehall officials are said to be confident that a deal can be agreed before the month is out.
You may have heard rumblings about the future of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). The three big stories of November have been Covid-19, Brexit, and the US election. At the time of writing, it is pretty certain that Joe Biden is the president-elect of the United States, despite the current incumbent’s reluctance to accept this. Biden is of Irish heritage, and any trade deal between the US and the UK is likely to depend on the honouring of the GFA by the UK.
Meanwhile, EU leaders are demanding that the EU publishes its no-deal plans, as this scenario is looking increasingly probable.
The big Brexit story of the autumn has been the closure of some British nationals’ bank accounts by UK banks. You can read our article on this on the Expat Focus website. We have also outlined the situation with regard to the EHIC – see our November healthcare roundup. However, there are still more factors that are likely to affect expats, which you can read about below.
Questions of residency
Although various countries have offered British nationals residency status, this is, in some cases, dependent on reciprocal arrangements being made. If Brexit goes ahead without a deal, people could be left in a limbo between EU nation state residency and third country immigration status. Spain and Poland, for example, have said that Britons will be welcome to stay as long as the same status is offered to Spanish and Polish citizens in the UK. Freedom of movement will end on 31st December 2020, although Britons will be permitted to enter most EU nations and remain for 90 days without a tourist visa. Portugal has extended this to 180 days, and Spain may follow suit.
A number of EU governments have said that the clock starts ticking for the limit of your stay when you enter a Schengen country, even if you have not yet reached your destination. In other words, if you drive through France to get to Spain, your 90 days will start when you set foot in France, not when you arrive in Spain. Also, bear in mind that you will not be able to join up your 90 days – you must leave at the end of the first 90 days unless you have residency. If you need to calculate the length of your stay, you can do so using the Schengen calculator.
This rule currently applies in Spain, although expat groups report that the Spanish government may eventually bring in special measures for owners of second homes and for those who spend long periods of time in the country but who do not have residency. Even so, from 1st January 2021, the 90-day rule will be in force, and if you are a British national entering a member state of the EU from that date, your passport will be wet-stamped and scanned.
Britons already living in the EU will be given an EU-wide biometric residence permit. This process has already been started in some nations. It will have the same format across the EU and will be similar to residence permits for other third-country nationals. It will mention Article 50 and will indicate whether it was issued under a declaratory or a registration system. The former will give you the same status as EU citizens in the UK, whereas under the latter, you will need to make an application to your host country’s government.
The Spanish government was the first to issue this card: the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjaro (TIE). Needless to say, however, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the process in other EU countries.
Remember that each country has different requirements. In France, for instance, you will need to register and apply for healthcare. As we reported last month, the French residency portal is now up and running, and according to expat reports, it is working reasonably well.
Remember that in some countries you will need to exchange your licence for a European one. Covid-19 has put a spoke in the wheel in some countries. For instance, British expats in Spain have found that the pandemic has caused problems in applying for a cita previa at DGT offices. A new system went live on 16th November, giving you the chance to apply for a cita previa as the first stage in a two-step process. Your application online will give you a window of about six months, in which you must attend a DGT office in person to complete the second stage. Some offices have English-speaking personnel on hand, for at least some of the day, to deal with any queries. You can find the application form online.
Expats report that you will not need to show proof of your Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE) if you do not yet have this, but you must give the DGT your Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE). However, the British embassy counsels that you will need to take details of your TIE with you for your in-person appointment, and you must make your online application before the end of December.
If you do have questions about your residency, or indeed anything else, then remember that you can consult the British embassy or consulate.
Finally, if you wish to take your pet with you into an EU member state, then you will need to apply for a pet passport, as though the UK is classified as an unlisted (third) country. Pet travel within the Schengen Area is subject to a forthcoming EU decision. If you possess a current pet passport, it will not be valid after December. For full details, visit the government website.