British in Italy, the citizens' group that has been campaigning hard to make sure Brits keep their rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit, has just released a new and updated version of their checklist detailing everything we can do to make sure we're covered, whatever happens.
“With the British government admitting that it is making contingency plans for a ‘no deal Brexit’, including proposals to stock pile food and medicines, we think it is sensible for all Brits living in Italy to consider some personal preparations for the no-deal scenario in order to put yourself in the best possible situation should the worst happen,” wrote British in Italy.
These things “should not have any negative impact in the event of a deal, but should the worst-case scenario happen, could help you deal with the fall-out”.
The list of recommendations is long and detailed, but it's definitely worth reading.
So if you've not done these things already, here are your next steps:
1. Make sure that you're legally resident in Italy under current rules.
That means you should:
Apply for residenza and a Carta d’Identità under the current rules (register at the Anagrafe office of your local comune. The Italian government is urging all British citizens living in Italy to register before March 29th. You will need evidence of the following:
- A job contract or evidence of self-employment;
- if not working a specified minimum level of financial income/support. The amount is the equivalent of the assegno sociale which is currently around €5,900 or so (you need to ask your comune what is acceptable evidence; some accept a letter from your Italian bank manager stating that you have the specified amount or more);
- if not working, you will need private health insurance or an S1 (which you obtain from the UK if a UK pensioner).
The attestazione di residenza will evidence your legal residence in Italy and give you proof that you were legally resident on March 29th, 2019. This may be like gold dust in the case of a no deal exit, and if there is a Withdrawal Agreement it will help you benefit from a streamlined process to receive a new card if necessary under post-Brexit rules.
Years of living in Italy do not necessarily count – only legal residence. So if you have been living ‘under the radar’ so-to-speak, try to rectify the situation in advance of March 29th, 2019.
If your comune will not process your application for residenza until after March 29th, or will only give you an interview after March 29th, keep a clear record of when you made the application itself, or a clear record of when you applied for the interview.
- Evidence of application: the method of applying depends on the comune you live in. In some you can apply be email – try if possible to send the email by PEC email; if applying by post, send it raccomandata con ricevuto di ritorno; if applying on-line for an appointment, print off a copy of the on-line registration of your application and its date; if applying directly to the comune, keep a copy of your application and ask the comune to either give you a ricevuto or stamp your copy.
- If you have been resident for less than three months by 29th March, apply for your attestazione di residenza if you intend to live here permanently (and keep all the evidence above if it will not be processed before 29th March). Further, if your comune will not allow you to apply before 29th March, keep evidence of your application or request for residence (eg a letter to the comune confirming that you went to the relevant office but were refused an application at that stage – letter to be sent raccomandata con ricevuto di ritorno), keep details/evidence of your arrival (flight tickets or stamp in passport or whatever evidence you can obtain), evidence of your rental contract or property purchase, or even hotel/AirBnB stay, Italian bank account showing payments in and out for eg utility bills if appropriate. Basically, any evidence that shows you were in the country on 29th March and intending to stay (not just a tourist visit) may help should the transition period under a No-Deal Brexit provide some leeway.
Apply for a soggiorno permanente (‘permanent residence’) under existing EU provisions if you have been legally resident for at least five years. It is the best evidence that most of us can have of our long-standing residence in Italy.
Make sure that you've submitted tax returns in Italy. As a resident, (whether in the first five years or afterwards with soggiorno permanente, you are required to submit tax returns and pay tax in Italy even if all your income comes from the UK and/or all your assets are situated in the UK).
- Make sure that you either have private health insurance (obligatory for the first five years of residence unless you have an S1 from the UK or are working ), or that you're registered in the Italian health system (eg. you already have a soggiorno permanente under existing EU provisions).
2. Create, and keep up to date, a dossier as if you're applying for residenza or soggiorno permanente or cittadinanza italiana. In particular:
Collate copies of as many of your tax returns as you can get – tax returns (Modello Unico), the F24’s (proof of payment) and proof of receipt. The more recent ones you can download and print out from within your account at Fisconline, the Agenzia dell’ Entrate website for tax returns, payments etc. You may need them to prove the length of your legal residence, and they will be needed in any event if you are applying for citizenship.
Put together a file of utility bills for at least ten years if you can. This will prove your continued residence.
- If your name is not on the bills (bollette di gas, acqua, elettricità, etc) for your household, or on any utility bills, get it added now.
For women in particular: make sure that the name on bills, bank statements, pension statements, payslips etc matches the name on your passport if possible.
- Put together a file of bank statements, wage slips and/or pension statements for the last five years if you've lived here that long. Longer is even better – ten years is best. You may need these to prove the stability and sufficiency of your resources.
3. Think about, or rethink about, applying for Italian citizenship
For many people, their British identity and nationality is important to them and the idea of taking out Italian citizenship has been regarded as ‘only as a last resort’. For some of us a no deal Brexit might be that ‘last resort’.
Italian 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.
It you are thinking of applying for Italian citizenship, try to ensure your application is lodged before March 29th, 2019. The Italian authorities are now given 4 years to process applications and there is no guarantee that applications will in fact be processed in that time. But if you’ve already made the application, there is more chance than if you wait till after March 29th when the rules probably will change requiring British nationals to have completed ten years legal residence before making an application.
More importantly, the Decreto Sicurezza of October 2018 made a language test compulsory. From December 5th, 2018, all applications for citizenship must include a certificate of competence in Italian to level B1 with the application itself. If it is not included, the application will automatically be rejected (probably with no notice given to the applicant to rectify the situation first).
- Be aware that taking Italian citizenship may affect the taxation of certain pensions and you should take good accountancy/financial advice before applying.
4. Put some serious work into your Italian language
Whether there is a deal or not, we may be required to re-apply for residenza and/or soggiorno permanente.
We do not know whether a minimum level of Italian language ability will be required for residence (to date it has not been – although it is for extra-comunitari), but it is a good opportunity to work on the language skills – eg local Italian classes are offered by some ‘comune’ free of charge, or take a one-month or three-month course at one of the Università per Stranieri in Perugia or Siena (good fun!).
- The Decreto Sicurezza of October 2018 brought in a compulsory language test – competence in Italian language to level B1 – for all citizenship applications. From December 5th, 2018, it has been necessary to include a copy of your language certificate in your citizenship application.
5. Check your passport
Make sure your passport will be valid for several months after March 29th, 2019. If not, consider renewing it early.
6. Make sure that you're in Italy on 29 and 30 March 2019
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 Italy, try to be somewhere in the Schengen zone.
Be aware that at least initially, if not longer, there may be difficulties crossing any Schengen or other border with a British passport! There is a possibility that you could be refused entry back into Italy unless you have a visa.
7. Top up your medication
If you currently rely on an S1 form for access to the Italian health service and/or you need regular medication, think about making sure you have a good supply of it on March 29th. 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 or being without a family doctor while the situation was resolved.
8. Check your driving licence
If you're still using a UK driving licence, apply for an Italian licence now.
It's relatively straightforward and for most people, it can be exchanged (with some fees and a medical) without having to take a full Italian driving test (theory and practical). It's possible that UK licences will not be valid in the EU in the case of a no deal Brexit.
Consider applying for an International Driving Permit if you regularly drive in the UK.
9. Think about moving money
If you have bank accounts, savings or investments in the UK, consider moving them to Italy or some other EU jurisdiction 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.
10. Try to have a financial backstop
If at all possible, try and make sure you have access to enough cash to see you through two or three months, especially if your income comes from the UK and is transferred monthly.
11. Consider your personal pension
If you have a personal pension (not state or public service/occupational pension) and have not yet retired, think seriously about cashing it in if you're old enough, or moving it. There may be issues with passporting rights after Brexit that could cause problems with insurers making payments to those living outside the UK.
12. 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.
13. If you have a business that relies on attracting people from the UK …
Start thinking about changing your client demographic. Whatever the deal, British 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 Italian, if you haven't already, and that you begin to advertise NOW to attract Italian and EU27 customers. But…
If there is a no-deal Brexit, it is uncertain as to whether you will be able to continue to run a business at all.
- Even if there is a deal, you may not be able to provide services to customers in other Member States: that is still to be decided.
14. Marry an Italian citizen
Only joking. (Sort of.) But think seriously about it, particularly if you have children.
(Note from The Local: Bear in mind that marriage does not automatically give you the right to Italian citizenship – the lengthy wait for your citizenship application to be processed will simply be shortened slightly.)
15. Professional qualifications
If you can apply to get your professional qualifications recognised locally – probably ask your local Italian professional body equivalent as to where and how. After Brexit, qualifications that have not already been recognised, may not be valid.
16. 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.
Are you a Brit living in Italy? How is Brexit affecting you? What preparations are you making? Tell us your story: email [email protected].