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The ultimate no-deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy

With 50 days to go and less clarity than ever, many Brits living in Italy are getting understandably concerned about what Brexit will mean for them.

The ultimate no-deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy
Have you got all your paperwork in order? Photo: DepositPhotos

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.

Photo: DepositPhotos

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.

READ ALSO: Brexit planning: What you'll need to do if there's no deal

  • 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.


Photo: DepositPhotos

  • 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.

READ ALSO: How to become Italian: A guide to getting citizenship

  • 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.

Quiz: How well do you know Brexit?

  • 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.


Photo: DepositPhotos

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. 


Photo: AFP

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.)

READ ALSO: What Italy's new laws mean for your citizenship application

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.

This list is republished courtesy of British in Italy. Check their website and join their Facebook group for more Brexit advice.

Are you a Brit living in Italy? How is Brexit affecting you? What preparations are you making? Tell us your story: email [email protected].

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‘So stressful’: How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple’s Tuscan dream

One couple from Manchester found the home of their Tuscan retirement dreams, but the stalemate over a UK-Italy driving licence agreement is throwing their future into question.

'So stressful': How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple's Tuscan dream

Iain and Lynn Gosling lived and worked all their lives in and around Manchester – at a bank, where they met, then in various schools – but had always dreamed of retiring in Tuscany.

In 2018, with the Brexit clock ticking, they decided to take the plunge, and after a lengthy Place in the Sun-style hunt, they finally found their ideal home.

The podere (farmhouse) they chose just outside the town of Pomerance, in the province of Pisa, checked all their boxes: it had an olive grove, was close enough to the beach, had a friendly local community, and the town was particularly invested in green energy, sourcing most of its power from renewables.

Most importantly, it was just over an hour’s drive from Pisa airport, meaning they could regularly go back and visit family in the UK.

READ ALSO: ‘We bought the cheapest house in Piedmont and live mortgage free’

“We’d holidayed in Tuscany for 20 years, and the views and everything were even better than where we’d been holidaying. So we kind of thought we struck gold really,” says Lynn.

“When we saw it, we just knew, and when we went into the town it was such a good, welcoming feeling.”

Iain and Lynn's podere in Pomerance.

Iain and Lynn’s podere in Pomerance. Source: Iain Gosling.

The couple began building a new life, learning Italian and befriending local residents. They were careful to take the necessary steps to secure their future in Italy before the Brexit deadline, registering with the town hall and later obtaining carta di soggiorno residency cards.

But – like many other British nationals in Italy – the pair didn’t anticipate that almost two years on from Brexit, negotiations for a reciprocal driving licence agreement between the two countries would have stalled. It’s an ongoing state of limbo that threatens to make their retirement dream unworkable.

While with hindsight the pair would have exchanged their driving licences before the Brexit deadline, they believed a deal would soon be reached – especially as the UK allows EU licence-holders to drive with almost no restrictions.

“If we cannot drive in the short term, I’m sure we can find a way round it somehow,” says Iain. “Longer term? No, not really.”

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

A 12-month grace period granted in 2021 is due to expire in January unless an agreement is reached, forcing UK drivers to choose between taking an Italian driving exam that could well turn out to be unnecessary, or gambling on a last-minute deal that risks leaving them without a valid licence if it doesn’t materialise.

For Iain and Lynn, who live a four-minute drive from the town on hilly country roads without access to public transport or pavements, it doesn’t feel like much of a choice.

“I’d be absolutely lost without driving,” says Lynn, who judges that without a car the couple would have to make daily hour-long round walks into town to buy basic necessities.

They decided that Iain would take the exam so that at least one of them would still be able to drive in the absence of a deal, and booked his theory test for November to give him time to prepare.

As a minimum of 32 days must pass between passing the theory test and sitting the practical exam, he’ll only just secure his Italian licence in time in the event that there’s no agreement – if he manages to pass both on the first go.

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

Iain and Lynn outside their Tuscan farmhouse.

Iain and Lynn outside their Tuscan farmhouse. Source: Iain Gosling.

“So – no pressure on the theory test,” says Iain, who plans to fly back early from Christmas holidays in the UK to sit his practical exam if he succeeds in passing the former.

The couple know they could have begun the process earlier. But the test requires answering the same theory questions as a native Italian speaker and a taking mandatory six hours of practical lessons, and it isn’t cheap – Iain and Lynn estimate the total cost to be just under €1,000.

What’s more, those who pass an Italian driving test are classed as new drivers (neopatentati) for three years, which comes with a range of restrictions on speed limits and vehicle engine size, and a zero tolerance policy on alcohol.

READ ALSO: Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

All this has made taking the test a last resort for people who believed the UK and Italian governments would have reached an agreement by this point – or have at least issued clear guidance as to what action UK licence-holders should take.

The UK’s ambassador to Italy stresses that negotiations continue – though has encouraged British residents to book an Italian driving test.

A spokesperson for the British Embassy in Rome told The Local in October: “Since August we have continued and intensified further our work with our Italian colleagues and have made progress towards our shared objective.”

Lynn says: “Over the last six months it was very optimistic, everything we were hearing. It’s just in the past two months that we’ve thought, well, wait a minute.”

If Iain doesn’t manage to pass the test before the deadline and no deal is reached, “we are stuck,” he says.

“This situation is so stressful.”

READ ALSO: How UK drivers in Italy face new problems after passing Italian driving test

The couple fear that without the ability to drive, their current lifestyle would be unsustainable.

“You wake up thinking about it, and you go to bed thinking about it,” says Lynn. “Anxiety, that’s how it makes you feel.”

“Someone will turn around and say, well why didn’t you take your driving tests 12 months ago so you’re not in this situation?” says Iain. “But if all the signs were encouraging from the ambassador, we thought well OK, we can keep our benefits here and we don’t want to lose them.”

While the embassy insists that negotiating the agreement is its top priority, Iain worries that the recent political upheaval in both the UK and Italy has pushed the issue on to the back burner.

“We have no choice but to have faith in our British representatives to deliver and soon too, because the previous regulation extension was far too late,” Iain says. “We need to know now so we can make definite plans and contingencies.”

Despite the stress, Iain and Lynn are determined to do all they can to find a way to remain in Pomerance, where they say they’ve been embraced by local residents and have become good friends with their Italian neighbours who occupy the other half of their semi-detached property.

“We don’t want to give this up,” says Iain. “We love it here and we want to stay.”

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