Before and after Brexit: How will the rights of Brits in Italy change?

Whether there's a deal or not, here's how your residency rights as a British citizen in italy are likely to change post-Brexit.

Before and after Brexit: How will the rights of Brits in Italy change?
Photo: Depositphotos

Brexit Day is creeping ever closer. On March 29, 2019, British citizens will lose their EU citizenship, and with it the associated rights that have, until now, allowed them to live and work legally in Italy and other EU member states.

After Brexit though, they’ll be relying on the goodwill of individual EU member states to guarantee that they can continue to live and work in the countries they call home.

In Italy, the good news is that things won’t change as much as you might expect – at least, not in the short term.

British in Italy, the citizens’ rights group, has been campaigning to keep as many of these rights as possible.

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And Italian government officials have told the group they’re working on measures that would allow British citizens resident in Italy to keep their rights in the country post-Brexit.

Nothing is finalised yet. We don't have the full details of how Italian government legislation will look; campaigners say the legislation will be published “not long before Brexit day”.

But we do have a draft text giving some idea of what British citizens can expect to change – deal or no deal.

Photo: AFP

The transition period

The first thing to know is that the Italian government has confirmed there will definitely be a transition period after the UK leaves the EU – we just don't know how long it will be yet.

It could be six to nine months, or it could last until December 31, 2020. The length of the transition period depends on whether a deal – a ratified Withdrawal Agreement (WA) between the EU and UK – is reached or not.

READ ALSO: How to beat (or just survive) bureaucracy in Italy: the essential pieces of Italian paperwork

But the good news is that, during this transition period, your rights will remain the same.

“Importantly, the Italian government confirmed to British in Italy that UK citizens will continue to enjoy all their existing EU rights of residence, to healthcare, to work, education or study within Italy throughout either of the two possible transition periods starting 30th March 2019,” wrote British in Italy.

But then what happens?

There are two possible scenarios:

“The EU and the British Government reached an agreement in November 2018, the potential Withdrawal Agreement (WA), on the rights that will be substituted for our EU rights if, and that is a big if, the agreement is approved by the British parliament,” said British in Italy.

“There currently seems little chance that it will be approved.”

You can find British in Italy's entire text here in Italian.

FOR MEMBERS: The ultimate guide to getting residency in Italy

Anti-Brexit protesters in Rome. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

In either case, here's what we know so far, based on the Italian government's draft Brexit plan.

Pre-Brexit: until March 29, 2019

UK citizens currently have the right to residency as EU citizens (under EU Directive 2004/38).

Although EU citizens can travel freely around European member states, anyone staying longer than three months in Italy is required to apply for a certificato di residenza (residence certificate) at their local anagrafe (registry office). 

It is something of a formality, and many people don't register for one reason or another. But if you haven't registered before the UK leaves the EU, you won't be covered by legislation being drawn up to protect the rights of British citizens resident in Italy.

After a withdrawal under agreement

If there is a deal, the Italian government intends to follow the procedure set out in the Withdrawal Agreement that recognizes the rights of UK citizens resident in Italy at the end of the transition period (In this case, that would be December 31, 2020).

UK citizens will have to follow the administrative procedure (which is still to be decided) to have their rights recognised by that date.

After a no-deal Brexit

Before the end of the transition period, from March 30, 2019, UK citizens registered as Italian residents will have to register again at the police headquarters as resident under the new status of third country nationals (CPT)

It's important to note that the government has not yet released full details of the requirements for British citizens to re-register as third country nationals in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Currently, non-EU citizens must apply for a visa for any stays of longer than three months.

For more details on this, read our articles on the current residency requirements and current citizenship requirements. However, it's not known whether or how much these could change for Brits post-Brexit.

The Italian government has promised to treat UK citizens “generously” during this process, as advised by the EU, and has indicated that they may not need to fulfil all of the usual CPT requirements.

We'll know more when Italian officials release the final draft of their Brexit-planning legislation.



Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.