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End of the Brexit transition period: what do Brits in Italy need to do now?

If you’re a British citizen living in Italy, you can continue life in your adopted country after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. But that doesn’t mean you can relax entirely just yet.

End of the Brexit transition period: what do Brits in Italy need to do now?
Photo: Getty Images

You'll need to take some action to keep all your rights and access to services. This guide, presented in partnership with the UK Government, tells you what you need to do in four key areas: residency, healthcare, travel and driving.

Get the official UK government advice on living in Italy after the transition ends

1. Registering your residency

If you're a UK national who is legally living in Italy before 31 December 2020, there's a welcome message on residency: no need to say ‘arrivederci'. Your right to live in Italy will be protected. 

However, anyone who wants to stay in Italy for more than three months must register as an Italian resident with their local town hall or comune. Once registered, you can apply for an attestazione di regolarità di soggiorno (declaration of legal residence).

If you’ve been living in Italy for more than five years, you should hold an attestazione di soggiorno permanente.

There is a new document – the attestazione di iscrizione anagrafica – that all UK nationals in Italy are now advised to get from their town hall. This applies even if you already have another residency document. That’s because only the new ‘attestazione’ specifically states that you’re covered by the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. If you have non-EU family members, they should also get it.

“The Italian government has been very clear that it wants British nationals living here to stay and they have advised that UK nationals should try to register their residency by the end of the year if you haven’t done so already,” said Jill Morris, the British Ambassador to Italy. “The new Withdrawal Agreement ‘attestazione’ which has been made available is further proof of your status under the Withdrawal Agreement.”

If you have difficulty registering or getting the new ‘attestazione’, get in touch with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is working with the UK government to support UK nationals on residency (email [email protected] or freephone: 800684884)

Photo: Getty Images

2. Ensuring you’re registered for healthcare

If you’re living in Italy before the end of 2020, you’ll have a life-long right to access healthcare in Italy, as you do now, for as long as you remain resident. You need to register with the Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – SSN) through your local health authority (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – ASL) after registering your residency. You'll need to meet certain requirements to be able to register. 

Once you're registered, emergency care, GP appointments and hospital admissions will be free – but you might still have to make a co-payment (commonly called 'ticket') to use other parts of the healthcare system.

Get the full official UK government advice on your rights to state healthcare in Italy

You can register for free if:

  • you have a work contract, are self-employed in Italy or are an immediate family member of someone who is

  • you’re an immediate family member of an Italian citizen

  • you hold an Attestazione di Soggiorno Permanente

  • you become unemployed after having worked in Italy, and register on the employment lists (liste di collocamento). This also applies if you register for a professional training course while unemployed

  • you hold a UK social security form, such as an S1 form for pensioners

Don’t fit into one of these categories? Depending on where in Italy you live, you may be able to register for healthcare by paying an annual fee – contact your ASL for more information or, alternatively, take out private health insurance.

3. Checking you're ready for trouble-free travel

You live abroad – so crossing borders is no big deal, right? But you'll face some new rules on travel within Europe next year – so doing your homework now could save you a lot of trouble later.

From 1 January 2021, you'll need six months left on your passport to travel within Europe (be aware that any extra months you had added to your passport's validity when renewing it early last time won't count towards this).

You can check your passport's validity here to know for sure if you need to renew it before booking a trip. This new rule applies to children's passports, as well as adults, and applies for travel to most European countries. 

It doesn't apply for Ireland. Equally, it doesn’t apply if, as a resident of Italy under the Withdrawal Agreement, you want to enter or transit to Italy.

4. Exchanging your driving licence

Italy is a beautiful country to explore by car – whether following the stunning Mediterranean coastline or hopping between hilltop towns.

Photo: Getty Images

But if you still have a UK driving licence, you should exchange it for an Italian licence before 31 December. After that, the rules on driving licence recognition could change – meaning you could end up having to re-sit your test. You can exchange a UK driving licence at an agency of Italy’s Ministry of Transport. So, what are you waiting for? Time to set the wheels in motion!

Staying up-to-date 

You can sign for emails with the latest official UK government updates about these topics in Italy. Since 2017, British embassies across Europe have organised 853 Brexit-related outreach events, with more than 510,000 Brits attending in person or online.

The Embassy in Italy regularly engages with British community groups, shares information on their social media pages, and hosts regular Q&A sessions for UK nationals in Italy. Sessions are announced both on Facebook and on this government page.

Get all the latest official guidance for UK nationals in Italy on these topics and more by visiting the UK government's Living in Italy web page

BREXIT

Driving licences: How does situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

As UK driving licence holders in Italy still wait for answers regarding another extension or a long-awaited deal for the mutual exchange of British and Italian licences post-Brexit, we look at how the situation compares to that of their counterparts across Europe.

Driving licences: How does situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

When Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, the British and Italian authorities hadn’t reached a reciprocal agreement on driving licences.

However, UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences in Italy.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

This was then further extended for another 12 months until the end of 2022.

The UK government announced on December 24th, 2021 that British residents of Italy who didn’t convert their UK licence to an Italian one could continue to use it until December 31st, 2022.

That’s the latest official directive from the authorities, with no decision made on what will happen from January 1st, 2023.

The question on a UK-Italy driving licence agreement rolls on. (Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP)

The latest extension – while providing more time – hasn’t ruled out the need to take the Italian theory and practical driving tests and the clock is ticking again with just over six months left of this grace period.

READ ALSO: How do you take your driving test in Italy?

In fact, the authorities recommend sitting the Italian driving exams whatever the outcome, just in case. The process is known to take months, so UK licence holders find themselves once again taking a gamble on waiting for an accord to be reached or taking the plunge by starting preparations for the tests.

As things stand, the latest update to the driving guidance on the British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage in January states:

“If you were resident in Italy before 1 January 2022 you can use your valid UK licence until 31 December 2022,” however, “you must exchange your licence for an Italian one by 31 December 2022. You will need to take a driving test (in Italian).”

The guidance then states: “The British and Italian governments continue to negotiate long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing to take a test.”

The Local contacted the British Embassy in Rome to ask for an update on the situation, to which they responded:

“Rest assured the Embassy continues to prioritise the issue of UK driving licence validity in Italy and we continue to engage with the Italian government on this issue.”

Presently, the UK’s new ambassador to Italy, Edward Llewellyn, is touring all 20 regions of Italy and no updates on the driving licence have been given in the meantime.

Could there be a deal which sees all UK licence holders in Italy – those who registered their intent to exchange, those who didn’t, those who did register intent but haven’t been able to finalise the process, and future UK licence holders who move to Italy – able to continue using their UK licences in Italy or easily exchange them for Italian ones without having to sit a driving test?

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

It’s still hard to say, as the authorities continue to advise UK licence holders to sit their Italian driving test, while stating that the two governments are still working on an agreement.

The embassy’s most recent announcement was a Facebook post in April acknowledging that “many of you are concerned” about the issue.

“We continue to work at pace to reach a long-term agreement with Italy, so that residents can exchange their UK driving licences without taking a test, as Italian licence holders can in the UK,” the embassy stated.

British residents of Italy can use their driving licenses until the end of this year, the government has confirmed.

British residents of Italy can presently use their driving licences until the end of this year. Photo by PACO SERINELLI / AFP

The embassy reiterated the need for UK licence holders to consider the possibility of obtaining an Italian driving licence via a test, stating: “It is important that you currently consider all your options, which may include looking into taking a driving test now.”

READ ALSO: Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

So is it true that most European nations have reached successful agreements with the UK over reciprocal driving licence recognition and exchange and the Italian deal is lagging behind?

The evidence suggests so.

UK licence exchange agreements across Europe

As things stand, Italy and Spain are the only European countries where licence exchange negotiations are ongoing.

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions, as authorities have still made no decision on exchanging driving licences or reaching a deal.

UK licence holders in Spain are currently in limbo, unable to drive until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

French and British authorities reached a licence exchange agreement in June 2021, considered a generous one for UK licence holders residing in France as those with licences issued before January 1st 2021 can continue using their UK licences in France until either the licence or the photocard nears expiry.

Sweden and the UK reached a deal even earlier in March 2021. British people resident in Sweden can exchange their UK driving licences for an equivalent Swedish one, without needing to take a test, just as they could when the country was a member of the European Union. 

In Portugal, resident UK licence holders can continue to use their valid UK licences until December 31st 2022 but they must exchange their licences for Portuguese ones before that date.

Other EU nations which have decided to allow UK licence holders residing in their countries to swap their driving licences without having to take a driving test include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.   

There are slight variations in the conditions between countries, and some say you “can exchange”, others that you “must exchange” and most encourage UK licence holders to swap “as soon as possible”. In Greece, UK licences continue to be valid without any restrictions or deadlines for exchange.

That leaves Italy and Spain as the two EU/EEA countries where a deal on a straightforward exchange or long-term recognition of UK licences among residents is still hanging in the balance.  

The only question that’s left is why. 

Why are the driving rights of all Britons who resided in Italy before December 31st 2020 not part of the other protected rights they enjoy under the Withdrawal agreement? 

And why is it taking so long to reach an exchange deal?

So far, Italian and British officials have not provided answers to these questions.

The Local will continue to ask for updates regarding the use of British driving licences in Italy.

Are you a British resident in Italy affected by this issue? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below this article or email the Italian news team here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

See The Local’s latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

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