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Brexit: Why Brits in Italy are being urged to apply for the new biometric ID card now

Obtaining a new electronic ID document could save British nationals in Italy a lot of bureaucratic headaches.

Brexit: Why Brits in Italy are being urged to apply for the new biometric ID card now
Photo: AFP

From January, a new electronic ‘tessera’ or ID card has been made available proving the rights of British nationals resident in Italy – and citizens’ rights campaigners say they “strongly urge” people to apply for it.

“If you don’t, you risk facing serious practical problems,” the British in Italy group warned on Thursday. “It is the best evidence you can get that you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.”

READ ALSO: ‘What I learned when I applied for the Brexit residence card for Brits in Italy’

The new biometric ‘tessera’, officially called a carta di soggiorno, is available to British citizens who were legally in Italy before December 31st 2020.

While several readers told The Local they experienced problems trying to get the card last month, British in Italy said: “it seems that most Questure have got their act together, so there is no need to hold back any longer. Our advice is to apply now.”

The urgency is partly because “in some areas there are long delays in getting an appointment,” the group said.

However, some of Italy’s British residents have also reported problems with bureaucracy and in accessing certain services.

According to British in Italy, “without the new carta di soggiorno some people have not been able to:

  • Renew a tessera sanitaria;
  • Get an employment contract or enter a bando di gara for a job;
  • Get benefits;
  • Complete the purchase of a house.”

“If you leave Italy you might have your passport wrongly stamped at a border if you do not produce the carta di soggiorno,” British in Italy added.

Amid confusion about the various documents issued by Italian authorities, “the WA attestazione that many of us obtained from our Comune last year is not always being accepted as the necessary proof that we are covered by the WA.”

DEALING WITH BREXIT:

“As a matter of strict law none of these problems should be happening,” British in Italy explained. “As long as you were resident in Italy by December 31st, you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and should have all the rights it confers.”

“But knowing that you are in the right is not much consolation if the computer (or an official) says no.”

British in Italy noted that people should however make their own decision on the timing of applications, with regards to the Covid situation and any restrictions in their local area.

How do I get the new carta di soggiorno?

You’ll need to make an appointment at your local Questura, or police headquarters. Check your local Questura‘s website for details, as the process varies from one place to another.

The Italian Interior Ministry has given full details of the application procedure in English here and Italian here.

What’s the difference between this and my existing Italian residency card?

The biometric carta di soggiorno is a new document, and it’s not the same as any other residency documents despite several of them having similar names.

You do not have to exchange your existing Italian ID card.

Is it mandatory to get the new biometric ID card?

“For those already registered in Italy there is no legal requirement to obtain the new card. It is not mandatory,” a British Embassy spokesperson stated.

However the Embassy is urging British nationals to get the card “as it provides the clearest evidence of your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement in a high-security and simple format.”

“For example, it will provide a simple way of evidencing your rights at the border or when accessing services in Italy.”

“However, if you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement your rights do not depend on holding it and local providers cannot require you to have it.”

Anyone who faces difficulties in accessing healthcare or benefits is advised to contact the British Embassy via their Living in Italy website. You can also find more information on the British in Italy website.

See The Local’s Dealing with Brexit section for more updates.

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BREXIT

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.

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