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Q&A: The British Embassy answers your questions about life in Italy after Brexit

The Local put questions from our readers to the British Embassy in Rome. Here's their guidance on residency, healthcare, driving and protecting your rights after Brexit.

Q&A: The British Embassy answers your questions about life in Italy after Brexit
Jill Morris CMG, the British Ambassador to Italy and San Marino. Photo: UK in Italy

The past year has been tough for everyone in Italy. And for Brits, it came with the added upheaval of the end of the Brexit transition period and the final withdrawal of their EU citizen status. 

As UK nationals grapple with new visa requirements and extra paperwork, as well as the uncertainty over travel and vaccinations facing everyone in the Covid-19 pandemic, we asked our readers what you wanted to know from Ambassador Jill Morris and her team at the British Embassy in Rome.

We put your questions to the Embassy: find the answers below.

VISAS AND RESIDENCY

Q: What are the options for people who wish to remain residents in the UK but spend more than 90 days in Italy? Is there any chance that UK citizens will be allowed to spend up to six months in Italy without a visa, as Italian citizens can in the UK?

The EU treats British citizens as third-country nationals under the Schengen Borders Code. This means that, as of January 1st 2021, British citizens are able to travel visa-free for short stays, such as for tourism, for up to 90 days in a rolling 180-day period. This is the standard length of stay that the EU offers to nationals of eligible third countries, in line with existing EU legislation.

The Government continues to provide information about travelling to Europe on gov.uk. British citizens who are planning to stay in the Schengen Area for longer than 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, including those who own property, will need permission from the relevant Member State(s).

This may require applying for a visa and/or permit. British citizens should discuss the specifics of their situation with relevant Member State authorities ahead of travel, and should be prepared to provide any extra documentation that may be needed to meet the necessary entry requirements.

READ ALSO: What Brits need to know about visas for Italy

Photo: Unsplash/Ethan Wilkinson

Q: Will it be possible for British citizens to retire in Italy from now on? What requirements would they need to meet to live here permanently?

If you want to move to an EU Member State, whatever your age, you will have to meet local immigration and residency rules, as free movement has ended. 

If you are able to move and become resident in an EU Member State under their local rules, then if you are ‘UK insured’ i.e. in receipt of a UK state pension, you will be able to benefit from special provisions where the UK will continue to fund your healthcare. 

READ ALSO: How British second home owners can spend more than 90 days in Italy after Brexit 

British citizens should discuss the specifics of their situation with relevant Italian authorities ahead of travel, and should be prepared to provide any extra documentation that may be needed to meet the necessary entry requirements.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently updated its website on visa applications which you can find here. For those wishing to retire in Italy in the future you may wish to consider applying for an ‘elective residence visa’. Please see the above website for more details including visa fee and where to apply

Q: Can British citizens in Italy who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement request residency for their non-EU partners, including if they are not married?

Close and current family members of UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement are themselves protected by the Withdrawal Agreement where the relationship existed before the end of the transition period (December 31st 2020). This includes durable partners and includes non-EU national close family members. 

Your partner will need to apply for the new Withdrawal Agreement biometric residency card (‘carta di soggiorno elettronica’) from your local questura. More information can be found here.

Q: What would you advise British nationals who applied for residency in Italy before the end of the Brexit transition period but whose application has not yet been processed due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and who now find themselves without proof of residence from the Italian authorities? 

If you applied for residency with your town hall before January 1st 2021 but have not received confirmation of your application you should contact your local town hall to check the status of your residency application.

If you were lawfully living in Italy before January 1st 2021 and you have residency rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, you have the right to complete your registration with your town hall. The town hall must confirm its decision within 45 days of your application.

EXPLAINED: What are the different documents Italy’s British residents need after Brexit?

You should ask the town hall to issue the ‘attestazione di iscrizione anagrafica’ to show at the questura. When you have completed your residency registration, you should book an appointment with your local questura to obtain the new biometric residency card.

DRIVING

Q: Do the UK and Italy plan to negotiate a reciprocal agreement for the exchange of driving licences in future? 

The UK and Italy are currently in negotiations on a future agreement on the right of UK nationals to exchange their UK licence for an Italian one without the need to re-sit their test. Please continue to check our Living in Italy guide on gov.uk for updates. 

READ ALSO: 

UK nationals who have been legally resident in Italy for longer than 12 months can no longer use a UK driving licence when driving in Italy. You will need to re-sit your test to obtain an Italian licence. 

Q: Has the procedure and/or fee for registering a vehicle brought over to Italy from the UK changed? 

The rules regarding car registration depends on whether it is a new vehicle being exported or a second-hand vehicle currently registered outside the EU and being moved into Italy.

New vehicles must meet the necessary EU type approval rules which are the same for EU and non-EU produced vehicles. However, a vehicle already registered in the EU should then be able to be registered in another EU country without any further checks while a vehicle registered outside the EU would likely be treated as a new vehicle. There may be requirements to produce additional evidence that the vehicle complies with the latest EU technical requirements. 

Check this page from the Ministero dei Trasporti which illustrates that there are different instructions for different countries (including for different EU countries).  

Individuals will need to comply with current Italian legislation.

Photo by Jure Makovec / AFP

Q: Can you drive in the UK with an Italian licence and/or Italian-registered vehicle?

Italian and EU driving licences are recognised in the UK without a requirement for additional paperwork.

You can usually use a vehicle with foreign number plates without registering or taxing it in the UK if all of the following apply:

  • You’re visiting and do not plan to live here.
  • The vehicle is registered and taxed in its home country.
  • You only use the vehicle for up to six months in total – this can be a single visit, or several shorter visits over 12 months.

Please check here for further information.

VACCINATION AND HEALTH

Q: How can British citizens in Italy get vaccinated against coronavirus? What about Brits who are not registered as resident and/or enrolled in the Italian health service? 

A phased vaccination programme was launched in Italy on December 27th. The Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) has issued comprehensive information, in English, on the vaccine and the documentation required to book an appointment.

Many regional authorities have launched online booking platforms and are currently inviting those in priority groups to register.

An interactive map (in Italian) details a list of vaccine administration points by region.

Further information is due to be made available on the process for those who live in Italy but who do not hold an Italian healthcare card to book a vaccine so please continue to consult the relevant Italian government websites outlined above. 

READ ALSO: 

Photo by Tiziana Fabi / AFP

Q: Can people with a private UK pension but no S1 form register for national healthcare in Italy?

After you have registered your residency, you need to register with the Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – SSN) through your local health authority (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – ASL).

You can register for free with the SSN if:

  • You have a work contract, are self-employed in Italy or are a dependant of someone who is.
  • You are a dependant 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 you are unemployed.
  • You hold a UK social security form, such as an S1 form for pensioners.

If you do not qualify for free SSN registration, you may be able to pay an annual fee to register for Iscrizione Volontaria. Contact your ASL to see if you can do this in the region where you live.

Read our guidance on healthcare in Italy and make sure you are correctly registered.

BIOMETRIC RESIDENCY CARD

Q: Do British citizens living in Italy have to get the new biometric WA residence card? Are older residence documents, such as a ‘permesso di soggiorno permanente’, still valid?

The Italian government has introduced a new biometric residency card called a ‘carta di soggiorno elettronica’ for people who have residency rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

The card is not mandatory for UK nationals living in Italy. However we advise that you obtain it because it will show evidence of your rights. This includes those who current hold a permanent residency document. 

READ ALSO: 

You can get the card from your local police headquarters’ immigration office (‘questura’). Read the Italian government’s guide (‘vademecum’) on how to obtain the card, available in Italian and English.

Your close and current family members can also get the new biometric residency card. This includes those currently living in Italy and those that move there in the future. This also includes your children in the future either born or adopted.

You can also read our guidance on getting the new card here

Q: Is any assistance available for people applying for the biometric card? 

UK nationals who are resident in Italy, and need help to complete their residence application or registration, can get support from organisations funded by the UK Nationals Support Fund.

This support is only available to people who need additional help to secure their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. They may include pensioners, disabled people, people living in remote areas or people who have mobility difficulties.

Support available includes:

  • Answering questions about residence applications, such as the documents you need and how the application process works.
  • Guiding you through the process, if necessary.
  • Support if you experience language barriers or difficulty accessing online information and services.

If you, or someone you know, are having difficulty completing residence paperwork or have any questions, contact the IOM:

TRAVEL

Q: Is there definitive information now on what documents are required for British nationals resident in Italy to re-enter the country from the UK?

You should carry your residence document (EU document or new attestazione), as well as your valid passport when you travel.

If you have not yet applied for a residence document, you should carry evidence that you are resident in Italy. This could include a tenancy agreement or a utility bill in your name, dating from 2020.

If you cannot show that you are resident in Italy, you may be asked additional questions at the border to enter the Schengen area, and your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. This will not affect your rights in Italy.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules on travel between Italy and the UK?

Photo: Niklas Hallen / AFP

Q: Both Italy and the UK are advising people to avoid travel if possible during the pandemic. If UK residents are currently in Italy and delay returning to the UK until it is safer to travel, could they be penalised for overstaying the 90-day limit without a visa?

Any stays beyond the 90 days in any 180-day period will be dependent on the applicable visas and immigration rules of each EU member state. This may require applying for a visa and/or permit.

British nationals should direct any queries on possible extensions to their length of stay with the local questura and be prepared to provide any extra documentation that may be required. 

READ ALSO: Here’s what you should know before booking a trip from the UK to Italy

The Schengen Borders Code governs the rules for entry and exit in the Schengen Area for third-country nationals. Member State border forces are responsible for the implementation of the rules, including in emergency cases.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office is not in a position to comment on the enforcement or penalty policies of Schengen Area Member States. However, further information on the Schengen Borders Code is available on the European Commission’s website.  

British nationals should discuss the specifics of their situation with their local questura (immigration office).

Q: Does the UK plan to start accepting Covid-19 test results in Italian?

To travel to the UK you must provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to three days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival. The test results must be in English, French or Spanish.

READ ALSO: Where in Italy can you get Covid-19 test results in English?

Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details. You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption. 

When you enter England from abroad (except Ireland), you must follow the new requirements for quarantining and taking additional Covid-19 tests. For those travelling from a country on the banned travel list, you will be required to quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

You can find more information here and here

CITIZENSHIP

Q: Is it correct that British nationals now have to accumulate ten years’ residency in Italy before they can apply for citizenship, instead of four years for EU nationals? Does that include Brits in Italy who are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement?

All UK nationals living in Italy and wishing to apply for Italian citizenship after the end of the transition period (so from January 1st 2021) through residency are required to have been legally resident in Italy for ten years or more before doing so. This is applicable legislation for non-EU nationals when applying for residency. Please see here for more information. 

UK nationals who had accumulated four years’ residency on January 31st 2020 had until December 31st 2020 to apply for citizenship on the basis of the four years’ residency. 

Photo by Philippe Huguen / AFP

FINAL QUESTIONS FROM THE LOCAL…

Q: Are there any other important issues you are aware of for British nationals that have not already been mentioned? 

To stay up to date you can:

Check your passport is valid for travel before you book your trip. You can apply for or renew your British passport from Italy.

You must have at least six months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland). This requirement does not apply if you are entering or transiting to Italy or when travelling around the EU, and you are in scope of the Withdrawal Agreement.

As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. You may have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. You may also need to show a return or onward ticket.

Q: Between Covid-19 and Brexit, the past year has been a period of considerable stress and uncertainty for Brits in Italy. What message would you like to give them?

We would like to reassure UK nationals that we continue to engage with Italian local authorities and with central government to ensure the smooth implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and that UK nationals have the information they need to protect their rights.

Although we have not been able to host our usual in-person town hall meetings due to Covid-19 restrictions, we host regular online events including Facebook live Q&As and residency roadshows. We also work closely with IOM and with consular partners to provide information to those who don’t use the internet.

Find all The Local’s updates on Brexit here.

Member comments

  1. Hello fellow British members, Can anyone help me with this problem?
    My wife left her Rolex watch at our daughter’s house, in the UK last year. Being currently unable to travel she has not been able to get it, so we asked our daughter to send it via UPS, but UPS said they can not do this without it incurring VAT/Duty at Italian customs, which would be a lump! As she has owned this for 17 years, this is very unjust and unfair. Does anyone know how I can solve this?
    Thank you
    Barry

  2. hello. my husband and i own an agriturismo in chianti. we mainly produce olive oil and rent the villa out in the summers to bolster income. the property requires quite a lot of hands on management. brexit has meant will be much more difficult to balance the time needed to run the business against the 6 month limit on time allowed in italy. as a business owner, is there a way we can exceed the 6 month limit? we have UK passports.

    thank you
    lauren

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For members

BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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