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Brexit: Italian government helps Brits to ‘cheat the system’ amid residency card chaos

After many Brits in Italy complained of not being able to renew work contracts, access healthcare, or buy a car or property after the UK left the EU, the Italian government has responded by providing a workaround.

Brexit: Italian government helps Brits to 'cheat the system' amid residency card chaos
Italian officials have found a workaround for Brits in Brexit limbo. Photo: Anna Monaco/AFP

Life in Italy post-Brexit has been an administrative headache for Brits. The introduction of a new biometric residency card was intended to evidence the rights of British residents in Italy – valid for those who had registered or applied for residency before December 31st 2020.

It aims to “guarantee easy recognition of the rights” as laid out in the Withdrawal Agreement, article 18, paragraph 4, stated the Italian Interior Ministry.

READ ALSO: 

However, the process has been far from straightforward with untold cases of Brits living in a “hostile environment in Italy, where lives have been brought to a standstill”, according to citizens’ rights group British in Italy.

In response to the bureaucratic crisis, the Italian authorities have revealed a loophole in the system.

One significant obstacle to Brits accessing work and services were the computer systems, which simply didn’t recognise the new special status of Brits living in Italy who were resident here pre-Brexit.

“Many public administration computer systems are programmed to require a ‘permesso di soggiorno’ number to be inserted for anyone who is not an EU citizen (which we no longer are),” said British in Italy.

As UK nationals who lived in Italy before Britain left the EU do not need a permesso di soggiorno – a residence card for other third-country nationals in Italy – they were left in limbo, unable to move forward.

Photo by Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP

The new electronic document is called a carta di soggiorno, which is different – and as yet seemingly unrecognised by government computer systems.

However, the Ministry of Work and Social Policy (Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali) has offered a lifeline to those Brits stuck in an administrative quagmire.

In a short statement on their website, they advise entering an expiry date of 2099 of your current ID document. In that way, you bypass the computer blocking you from moving forward in your documentation.

“British citizens legally resident in Italy before 31 December 2020 can use their current residence document by indicating it in ‘other measure’ (altro provvedimento), which can be selected from the drop-down menu,” states the department.

“As the insertion of the expiry date is compulsory, it is possible to enter ’31/12/2099′ to pass the check in the system,” reads the statement.

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

It’s not clear if the hack works for all official computer systems in Italy, or just the labour ministry’s.

But any help should come as good news to Brits left in a precarious situation after Brexit. Since The Local published cases of

UK nationals in difficulty, citizens’ rights group Beyond Brexit has compiled a document with even more instances of British people’s rights not being protected in Italy, including problems registering work contracts or as self-employed, difficulties enrolling in the public healthcare system, trouble buying a car or taking a driving test, delays in applying for citizenship and more.

“These problems are having a seriously detrimental effect on people’s lives and in many cases causing real hardship – solutions need to be implemented immediately,” says the group.

Further information on the biometric card can be found on the UK government’s website here, on the British in Italy website and Beyond Brexit page.

If you need help applying, you can contact the International Organisation for Migration by emailing [email protected] or calling 800 684 884.

Anyone who faces difficulties in accessing services in Italy is advised to contact the British Embassy via their Living in Italy website.

Member comments

  1. What constitutes as legally living? I was in an airbnb before December 31st, would that be proof enough?

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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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