OPINION: Brits in Italy aren’t victims of a ‘hostile environment’ but of a bureaucratic system that wasn’t ready for Brexit

OPINION: Brits in Italy aren't victims of a 'hostile environment' but of a bureaucratic system that wasn't ready for Brexit
Brexit has created some administrative quagmires for Brits in Italy. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Brits living in Italy have found themselves facing pressing and sometimes serious problems after Brexit. They're not looking for loopholes, just workable solutions to a bureaucratic bind, says citizens' rights group Beyond Brexit.

Thank you very much for giving prominence to the various post-Brexit issues. Sadly, the problem of being “required” to have a residency card for all manner of normal activities – but not having one yet – is still ongoing.

We are in the awkward position of being a new category of third country national. Some call it a special status, but we have another status… as guests in Italy, not special but with obligations just like all other citizens.

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We are very conscious that implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement creates work, at a time when the country is still in the midst of the pandemic. 

We are not looking for “loopholes” or “sneaky” ways to play the system, just workable solutions to address immediate, sometimes serious problems. We do not feel we are victims of a “hostile environment” but of a highly devolved bureaucratic system, that wasn’t ready for us.

The new residency card is not in sight yet and there has been no clear across-the-board communication to indicate that our rights do not depend on it. This is tricky in a society which is used to documenting its residents! There will certainly be fewer headaches all round if we have it.

We understand the technical problems are being resolved and it should be a matter of weeks now before seeing the first cards. But that is for those who have already applied. The message needs to get out to everyone who hasn’t started the process yet.

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In the meantime, we are grateful to the Ministero del Lavoro for providing a workaround (not, by the way, a “cheat” or a “hack” but a legitimate interim measure).

It is important to make it clear also that this is not a general panacea for the myriad of problems arising. It is specifically for registering work contracts, to work around systems requiring residency card details. And unfortunately, even then, it is not working in all cases. News of it is not always getting through or even being accepted.

Understanding of our rights remains patchy, and in our group we hear of new problems every day. They could be serious, such as one employer’s refusal to give a new work contract which may result in loss of residency for that individual. A circular to notaries on March 15th came too late for another who could not complete on a house purchase. Yet another person cannot proceed with her citizenship application.

Being asked to produce a residency document now pervades all aspects of our lives, practically everything that requires a contract and even things that don’t. At the end of transition, all eyes were just on getting in and out of Schengen and which piece of paper to carry. How little we knew.

We in Beyond Brexit, British in Italy, the Embassy, IOM are all working extremely hard to raise awareness, share information, provide support and get speedy solutions for UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. 

by Clarissa Killwick, Penelope Phillips McIntyre, Carole-Anne Richards
Co-founders/admins of Beyond Brexit – UK citizens in Italy

Further information on the new residency card for Brits in Italy 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.


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