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Brexit: How Brits can properly plan their 90 out of 180 days in Italy and the Schengen zone

British second home owners and other UK nationals who aren’t residents in Italy now have to plan their time carefully due to the '90-day rule' for non-EU nationals. Here's how to do it successfully.

Brexit: How Brits can properly plan their 90 out of 180 days in Italy and the Schengen zone

What are the new rules?

As you may know, since the start of 2021 non-resident Brits now face new restrictions on the length of time they can spend within the Schengen area, which includes Italy.

The rule, which applies to all residents of non-EU or Schengen zone countries, says that people who are not resident can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the bloc.

The Schengen zone is a group of 26 European countries (of which 22 are EU states) which have agreed to allow passport-free travel between their mutual borders. This includes Italy.

Map: European Travel Information & Authorization System

As the rule now applies to British nationals (who are not resident in a Schengen country), it’s become an important consideration particularly for people with second homes in Italy, and anyone else who usually splits their time between two or more countries for any reason.

How do I calculate my 90 days – and what exactly counts as a ‘day’?

“The 180-day reference period is not fixed,” as the European Commission explains, “it is a moving window, based on the approach of looking backwards”.

That means taking a calendar and highlighting all the time spent in Italy and other Schengen countries already over the past 180 days.

The date of entry is considered the first day of stay in the Schengen territory and the date of exit is considered the last day of stay in the Schengen territory.

This means you start counting on the date you arrive in Italy (or the Schengen zone), rather than on the first full day in the country. Your entry and exit days may count as either full days or half days spent in the country, depending on timing.

This site has a full explanation of how the 90-day rule works, as well as a calculator to allow you to work out your visits.

If police or border officials ever question how long you’ve been in the EU or Schengen zone, this will be how they calculate if you’ve overstayed or not. 

A few things to note are;

  • The Schengen rule doesn’t work with the calendar year – it’s always a case of counting back 180 days.
  • The rule allows for 90 days in every 180, so in total in the course of a year you can spend 180 days in Italy, just not all in one go
  • The rule applies to the whole of the Schengen zone, so if you spend a whole three months in Italy you can’t then go for a week in Paris within the same 180 day period
  • Any time spent in Italy or the Schengen area authorised under a residence permit or a long-stay visa are not taken into account in the calculation of the duration of the 90-day visa-free stay.

Photo: AFP

Will I have to spend three months away from Italy?

Whatever your preferences or calculations for your time spent in Italy and other Schengen countries, once the 90 in 180 day-period is over, you will have to spend 90 days outside of the Schengen zone. 

As the website puts it, “an absence for an uninterrupted period of 90 days allows for a new stay for up to 90 days”.  

Plan ahead to make sure this absence from the Schengen area doesn’t fall at a time when you want to be in Italy. 

However, remember that you are always counting back the last 180 days, so if you have not exhausted the 90-day limit over the past six months, you will not have to leave the Schengen area until that’s the case. 

READER QUESTION: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in the EU if they have a European spouse?

When that happens, know that 90 full days outside of the Schengen area and Italy will give you a new period of 90 days.

This means that if you start your 90-day period during the summer in Italy, it will mean that the six-month window will end in winter, and you won’t be able to enter the Schengen zone for the next three months.

For many Brits in this situation it will mean spending the coldest, darkest and wettest months of the year back in ‘Blighty’, which is often exactly what they don’t want.

In order to enjoy warmer winters in Italy and mild summers in the UK, try to avoid starting your 180-day Schengen window in summer and wait instead until at least October or November to enjoy three months of winter sunshine for the following six months.

Can you split your time in Italy into several trips?

Over a period of 180 days, you can spend four three-week holidays (22.5 days each) in Italy, and alternate it with three-week periods in the UK or outside the Schengen Area.

You can also break the three months you have available into six-week periods. For example, if you arrive at the beginning of November in Italy, spend six weeks there till the middle of December, then return to the UK to spend Christmas and New Year in the UK,then go back to Italy in the middle of January until the end of February.

Explained: What Brits need to know about visas for Italy after Brexit

The UK’s Covid-19 travel restrictions and testing requirements mean this isn’t as affordable or practical at the moment, but in normal times there are countless low-cost airlines operating between both countries to make it a feasible option. 

This way you’ll be able to spread out your time in Italy over a six-month period. 

It’s worth highlighting that time spent in other Schengen countries counts towards the total number of days, so factor this in if you’re planning on travelling around Europe. 

If you have to leave Italy but you don’t want to return to the UK, there’s also the option of spending some time in other countries outside of the Schengen area. 

What happens if you overstay?

Needless to say, overstaying your time in Italy is not a good idea. There is no clear mention in Italian government sources regarding fines, deportations or travel bans from the Schengen area for overstayers, but the likelihood of there being a record of this is high. 

If you are caught over-staying your allocated 90 days you can end up with an ‘overstay’ flag on your passport which can make it difficult to enter any other country, not just Italy, and is likely to make any future attempts at getting visas or residency a lot more difficult.

Is there a way I can stay in Italy longer than 90 days?

After the end of the Brexit transition period, British citizens now require a long-stay visa in order to legally spend more than 90 days in 180 in Italy.

Requirements and fees vary depending on the type of visa you need to apply for.

Here is a quick overview of the types of visa available for non-residents hoping to spend more than 90 days in Italy.

For more details about the process of applying for a long-stay visa, see the Italian Interior Ministry’s website or the EU immigration portal.

If you really want to spend long periods in Italy you may look at taking up Italian residency.

This is more than simply declaring that you live in Italy. To become resident you will need to apply for a residency permit, or permesso di soggiorno – which means you’ll pay tax in Italy and comes with its own conditions: find more information on those here.

See The Local’s Brexit section for more updates.

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.