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EUROPEAN UNION

Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union, including Britons who moved both before and after Brexit, are eligible for a special residence status that could allow them to move to another EU country. Getting the permit is not straightforward but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country
The European Union flag flutters in the breeze with the landmark Television Tower (Fernsehturm) in the background, in Berlin's Mitte district on April 19, 2021. (Photo by David GANNON / AFP)

Residence rules for non-EU nationals are still largely decided by national governments.

In 2001 the European Commission made an attempt to set common conditions for all ‘third country nationals’ moving to the EU for work. But EU governments rejected the proposals.

The result was a series of EU laws addressing separately the status of highly skilled employees who are paid more than average and their families, scientific researchers and students, seasonal workers and intra-corporate transferees (employees transferred within a company). There are also common rules for non-EU family members of EU citizens.

But otherwise national rules apply. The majority of non-EU citizens who apply for residency in a European Union country are only allowed to live and work in the country they apply

But under EU law, non-EU citizens who live in the EU on a long-term basis can get the right to move for work to other EU countries if they manage to obtain EU “long-term resident” status.

This is effectively the same right that EU citizens have but is not the same as freedom of movement that comes with being an EU citizen.

The directive might not that well known to Britons, who due to Brexit have had to secure their residency rights in the country where they lived, but might be better known to nationals of other third countries.

READ ALSO: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

This EU status is possible if the person:

  • has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years,
  • has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period
  • can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources to support themselves and their family,” without relying on social assistance, and health insurance.
  • Some countries may also require to prove a “level of integration”.

The residence permit obtained in this way is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the long-term residence status can be lost if the holder is away from the EU for more than one year. 

The purpose of these measures was to “facilitate the integration” of non-EU citizens who are settled in the EU ensuring equal treatment and some free movement rights. 

But is this status easy for non- EU nationals to get in reality?

Around 3.1 million third country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one.

But only few long-term non-EU residents have exercised the right to move to other EU countries,

One of the problems, the report says, is that most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one.

The procedures to apply are complex and national administrations often lack the knowledge or do not communicate with each other. Some countries still require employers to prove they could not find candidates in the local market before granting a long term residence permit to a non-EU citizen, regardless of their status.

Could it get easier?

Now the European Commission plans to revise these rules and make moving and working in another EU country easier for non-EU citizens. The proposal is expected at the end of April but that doesn’t mean it will get easier in reality.

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

Now the European Commission plans to revise these rules and make moving and working in another EU country easier for non-EU citizens. The proposal is expected at the end of April but that doesn’t mean it will get easier in reality.

It will likely take months if not years to agree new rules with EU governments. And then there’s the question of putting them into practice.

What about for Brexit Brits?

British citizens who live in the EU may be asking ‘couldn’t we apply for this before Brexit and can we apply now’?

Some may well have applied before Brexit, but the reality was they still needed to secure their rights after their country left the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement. For many that has meant applying for a compulsory post-Brexit residency card.

Britons covered by the Brexit agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit. In fact, they may be in a worse situation than non-EU citizens with a long-term residence permit, Jane Golding, former co-chair of the British in Europe coalition said.

“We have had the example of a British student who grew up in Poland. She wanted to study in the Netherlands and in principle would have had to pay international fees as a withdrawal agreement beneficiary. Her Ukrainian boyfriend, who has been in Poland for more than five years and has acquired long-term residence as a third country national, has mobility rights and the right to home fees,” she told Europe Street News.

But the European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for long-term residence too, in addition to their post-Brexit status, thus re-gaining the right to move to another EU country. Although again it shouldn’t be equated with freedom of movement and applying for the status will likely be an arduous task.

This law and its revision will also concern British citizens who will move to the EU in the future.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

 

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BREXIT

Do Brits need to carry a residence permit at the German border after Brexit?

Whether you arrived before the Brexit cut-off date or moved to Germany more recently, you may be wondering if carrying your residence title or permit is necessary when entering or leaving the country. Here's what Brits need to know.

Do Brits need to carry a residence permit at the German border after Brexit?

For many Brits living abroad in the EU, the past few years have been a steep learning curve. For the first time in a generation, they have to register for their residence rights or navigate the complicated immigration rules that are applied to third-country nationals, like applying for work or study visas.

This means that even Brits who have lived in Germany for years may end up encountering situations they haven’t dealt with before, such as being asked for residence permits when applying for jobs or crossing the border in and out of Germany. 

During Covid, this became particularly tricky, because people from non-EU countries generally had to prove their need to be in Germany before being allowed entry to the country.

But what are the rules in general for Brits when entering and leaving Germany? And is it necessary to always have a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) or post-Brexit residence document (Aufenthaltsdokument-GB)? 

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the status of Brits in Germany after Brexit?

Since the transition period ended, UK citizens have been treated in much the same way as other non-EU citizens in Germany – albeit with a few more perks. 

These include the right to visa-free travel in Germany (and the Schengen Area) for up to 90 days in every 180, the right to enter the country before applying for a visa and the ability to work for employers abroad while living in Germany.

In general, however, for people who didn’t live in the country before the end of the Brexit transition period, the immigration requirements are much the same as they would be for someone from, for example, Japan or the USA.

In order to live in Germany long-term, Brits now need an appropriate residence permit, such as work, family reunification or study visa, or another status such as citizenship that assures their rights.

Otherwise, immigration authorities will enforce the so-called ’90-day rule’, meaning that Brits will be unable to spend more than three months out of every six in the Bundesrepublik.   

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is my British residency title the same as permanent residency in Germany?

Which Brits have the right to live in Germany? 

Brits who have a valid residence permit – such as a work or study visa – are entitled to live in Germany for the duration of their visa, and can normally choose to renew it or apply for a different visa once their permit expires.

Those who have German citizenship (i.e. British-German dual nationality) have lifelong residence rights in Germany, as do people with permanent residency and those covered by the post-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (Article 50), provided they don’t leave the country for too long. 

UK citizens in Germany who exercised their free movement rights before December 31st, 2020, have a special status under Article 50. Ultimately, they have the right to remain in Germany indefinitely and enjoy much the same rights as EU citizens, such as being able to claim benefits and switch freely between employers or different kinds of work, for example. 

Pictured is a new design and old design (right) passport side by side,

A new UK passport design and old UK/EU passport design side by side. Photo by Ethan Wilkinson on Unsplash

These rights are essentially for life, though they can be lost if you spend too long away from Germany – and how long depends on when your card was issued. People who have lived in Germany for five years or more can get a Daueraufenthaltsdokument-GB (permanent residence document), which allows them to live outside of Germany for up to five years without losing their status.

Otherwise, you’re issued with an ordinary Aufenthaltsdokument-GB, which allows you to live outside of Germany for up to six months – or one year in exceptional circumstances – without losing your rights. 

READ ALSO: How long can you leave Germany for without losing permanent residency?

Do Brits covered by the Withdrawal Agreement need their residence card to cross the border?

This is a tricky question, and one that has been an issue since the get-go. After the transition period, many Brits had to wait months for their post-Brexit residence documents and were concerned about issues they may face while travelling during that time.

At the time, a spokesperson for the border police at Frankfurt am Main airport told The Local that other documents could be used by Brits to prove their residence (and residence rights) in Germany. 

“If no application (for a residence document) has yet been submitted to the competent domestic office, the right of residence in the federal territory can also be proven by submitting suitable documents such as a tenancy agreement, employment contract, certificate of registration, etc.,” they explained.

More recently, another spokeswoman confirmed that these more relaxed rules had been in place for six months after the end of the transitional period – i.e. until June 30th, 2021.

Police check ID documents at the German/Swiss border

Police check ID documents at the German/Swiss border. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Patrick Seeger

However, she said that Brits covered by the Withdrawal Agreement can still use other means to prove their residence in Germany – though this can be more complicated and time consuming. 

“In the context of the border control it requires as described in principle the presentation of a residence title or residence document GB, however, the possibility of proving the right of residence after the withdrawal agreement in another suitable way still exists,” she explained. “As a rule, however, for the purpose of this verification of other evidence, the second line of control must be brought in, which enormously increases the time required for the border control.”

What’s important to note is that Brits do have the right to stay in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa, so it’s unlikely that you’d be turned away without your residence document. 

Nevertheless, the British government advises Brits to always keep their residence card on them when entering or leaving Germany.

“When you travel, carry your residence document Aufenthaltsdokument-GB or frontier worker permit ‘Aufenthaltsdokument für Grenzgänger-GB’ issued under the Withdrawal Agreement, in addition to your valid passport,” the official advice reads. 

You must proactively show your residence document, or other evidence of residence status, if you are asked to show your passport at border control. If you have applied for, but not yet received, your Aufenthaltsdokument-GB, show your ‘Fiktionsbescheinigung’ certificate. If you cannot prove that you are a resident in Germany, you may be asked additional questions at the border to enter the EU.

Do Brits who live in Germany with a visa need their residence permit to enter and/or leave?

According to official advice from the Federal Police, foreigners are required to show their passport whenever they cross the German border, and should also be able to show a residence document if required.

That means that, where possible, it’s important to have both with you if you are planning on leaving Germany for any amount of time. 

As we mentioned, Brits are in general allowed to enter Germany without a visa.

According to recent stats, only 195 Brits were turned away at the EU border in 2022 due to the 90-day rule. 

However, this is always a risk that you face if you don’t have the required documents with you and, even if you are let in, you may have to deal with numerous questions beforehand and may even receive a passport stamp. 

READ ALSO: How many travellers are turned away at European borders because of 90 day limit?

Can I still travel after my residence permit expires? 

The short answer is yes – though it is a good idea to be proactive about renewing it.  

In most cases, booking a visa appointment at the Foreigners’ Office will automatically extend your visa until the date of your appointment, and you will be able to travel with what’s known as a Fiktionsbescheinigung in the meantime. 

For people who are waiting on a visa or a visa appointment, presenting a Fiktionsbescheinigung with the third box ticked should permit you entry into Germany. For those waiting on another post-Brexit residence document, a Fiktionsbescheinigung with the fourth box ticked is required. 

“Although the aforementioned Fiktionsbescheinigung contains a time expiration date, it may, under certain circumstances, continue to be valid beyond the expiration date until the immigration authority has actually decided on the application,” the spokesperson at Frankfurt Airport told The Local.

“In case of doubt, this circumstance would be verified within the framework of the border control by a short-term consultation with the responsible foreigners authority.”

Automated border controls at Berlin airport.

Automated border controls at Berlin airport. Photo: picture alliance / Bernd Settnik/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Bernd Settnik

Things are tiny bit simpler if your visa is in a passport that has expired. 

In advice for third-country nationals, the German government explains: “Provided that the residence title for Germany has not been damaged by the invalidation of the old passport, you can usually enter Germany together with the old and the new passport without any problems. The same applies if you already have the electronic residence title (plastic card). The issuance of a visa for re-entry is not necessary in these cases.”

However, they advise people to apply to get a new visa placed in their up-to-date passport or an up-to-date residence permit as soon as possible upon return. 

What happens if border guards stamp my passport? 

It can be a worry if long-term residents of the EU get a passport stamp when entering the Schengen area, but if you can prove your residence rights at a later date, there’s no cause for concern.

According to the UK government, a passport stamp “will not affect your rights in the country or countries where you live or work”. In fact, if you receive an accidental passport stamp at the border, “the stamp is considered null and void when you can show evidence of lawful residence”. 

Of course, different rules apply if you don’t have residence rights and need to adhere to the 90-day rule, but if you are entitled to live in Germany, there shouldn’t be an issue – even if you enter and leave through a neighbouring country. 

READ ALSO: Does transit through Germany’s neighbours affect Brexit 90-day rule?

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