For members


What is the EU’s plan to make freedom of movement easier for non-EU residents?

Members of the European Parliament are trying to reduce the time required for non-UE citizens living in EU countries to get long-term resident status and move more easily across the bloc. But will it happen?

EU flag
European Parliament members want to decrease the time needed for non-EU inhabitants residing in EU member states to attain long-term residency status. Photo by ALEXANDRE LALLEMAND on Unsplash

The European Parliament said this week the period of legal residence to obtain such status should be cut from five to three years. This sounds a positive move for non-EU residents , but EU governments will have to agree to the move. What are the chances this will happen?

What is EU long-term residence?

Under a little-known EU law, third-country nationals can in theory acquire EU-wide long-term resident status if they have lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years.

They also must not have been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period (the rules are different for Brits covered by Withdrawal agreement), and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance.

Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge.

The purpose of these measures was to “facilitate the integration” of non-EU citizens who have been living in the EU for a long time, ensuring equal treatment and some free movement rights.

However in practice, this law has not worked as planned.

READ ALSO: Could it get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another EU country?

One of the problems is that most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one. And many applicants are unaware of the EU residency permit.

Some countries also require employers to prove they could not find candidates in the local market before granting a permit to a non-EU citizen, regardless of their status.

So what’s happened so far?

Last year the European Commission proposed to review and simplify these rules. The European Parliament and EU Council (which is formed by EU governments) have to give their views before the final legislative text can be approved.

This week MEPs said they want to shorten to three years, instead of five, the period non-EU nationals are required to be legally resident in a member state in order to acquire EU long-term status.

They also agreed it should be possible to combine periods of legal residence in different EU member states, instead of resetting the clock at each move.

In addition, time spent for studying or vocational training, seasonal work, temporary protection (the scheme that applies to Ukrainian refugees) should be calculated too. At present, these periods do not count towards EU long-term residence.

‘Freedom of movement is an illusion for non-EU nationals’

Once long-term residence is obtained in an EU country, it should be automatically recognised at EU level too, MEPs said, asking to remove restrictions such as labour market checks or integration requirements for people who move to another EU state.

If countries require someone to speak the national language to grant the status, they should provide free courses.

Dependent children of people who already have such a permit should be granted the same status automatically, regardless of where they were born, MEPs also argued.

On the other hand, people who hold a residence permit in an EU country only on the basis of an investment scheme should not be eligible for EU long-term residence, the parliament said.

“We currently have 27 labour markets, there is no freedom of movement. That’s an illusion for third-country nationals who are on such status right now,” said Damian Boeselager, the German MEP leading on this file at the European Parliament.

“If you, to say it very harshly, want to find another job after maybe losing yours in Paris, or if you just want to develop further, you are confined to France. Otherwise, you will have to go through the complete new procedure again in another member state…”

What are the objections?

Boeselager and members of parliament who support this position argue that Europe is ageing quickly and skill shortages damage the economy, so Europe should become more attractive to non-EU workers. One way to do this is removing obstacles and making their life easier once they are in the bloc, MEPs said.

“If you look at the numbers, we’re supposed to lose over 50 million people from our workforce in Europe over the next 30 years, which just shows that we are currently in a situation where we need to rethink our talent, migration and attractiveness,” Boeselager said at a press conference.

“Even under Trump the US was more attractive for international talent than Europe… So we need somehow to get better. We need to attract international talent to the European Union. And this is also what we are trying to do with the long-term residence directive,” hr continued.

But not everyone agrees and the approval of the European Parliament position has already caused controversy.

The group of the European Conservatives and Reformists (which includes, among others, Italian party Brother of Italy, Spain’s Vox, the Sweden Democrats and Poland’s Law and Justice), as well as the Identity and Democracy groups (which includes Italy’s Lega, France’s Rassemblement National, Germany’s AfD, Denmark’s Danks Folkeparti and Austria’s FPO) object to the plan.

Conservative and far-right parties argue that migration issues should be decided at national level, the focus should be on border controls and priority for the job market should be given to own citizens. The groups also wanted more time to discuss the proposals.

The Parliament adopted its opinion anyway (with 391 votes in favour, 140 against and 25 abstentions). But the opinion of the parties opposed to the scheme will re-emerge in the discussion among EU governments.

What happens next?

Now that MEPs have their position, it is for EU governments to agree their own and then negotiate with the Parliament to come up with the final text of this law.

One of the things EU governments could do is to slow down the process or do nothing, not allowing the file to progress. New legislation should be completed by February 2024, before the European Parliament elections in May next year.

Boeselager hopes these measures can be adopted by Christmas. “We can’t go to the next elections without having these directives approved,” said Spanish MEP Javier Moreno Sanchez, who is leading the discussion on the revision of the single work and residence permit for non-EU citizens. Sanchez said he is optimistic that the Spanish government, which will take over the rotating EU presidency in the second half of 2023, will push ahead with this file.

According to the European statistical office, Eurostat, in 2021 23.7 million non-EU citizens were living in EU countries, making up 5.3 percent of the total EU population.

This article was produced by Europe Street News

Member comments

  1. How does someone who already has “lived ‘legally’ in France for at least five years” apply for this EU long-term resident status? Is there a link to the application that you could share?

  2. Please make it plain that the terms for permanent residence are different for UK passport holders under the withdrawal agreement as far as absences are concerned.

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For members


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?