We all hope that sanity prevails, but it’s a good idea to make some personal preparations for a no-deal scenario. Here are some ideas.
1. Make sure that you’re legally resident in your host country.
- Make sure that you are registered under current rules with the relevant proof of residence. This will evidence the date of your arrival in your host country and give you proof that you were legally resident on 29 March 2019. If you already have five years’ residence, apply for an optional permanent residence document. These proofs of residence may be like gold dust in the case of a no deal exit, and if there is a Withdrawal Agreement or its terms are honoured despite no deal, it will help you benefit from the streamlined process envisaged under that agreement to receive a new card if necessary under post-Brexit rules.
- Make sure that you’ve submitted income and other tax returns if you’ve been there long enough to do so (even if all your income comes from the UK).
- Make sure that you’re in your country’s health system and that you have some proof of your rights even if you don’t yet have proof of health cover.
2. If you are in a country without a compulsory registration system, make a dossier as if you’re applying for a proof of residence or permanent residence document.
- Collate all your income, property and other tax returns and notifications since your arrival. You may need them to prove the length of your residence.
- Put together a file of utility bills for at least 10 years if you can. This will prove your continued residence.
- If your name is not on the income and property tax bills for your household or on any utility bills, get it added now. For anyone who has changed their name through marriage or otherwise: make sure that the name on bills, bank statements, pension statements, payslips etc. matches the name on your passport if possible.
- Put together a file of bank statements, wage slips (if employed) or income and other tax declarations (if self-employed), proof of health cover and pension payments and/or pension statements for the last 5 years if you’ve lived in your host country that long. Longer is even better – 10 years is best. You may need these to prove the stability, sufficiency and regularity of your resources.
3. Check your passport and driving licence.
- You’ll need to comply with different rules to enter and travel around the Schengen area. There are two important issues that may affect your right to travel or to live here legally after exit, so it’s really important to start thinking about this now.
Firstly, Schengen Border Code rules mean that existing passports which were renewed early and therefore have over 10 years validity will no longer be valid until the expiry date written on the passport, but will be limited to the 10 years immediately after their issue date. For example, if your passport was renewed (under the old rules) 6 months before its expiry date, it would show a valid period of 10 years and 6 months. After 29 March 2019, you will effectively ‘lose’ the last 6 months validity, as third country nationals’ passports must have been issued within the last 10 years. Note: this may affect you even if you don’t travel – in order to remain a legal resident in your host country you need to make sure that the issue date on your passport is later than 29 March 2009.
Secondly, your passport must have at least 6 months’ validity on arrival, after discounting the period above. More details here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/travelling-to-the-eu-with-a-uk-passport-if-theres-no-brexit-deal/travelling-to-the-eu-with-a-uk-passport-if-theres-no-brexit-deal.
We don’t yet know what rights, if any, we will have to cross the border to or from any EU27 country if there is No Deal, but dealing with these two issues now is a sensible precaution.
- If you’re still using a UK driving licence, apply for a licence from your host country now. On 30 March 2019 the EU rules under which UK licences are recognised in the EU27 will lapse if there is no deal. Whether your licence is still valid will depend on the law of the country you are driving in. At present a UK licence can usually be exchanged for another EU licence without too much difficulty, although depending on your country’s rules, a driving test may be needed if there is no deal and you wish to exchange after 29 March 2019. The UK has confirmed that EU licences will still be valid in the UK after 29 March 2019, but you will need an International Driving Permit to drive in the EU27 on a UK licence. For more detailed information see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/driving-in-the-eu-if-theres-no-brexit-deal/driving-in-the-eu-if-theres-no-brexit-deal.
4. Prepare financially. The following is particularly relevant to those who derive their income or have savings in the UK in sterling.
- If you have bank accounts, savings or investments in the UK, consider moving them to your host country now. Sterling may drop suddenly in the case of a no-deal exit; there may also be temporary problems moving money in and out of the EU. If most of your savings and income are in the UK, try and make sure you have access to enough cash in euros to see you through two or three months, especially if your income is transferred monthly.
- If you have a personal pension in the UK (this doesn’t apply to state or public service/occupational pensions) and have not yet retired, think about getting advice about how to deal with this and cashing it in if you’re old enough, or moving it. There may be issues with the rights of UK insurers/financial services providers to operate in the EU without having a formal presence there after Brexit and these could cause problems e.g. with insurers making payments to those living outside the UK. Write to your insurer/private pension company in the UK to ask them what plans they have put in place for post-Brexit scenarios.
5. Put in place contingency plans to secure your income and minimise your expenses.
- This applies particularly if the bulk of your income is in sterling, which may take a serious hit after a no-deal exit. Create a personal financial contingency plan. Look at ways you can cut your spending temporarily, and how you could create additional income, particularly in euros. Get any potentially expensive dental, optical and hearing work done now, in case you have to reduce the cover on your private health insurance (if you have one)!
- If you have a business that relies on attracting people from the UK, think about changing your client base. If there is a no-deal Brexit, people may not want to travel to the EU next year and you’ll need to find new clients in the EU 27 if you’re to survive financially. Make sure you have a website in the language of your host country, if you haven’t already, and that you begin to advertise NOW to attract EU27 customers.
- If you have a business that relies solely or partly on UK customers/clients, put contingency plans in place now to deal with potential issues with VAT, excise, billing, professional insurance cover, etc.
6. Prepare for applying for long-term residence and think about citizenship.
- Check out information about the language level required for third country nationals in your host country to apply for long-term residence status and the paperwork required.
- Citizenship won’t guarantee all the rights you currently hold as an EU citizen (mutual recognition of professional qualifications, for example) but it will guarantee you the right to reside and to work – and as an EU citizen you’d continue to benefit from full free movement rights.
- If your partner is an EU citizen, think about formalising your relationship through marriage.
7. Top up your medication before 29 March 2019.
- If you currently rely on an S1 form for access to the local health service and you need regular medication, think about making sure you have a good supply of it on 29 March 2019 – if the worst happens and the reciprocal health care system stops on that date it might take several weeks to get an alternative system up and running and there may be short term chaos. Making sure that you have the permitted 3 months of long-term medication would mean that you’d avoid having to pay full whack for your meds while the situation was resolved.
8. Get your professional qualifications recognised now.
- The European Commission has said that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, Brexit does not affect decisions made pre-Brexit by EU27 countries recognising UK qualifications under the general EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC). For details of which qualifications are covered see https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/services/free-movement-professionals/qualifications-recognition_en. So if you have a UK qualification covered by that Directive and you need to be able to use it, apply to get it recognised before 30 March 2019.
9. Make sure that you’re in your host country on 29 and 30 March 2019.
- This is probably not the best time to make a family visit to the UK! Transport could be chaotic, with no agreements on air or other travel between the UK and EU.
- Ideally it would be best to be in your host country on those dates but if not possible, try to be somewhere in the Schengen zone: https://www.etiaseurope.eu/schengen-countries/.
10. Above all, don’t panic!
- This is about hoping (and working) for the best, while preparing for the worst. Whatever happens you won’t be alone and will always find help and support from your local or other British in Europe coalition group. You can find a list of our current groups here.