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What now for Brits intent on working in the EU?

Feb 28, 2021
Last Updated on May 21, 2024

Immigration became one of the defining issues of the Brexit debate. The arguments however were literally one-way traffic. Discussions inevitably focused on the issue of free movement and of the number of EU nationals coming into the UK to live and work. For the casual observer, it could often seem that there was no movement in the opposite direction; that Brits did not travel to the continent to live and work. This, of course, is not the case. In 2019 there were 1.3 million British nationals in the EU. 80% of them were of working age or younger.

There are many reasons why UK residents choose to work abroad. Often job opportunities are better for certain professions in other countries. People can also be driven by a desire for a change in culture, climate, and lifestyle. For some, there is no personal link to the destination country and the move is purely economic. Others, for example, might move to their country of birth or heritage to work and to be closer to family. Many people relocate for better opportunities to earn, learn, train and to develop themselves. Entrepreneurs may be particularly keen to establish themselves overseas for new business opportunities or to benefit from generous tax regimes in other countries. 

Brexit has meant big changes for any British citizen with a desire to work in the EU. Here, our experts answer some of your questions:

What rights do UK citizens have under the withdrawal agreement and the agreement over the future relationship between the UK and EU?

The EU withdrawal agreement has protected the work rights of UK nationals living and working overseas and vice versa. As an example, the rights of a British citizen legally resident in Italy before 01 January 2021 are protected. If you have residence under the withdrawal agreement, the existing EU social security coordination rules will continue to apply. The UK government has allocated £3 million to support UK nationals in the EU to apply to protect their rights in residence in the country they reside. There are no work rights guaranteed for nationals who decide to move between the UK and EU after the end of the transition period however. 

Did the EU and UK make any specific arrangements to quicken the process for UK nationals to work in EU territories?

There are no specific arrangements in place. British citizens will be subject to the same laws as other third country nationals who wish to work in Europe.

What do Brits who want to work in the EU now have to do?

Workers will need to meet the immigration requirements applicable to work lawfully in any EU country. This generally means that the candidate will need to apply for a visa or work permit to the relevant overseas government’s visa department, before being permitted to start work.  Some EU countries may also ask applicants to provide a UK criminal record certificate. Some workers may need to prove they have a job offer and/or relevant qualifications. The application forms, fees and supporting evidence required will vary from country to country. 

Will the situation change?

It is yet to be seen if there will be unilateral or reciprocal arrangements for the easing of visa requirements for UK nationals to live and work in the EU in future. The decisions are political and will always require some form of reciprocal agreement. It may be that in future, simplified visas for certain workers in specific professions are introduced. For example, there is currently a high-profile campaign to pressure the UK government into making a simplified visa free deal with the EU for touring performance artists.

Is there enough information and support for those wishing to migrate to the EU?

For those who plan to move to the EU to work in future, the government has provided summary information on entry requirements for each EU country and links to the relevant government’s home page on visa requirements. It can be a complex process and I would predict that people will increasingly seek professional advice from a credible advisor for further support.

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