Update: June 2018, Government offers detail on citizens’ rights

  • Home Secretary urges EU to speed up plans for UK expats in Member States
  • UK government publishes plans and demands EU does same
  • If you have previously lived abroad but returned to UK, you could retain rights
  • UK government says it wants to secure reciprocal rights even if you move after Brexit.
  • Even in the event of no final deal bring agreed, UK will follow through on citizens rights.
  • No agreement on “onward movement” within EU.

 UK announces residency plans, awaits EU response

Under plans from the UK government announced this week, the process by which EU citizens in the UK can apply to continue living here will amount to proving three simple questions: who are you, where do you live, do you have any (serious) criminal convictions. Moreover, they will be able to answer the questions via a mobile app or online, for example by taking a photo of their address. The authorities will then check this against existing databases.

The question is, will EU nations where the British live adopt similar rules and procedures?

The cost for their “settled status” application will be £65 or adults and £32.50 for children. EU citizens in the UK will be able to apply via the system from “the start of next year” up until at least June 2021, said the Home Secretary. The question is, will EU nations where the British live adopt similar rules and procedures?

The UK has been putting pressure on the EU to provide information on its planned procedures for UK nationals resident in the EU to secure their on-going residency status after Brexit. According to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has accepted that the EU’s 27 member states need to do more to reassure expat Britons in the EU about what to expect post-Brexit.

Reciprocal healthcare

A Government statement on Brexit also released this month should reassure expat pensioners concerned about their healthcare rights after Brexit. The government, highlighting how citizens’ rights to reciprocal healthcare remains a primary condition in any deal with Brussels.

Responding to recommendations raised by the House of Lords, the Government stated: “It has been clear that safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU is a top priority. Through negotiations we have reached a fair agreement on citizens’ rights, grounded in reciprocity, which seeks to allow citizens to continue living their lives broadly as they do now.”

Indications are that both parties have found common ground on the issue of healthcare. “We have reached a reciprocal agreement in principle on healthcare arrangements to those UK and EU citizens who move countries during the implementation period,” continued the Government’s statement. “This was reflected in the updated draft Withdrawal Agreement text presented at the March European Council.”

Return to the Continent

The Government’s draft deal would accommodate Britons who have at some point lived in another EU country before the implementation period ends on 31 December 2020. “For example, a UK national who has worked for a year in Spain, but has returned to live in the UK prior to the end of the implementation period and retires to France upon reaching state pension age, could be covered for reciprocal healthcare in France when they export their state pension,” said the statement. “This would also include a UK national who is exporting a UK state pension to Spain at the end of the implementation period.”

No deal, no problem

Under the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, could all the rights and procedures agreed so far be abandoned? This was the question put by a House of Lords committee last week. In response the UK said this was unlikely: “providing certainty for citizens was a priority and we believe it would be unlikely for any deal on citizens’ rights agreed early on to be reopened.”

No onward movement agreement

Many British people already living in the EU, or about to move, have expressed concern that their rights are only based on the country where they reside. For example, a UK citizen resident in France will have no right to move to Spain, under current plans. The government could offer no help here, however, saying: “We understand that onward movement is an important issue for many UK nationals living in the EU, and the UK pushed strongly for this to be included during the first phase of negotiations. However, the EU made clear that it was not ready to include it in the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Healthcare for those who move after Brexit?

The UK government has acknowledged the fears of those who will not live in the EU before Brexit, and those who simply go on holiday, that the EHIC system will end. “We understand the importance of maintaining reciprocal healthcare arrangements for needs-arising treatment for those with chronic conditions, disabilities or other long-term conditions that require ongoing medical attention. This is why we have been clear that we want to continue with the EHIC scheme in any future agreement.”

However, they say this is a subject beyond the scope of the current talks and will be debated in the next phase of negotiations. The government has noted, however, that the UK does have arrangements with other non-EU countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. While these are generally only related to emergency healthcare, rather than the long-term conditions that many UK retirees in the EU suffer, the government says: “This demonstrates that reciprocal healthcare agreements are not dependent upon EU free movement rules.”

UPDATE: 19 March 2018. Transition deal agreed

The British and EU negotiating teams announced on 19 March 2018 that the UK’s transition period with the EU post-Brexit will continue to 31 December 2020. This extends by 21 months the period during which UK citizens can move to Greece and claim the same rights as before Brexit (see below). When you have become legally resident, which is a simple procedure (see below), you will retain your right to reside, work, study or open a business in Greece. You will also retain your rights to subsidised healthcare and a state pension.

The deal announced by the UK’s lead negotiator David Davis and the EU’s Michel Barnier means you should have longer than you first thought to move to Greece and receive the same EU rights as British expats who relocated pre-Brexit. We say “should” because as Mr Barnier said: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Michel Barnier (right) and David Davis. (Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com)

The deal could still unravel, but this seems highly unlikely. You can plan your new life in Greece with some confidence. After the official Brexit day on 29 March 2019, the UK will enter an ‘implementation phase’. This will last until 31 December 2020.

The transition phase will give you extra time to sort out your affairs, apply for Greek residency and find somewhere to live. There is no need for the panic that the March 2019 deadline had been creating for many of our readers.

It is especially good news for British people retiring to Greece in the next three years. If you retire in the UK you get a UK pension that you can transfer to Greece. It should be increased each year just like in the UK, according to the “triple lock”, in line with inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is greater. It also means that those with more complex and expensive health needs can move to Greece until 31 December 2020 knowing that their right to state healthcare benefits in Greece will continue for tier lifetime.

UPDATE: 1 February 2018. Transition deal will not include right to move

The Prime Minister Theresa May refused to allow the transition period, after the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019, to include the right to free movement of EU citizens to the UK. If reciprocated, it means that you have until 29 March 2019 to move to Greece.

Many of those thinking of moving to Greece are worried about any restrictions that may arise after Britain leaves the EU. Our most recent survey found that four out of every ten of our readers were worried by Brexit.

When news surfaced in December 2017 that an initial agreement had been reached – this not only sent the pound shooting up in value, but was also a very welcome Christmas present to the British people hoping for a long, affordable and relaxed life in Greece. The agreement spelled out the rights of people moving to Greece until March 2019: “There will be no change to the rights and status of UK nationals living in the EU while the UK remains in the EU.” Those rights will continue after the UK leaves.

It had also been assumed that this would be extended until December 2020 as part of the “status quo” transition period. However, last week Theresa May said, “I’m clear there is a difference between those who came prior to us leaving and those who will come when they know the UK is leaving.”

Theresa May made the comments while in China

This caused immediate outrage. Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said: “Citizens’ rights during the transition is not negotiable. We will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing freedom with no exceptions.”

For British people wanting to move to Greece, it is clear that you must be living in the country before the UK leaves the EU on the 29th March 2019 or your rights to live in Greece without the need for a visa and with all your pension and other benefits intact may not be guaranteed.

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The agreement in December essentially says the following:

• UK nationals who are lawfully residing in Greece by 29th March 2019, will be able to continue to reside in Greece.
• That includes children born or adopted outside Greece after the 29th March 2019.
• Close family members (spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren and dependent parents and grandparents) will be able to join you in Greece after exit under these rules, so long as the relationship existed on 29th March 2019 and continues to exist when they join you in Greece.
• You and your family members can leave Greece for up to five years without losing your right to return.
• You and your family will continue to have the same access as you currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits.

Although this seems straightforward, the key phrase is “lawfully residing”. What do you need to do to be lawfully residing?

According to rules laid out by the European Union, from a fiscal point of view, you are automatically considered tax resident in Greece if your main home is there. You would also be considered resident if you spend 183 days in the country in any calendar year, or if your principal occupation is in Greece, or if Greece is the country of your most substantial assets.

If you are ready to buy in Greece, you’ll have a few financial matters to sort out. For advice on getting the best currency deal download the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.

The December agreement also laid out general arrangements on the procedures for proving residency for those living in Greece before March 2019: “EU27 Member States may require UK nationals and their family members covered by the agreement to apply to obtain a status conferring the right of residence and/or obtain a residency document. Administrative procedures for applications for status will be transparent, smooth and streamlined. Where an application is required to obtain status, UK nationals will have at least two years to submit their applications. Residence documents will be issued free of charge or for a charge not exceeding that imposed on nationals for the issuing of similar documents. Further information on these administrative procedures will be provided when available.”

Currently you do not need to register as resident in Greece. However, non-EU citizens do. To this end, we would recommend obtaining a residence permit as soon as you can. You will need to be able to prove a consistent income to sustain your life in Greece (such as bank or pension statements, or a certificate of employment), as well as medical coverage (proved by policy statements or similar) and a valid passport. Your local municipal office (dimos) or prefecture office (nomarxia) will accept applications – although there is no nationwide standard as to when or how these applications can be processed. In smaller towns you may find that you need to submit this at the police station.

You may find that any documents not in Greek must be translated in advance to ensure the swift transaction.

Family purchase could open the door

As a legal resident of Greece, your rights are extended to all dependent children and grandchildren, giving them the right to bring family to Greece as well in time. This opens up another angle for British people who wish to retain their EU rights but are not in a position to move to Greece yet. Only one person needs to be legally resident in Greece for the whole family to purchase property here – potentially spreading the cost among many. Read our brand new guide, Buying Abroad with Family to see how to organise the legal and financial aspects.

If you cannot buy before March 2019

If you are unable to establish legal residency in Greece before 29th March 2019, there are still options for you. The general consensus is that a new system will be put into place between British and EU citizens, given the proximity of the UK to the continent and the number of Brits that arrive in Greece every year. However, if this is not the case, it is probable that the rules that currently apply to Americans, Australians etc. will apply. These are essentially:

• Non-EU passport holders can visit for up to 90 days within a 180 day period. Citizens of some non-EU countries, including Americans and Australians can do this visa-free; this means they do not need to apply for a visa sticker. It remains to be seen whether the UK will also enjoy this benefit; if not you will need to submit an application to the Greek embassy in the UK for a visa.
• You can also apply for a long-stay visa, which allows you to stay in Greece without a residence permit. You must be able to prove you can support yourself while living there under this visa.
• There is no restriction on buying property in Greece, but you may need to explain what you will be using the property for.
• If you are working in Greece, you will need to apply for your visa within 30 days of arrival in the country.
• You can apply for Greek citizenship once you have been legally living in Greece for three years. You will need to pass an application, in Greek, provide a formal statement of naturalization and a photocopy of the passport.
• If you are retiring to Greece, you must prove how you will support yourself in the country (such as pension or savings).

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