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BREXIT

What Brits in Austria must do to prepare for the realities of Brexit

The realities of Brexit for Britons living in Austria will soon kick in but as is the case around Europe the challenge to ensure people get the right information and take the steps to guarantee their futures is increasingly difficult in the second wave of a pandemic.

What Brits in Austria must do to prepare for the realities of Brexit
AFP

The realities of Brexit for Britons living in Austria will soon kick in but as is the case around Europe the challenge to ensure people get the right information and take the steps to guarantee their futures is increasingly difficult in the second wave of a pandemic.

Austria is home to around 11,500 British citizens, around 4,500 of whom live in the Vienna area.

The Austrian government, like the other 26 EU member states, is currently pushing thorough legislation that guarantees Brits living legally in the country by the end of this month the right to stay and work.

But they will soon have to be in possession of a new residency card named an “Article 50 EUV” permit if they want to remain as a legal resident of Austria, unless that is they also have another EU nationality such as Irish. Those Britons who have taken Austrian citizenship also do not need to apply.

'People are coming out of the woodwork'

The cards will have a duration of either 5 or 10 years depending on how long the applicant has lived in the country for, but they guarantee the right to permanent residency, just as being an EU citizen did.

As in other EU countries the job of being the messenger of this crucial news has fallen on the shoulders of UK embassies but mainly on recently formed citizens' rights groups like British in Austria, which is part of the British in Europe umbrella group.

The citizens' rights section of the Withdrawal Agreement was first published in November 2018 and eventually ratified in January this year but many Britons in Austria and around Europe are still cottoning on to the ramifications.

“People are still coming out the woodwork and starting to understand what they have to do,” says Mike Bailey from British in Austria.

The group, which has produced pages of valuable information online, have found that even with just weeks to go before the end of the transition period, more and more people are coming forward looking for help.

“We've been increasing our efforts and sending out more and more reminders to people,” Bailey said. “People including those in precarious seasonal employment or on zero-hours contracts are contacting us with questions about their circumstances”.

One particular group of Britons that have proved difficult to reach and to help are seasonal workers, many of whom have lived informally in Austria on and off and might have nominally registered, but maybe not as their principle residence.

Some face having to pay a fine

“There are people who may have come over originally for a ski season, but were never in the system. Seasonal workers, if they are still able to come over for a season, will have to be part of the system,” says Bailey. “We've also had people contact us saying they got their residence permit back in 1983 and they were under the impression it would be valid forever.”

Even before Brexit Brits living in Austria, unlike Britons living in France for example, had to register once they were in the country.

They have had to get a residence registration form (Meldezettel) within 3 days of moving into their new home and since 2006 they've been obliged to get a registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung) within 4 months of arriving in Austria.

Those who didn't don't face a barrier to taking up permanent residency after five years, but do face having to pay a small fine (€50 to €70) as the price of being to able to apply for the post-Brexit residency card.

The application process for the new “Article 50 EUV” card is not yet open.

Brits in Austria will be given 12 months from the January 1st to December 31st 2021 to apply for the new Article 50 EUV card, so at least they have time.

“It is therefore not necessary to submit an application at the beginning of the year. There is sufficient time for the application,” says the Austrian government.

Applications will need to be made with local authorities.

'You must be employed or afford to stay in Austria'

“This is the provincial governor (Landeshauptmann), the mayor (Magistrat) or the district governor (Bezirkshauptmannschaft). Which authority is responsible depends on where you live,” says the Austrian government website.

This website will help you find out where you have to apply.

However in Vienna officials at the immigration office have started taking bookings for appointments to process the applications for the 4,500 Brits living in the capital.

Within a few days of  the announcement of the booking system taking appointments in the capital, many Brits have already booked appointments for January 202. With Vienna officials pledging to process around 400 applications a week there appears to be plenty of time to arrange an appointment. (More details can be found here).

British in Austria report that those living in more rural areas of the country encountered difficulty acquiring the right information from local authorities whilst some who are not fluent in German have found it harder to find local officials who can explain the process to them in English.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement there are certain conditions that come with residency.

“You must be employed or be able to afford your stay in Austria without receiving social welfare benefits for yourself and your family members and have comprehensive health insurance (just as you had to before the UK left the European Union),” says the Austrian government.

But there are no language requirements attached to residency.

So what can Britons do before now and the end of the year?

Both the UK embassy in Vienna and British in Austria are urging British residents to take the necessary steps to make the registration process smoother once it opens.

“It is strongly recommended by the embassy and the Austrian Ministry of the Interior (BMI) that you get all documents before 31st December 2020 to prove you had the right to residence before the end of the transition period,” says British in Austria.

This includes:

  • a recent passport photo. The photo must not be older than 6 months and a valid passport.
  • Any registration certificates, certificates of permanent residence, residence cards, permanent residence cards will also be helpful to your application.

If you haven't applied for an Anmeldebescheinigung or Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts” yet then you can find more information on what to do here.

British in Austria warns: “You will hear a lot of people, including officials at the registration offices, telling you that the Anmeldebescheinigung becomes invalid after 31st December 2020 – and some officials may try to stop you getting one. If so, demand that your application is processed, and that they give you – on the spot – a confirmation that you have applied. If your German is up to it.

“They are technically correct, but invalid does not mean useless. Having the Anmeldebescheinigung will smooth the application for the new residence permits later.”

 

 

 

 

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired 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, 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 EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment and self-employment or education. In addition, EU long-term residence grants the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

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

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

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. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

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.

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

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The 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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