Brexit: Why some Brits in Austria are losing benefit payments

Brexit: Why some Brits in Austria are losing benefit payments
Is the sun setting on some British people's benefits in Austria? Photo: OLI SCARFF / AFP
Benefit payments for some British citizens living in Austria have been suspended while they wait for the new Article 50 (A50) EUV Card – a move which is not in line with the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Here's what you need to know.

The Local Austria has been contacted by Brits who have recently been informed they will no longer receive benefits, such as Arbeitslosgeld (unemployment benefit) and Kinderbetreeungsgeld (childcare benefit), until they have the A50 card.

British citizens that were already living in Austria before 31st December 2020 (the Brexit transition deadline) have until the end of the year to apply for the A50 card so that their rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

A British woman living in Innsbruck, Tyrol, who asked not to be identified, said her childcare benefit payments have been suspended. Other British people have not been able to apply for unemployment benefits.

READ: How Britons can move to Austria to live and work post-Brexit 

She said: “Other people affected don’t have appointments to apply for the Article 50 Card until late March so may be without funds until April or May.”

Another woman posted in the UK in Austria – British Embassy Vienna Facebook group and said her childcare benefits have been suspended because she doesn’t have the A50 Card yet. Despite living in Austria for 30 years. 

She says she was informed about the suspension two days before the expected payment and has been asked to show proof that she is legally allowed to live in Austria.

Since the start of the year, some British citizens have been experiencing delays in booking the initial appointment to apply for the A50 card, as reported by The Local last month.

READ MORE: First Britons in Austria receive post-Brexit residency cards 

But the British Embassy has confirmed that the suspension of benefit payments goes against the Withdrawal Agreement. 

British Ambassador to Austria Leigh Turner told The Local: “We are aware of reports of UK nationals in Austria being informed that they will no longer receive benefits until they have the Article 50 card. That is not in line with commitments made in the Withdrawal Agreement. 

“We have reached out to the Austrian government for clarification and the government has confirmed that until 31 December 2021 access to benefits is not dependent on having applied for or received the Article 50 card. 

“The relevant ministry is now contacting authorities to ensure that they are aware of this.”

Ambassador Turner confirmed that from 1 January 2022, UK nationals will need an A50 card (or other valid residence document) to have the same access to Austrian benefits as EU nationals.

He added: “I encourage all UK nationals in Austria to contact their Bezirkshauptmannschaft or Magistrat and apply for an Article 50 card as soon as possible.”

Mike Bailey from British in Austria, a platform for British citizens living in Austria, said they are aware of the situation, which is being exacerbated by ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: How Britons in Austria can secure post-Brexit residency 

He said: “Unfortunately, regional offices for benefits have not been informed that the requirement to have the Article 50 EUV card to continue to receive benefits in a comparable manner to citizens of other EU Member States only comes in at the end of 2021.

“The issue was probably accentuated further by the national lockdown, which meant that Article 50 EUV card appointments have not always been possible at the earliest opportunity in every Bezirk. 

“We are very grateful that the British Embassy has taken up contact with the Ministry (Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection), and that the Ministry in turn is ensuring that the respective bodies are made aware of this particular situation and how it should be handled.”

British in Austria has been publishing information about the application process for the A50 card and reaching out to British citizens on social media. There is also a detailed FAQ page dedicated to benefit payments on their website.

Mike added: “For those affected, it has brought extra unnecessary strain at an already difficult time.”

Any British citizens in Austria experiencing issues with their A50 card application, or with receiving benefits, are encouraged to contact the consular team at the British Embassy.

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