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BREXIT

Article 50 Card: Long delays continue in Vienna as deadline looms

As the New Year's Eve deadline looms for the Article 50 Card applications that are needed for Brits to secure their residency in Austria, some British citizens are still waiting for essential residency paperwork to be processed.

Street in Vienna
Campaigners have told The Local that authorities in Vienna have been slow to process post-Brexit residency applications. Photo: Anelale Nájera/Unsplash

As part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, British people that were living in Austria before the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020 can apply for the Article 50 Card to retain their residency rights. 

The deadline is New Year’s Eve but some people in Vienna are still waiting for their cards – despite starting the application process several months ago.

Emails and calls to MA35 (the City of Vienna immigration department) by concerned applicants are also reportedly being ignored, according to the British in Austria group which represents the rights of Britons living in Austria. The group confirmed to The Local that the issue of delays appears to be a problem specific to the capital city.

Representative of British in Austria Mike Bailey told The Local the group is being contacted by worried British citizens who are still waiting for their applications to be processed.

Mike said: “The most recent cases are unemployed people who haven’t received a card and the wait is causing them further stress.

“Their status is covered until the conclusion of the process, but if they were to be rejected there is little time to reapply with new information if an appeal fails.”

EXPLAINED: What Brits with EU partners need to know about returning to live in UK

The Local approached the City of Vienna about the issues, and a spokesperson for Vienna Vice Mayor Christoph Wiederkehr told The Local: “We are endeavouring to process the applications as quickly as possible and ask all British [citizens] who have not yet submitted an application to do so immediately.”

The spokesperson added that as long as applications are submitted by the New Year’s Eve deadline, they can still be processed.

“If there have been delays in processing, we apologise for the inconvenience,” she added.

The British Embassy in Vienna told The Local that delays to Article 50 Card applications is their number one priority right now.

As for whether the delays will have a concrete impact on Brits’ access to rights in Austria, an embassy spokesperson said: “We have raised the issue of delays in processing applications with the Austrian authorities, who have assured us that the Bestätigung über die Antragstellung certificate you receive when making your application will continue to be accepted as evidence of Withdrawal Agreement rights until a new residency card is granted.

“The rights assigned under the Withdrawal Agreement are assumed to apply until a final decision is taken on granting or not granting an Article 50 card. Again, the most important thing you can do is apply well before the deadline.”

Applying for the Article 50 Card is mandatory for British people that want to retain their right to live and work in Austria post-Brexit and do not have another form of right of residence (such as another EU citizenship). It replaces all previous residency permits held by British people in Austria.

The latest figures show 7,922 people applied for the card in the first nine months of 2021, but approximately 3,600 Britons in Austria have not applied.

The application process for the Article 50 Card opened on January 4th, 2021 and there have been reports of problems since the beginning of the year.

In the first couple of months many people across the country experienced delays as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and closed offices, although these issues have since been resolved.

In February, there were also reports of some British citizens in Austria wrongly having their benefits payments suspended due to misunderstandings of the new post-Brexit rules, as reported by The Local.

The suspension of benefits went against the Withdrawal Agreement and resulted in former British Ambassador to Austria Leigh Turner asking the Austrian Federal Government to intervene.

The Local also recently reported on concerns from British in Austria that some long-term British residents and spouses in Austria might not be fully aware that applying for the new card is mandatory.

How does the Article 50 Card application process work?

For people that live outside of Vienna, Article 50 applications take place at the local Bezirkshauptmannschaft or Magistrat where a person lives (Hauptwohnsitz). 

In Vienna, applications are processed at MA35 in Arndtstrasse in the 12th district.

In most cases, an appointment has to be made in advance and proof of status will have to be provided, such as a job contract, proof of self-employment, proof of address and ID.

In some cases, additional checks will be made to determine the eligibility of an applicant. Applicants also have to pay a fee (see below for more information), provide fingerprints and a passport photo.

After applying, each applicant should be issued with an official confirmation of application. If the confirmation is not provided, British in Austria advises people to request it.

The British in Austria website has an updated list of offices across the country where an application for the Article 50 Card can be made. You can find the page here.

Typically, the process takes a couple of weeks from lodging the application to receiving the Article 50 Card, but it can take longer in Vienna as there are more British people living in the capital than elsewhere in Austria.

The first Article 50 Cards were issued to British citizens in a special ceremony in January attended by Ambassador Turner and Vice Mayor Wiederkehr.

Turner retired from the post of British Ambassador in September but will continue to live in Vienna and recently applied for the Article 50 Card.

How much does the application cost?

The costs of applying for the Article 50 Card ranges from €0 to around €75.

The difference will depend on how long someone has lived in Austria and whether further documentation is required.

The standard fee is €61.50 but this is waived if a person already has a permanent residency status in Austria that was obtained pre-Brexit.

Permanent residency is gained after living in Austria for five years and meeting the conditions for a residency permit under EU law.

Useful links

British in Austria

City of Vienna – Immigration and Citizenship (MA 35)

Austrian Federal Government

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TRAVEL NEWS

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

People who have more than one citizenship often hold multiple passports, so what does this mean for crossing borders? Here's what you should know.

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

For many readers of The Local, gaining citizenship of the country where they live helps them to feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long ‘non EU’ queue when coming back into the Schengen zone.

But this week the problems associated with travelling while holding dual citizenship came to light, leaving many people wondering what they should know when they are entering different countries.

Put simply – which passport should you use? And do you have to carry both with you?

Financial Times journalist Chris Giles tweeted that the UK Border Force “detained” his dual-national daughter while she was travelling from France into the UK with her German passport – and not her British one. 

He went on to say that UK border guards released his daughter. According to Giles, the border staff said she should have had both passports with her “and asked why she was travelling on her German one”.

The rules on dual-nationality have not changed, but now that the UK is not in the EU, there are strict rules on non-Brits who enter the country (and vice-versa) which has made it trickier for travel.

For instance, UK nationals receive a stamp in their passport when entering Schengen member states because they are only allowed to stay up to 90 days within an 180 period (unless they have a visa or residency card).

READ ALSO: Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents 

People coming from the EU to the UK can generally visit as a tourist for up to six months without a visa – but are not allowed to carry out any work while there.

So which passport should you show?

The first thing to be aware of is there are no specific rules on travelling with more than one passport. 

Travellers can choose to use whichever passport they prefer when going to a country. 

But one thing to note is that it’s worth using the passport that is best suited to your destination when travelling there. Each country has its own set of immigration and visa rules that you’ll need to research closely.

It could be that one passport is better suited for your trip – and you may be able to avoid visa requirements.  

READ ALSO: How powerful is the German passport?

In the case of the UK, many people are still getting to grips with the different rules that apply because it’s not in the EU anymore.

A question submitted to the Secretary of State for the Home Department in September 2021 provided some insight into this issue. 

The question from Labour’s Paul Blomfield asked what steps the UK government “is taking to enable dual UK and EU citizens to travel to the UK on an EU member state passport without having to further prove their UK citizenship?”

The Conservatives Kevin Foster said: “Border Force Officers examine all arriving passengers to establish whether they are British citizens, whether they require leave to enter or if they are exempt from immigration control.

“Where the passenger claims to be British, but does not hold any evidence of British citizenship, the officer will conduct all relevant checks to satisfy themselves the passenger is British.

Border control at Hamburg airport.

Border control at Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

“When dual nationals who are eligible to use e-gates travel to the UK, they will enter via the e-gates without being examined by an immigration officer.

“We recommend all dual nationals, including EU citizens, travel on their British passport or with evidence or their British citizenship to minimise any potential delay at the border or when commencing their journey.”

The Local contacted the UK Home Office to ask if there was any official advice. 

A spokesman said: “An individual can present whichever passport they desire to enter the UK, however they will be subject to the entry requirements associated with the nationality of the passport they present.”

They said anyone who is looking for more information should check out guidance on entering the UK and on dual nationality.

In short, if you present a German passport on entry to the UK you will be treated the same as any other German citizen – which can include being quizzed about your reasons for visiting the UK – as border guards have no way of knowing that you are a dual-national. 

Do I have to carry both passports?

There’s no rule requiring you to have both passports, but you won’t get the benefits of a British passport (entry into the UK without questions) if you don’t show it.

Likewise if you are a French-British dual national and you enter France on your UK passport, you will need to use the non-EU queue and may have your passport stamped.

Should I think about anything else?

An important thing to remember is that if you apply for a visa and register your passport details, the same passport has to be used to enter the country. 

It could also make sense to travel with both passports, just in case. 

However, note that some countries – like the US – require that US nationals use a US passport to enter and leave the States even if they are dual nationals. 

In general, it’s best to use the same passport you entered a country with to depart.

The rules and systems are different depending on the country. But many countries require people to show their passport when leaving – and they will either stamp or scan the passport – this is how authorities know that a foreign visitor hasn’t overstayed their time in the country. 

So if your passport is checked as you leave the UK, you should show the one you arrived with, just to ensure there is a record of you arriving and leaving.

However as you enter France/Germany/other EU destination, you can show your EU passport in order to maximise the travel benefits of freedom of movement.

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