Should Brits in Austria get the Article 50 card if they have EU citizenship?

For British passport-holders in Austria, the Article 50 Card secures post-Brexit rights. If you already have EU citizenship, you do not need the Article 50 card but in some cases it is still worth applying.

Should Brits in Austria get the Article 50 card if they have EU citizenship?
British nationals with EU citizenship don't need the Article 50 card, but may want to apply anyway. Photo: Christian Lue/Unsplash

The Article 50 card is available to British citizens who were legally resident in Austria before December 31st, 2021.

Some Brits may have EU citizenship, either in Austria or another country in the bloc. 

What do you get with EU citizenship?

The main advantage of EU citizenship is freedom of movement throughout the bloc, something that is not possible with the Article 50 Card.

For example, if you or your partner got a job offer in another EU country or wanted to move for other reasons, you can move under EU freedom of movement rather than needing to go through the process for third country nationals which is now necessary for Brits, including those with the Article 50 card.

EU citizenship is also permanent — you keep it unless you decide to actively renounce it, unlike the rights granted with the Article 50 card which you lose if you are away from Austria for a certain number of years. 

And EU citizenship gives you the right to vote in EU and local elections (as well as Austrian elections, if you have Austrian citizenship).

READ MORE: What Brits in Austria should know as Article 50 deadline looms

Becki Enright, a freelance journalist and travel writer from Berkshire in the UK, has been living in Vienna for five years and recently became an Irish citizen through ancestry. She has changed her residency status in Austria to an Irish passport holder instead of applying for an Article 50 Card.

Becki told The Local: “I didn’t want to go through the process of applying for the Article 50 Card, even though you can leave the country for a greater length of time with the ten-year card.”

British-EU citizens who do not want to get the Article 50 card will need to change the nationality they are registered with Austrian authorities under. If you originally registered as a British citizen, you will need to contact your local Magistrat or MA 35 in Vienna to change your documentation to show your EU nationality. 

Becki said this was “not a pleasant experience” due to having to show extensive proof of income and savings.

What do you get with the Article 50 Card?

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. 

In most cases, the application process is quick and simple, although some people in Vienna are experiencing long delays, as reported by The Local.

There are also two types of Article 50 Card – a five-year and a ten-year card.

People that have lived in Austria for less than five years are granted a five-year card, but those that have been in the country for more than five years are given the ten-year card. If you are granted the five-year card initially, you can upgrade to the ten-year card once you have lived in Austria for five continuous years. 

READ MORE: Reader question: Can I exchange my UK drivers licence in Austria now that the deadline has passed?

A big difference between the two is the length of time that a card holder can leave Austria without losing residency.

With the five-year card, a resident can leave Austria for up to six months each year without jeopardising their status. However, the ten-year allows people to leave the country for up to five years and retain permanent residency.

For example, EU citizens that live in Austria are only allowed two years of absence from the country under current freedom of movement rules. It would be relatively simple to return as an EU citizen due to freedom of movement, but you would need to meet the requirements of either studying, working, or having sufficient income to support yourself in order to move back to live long-term.

Useful links

British in Austria

City of Vienna – Immigration and Citizenship (MA 35)

Austrian Federal Government

Member comments

  1. “ EU citizenship is also permanent.” I question this. I was an EU citizen until Brexit, even winning the Nobel Peace prize in 2012, among with 550 million others. Then this citizenship was stripped from me, without even providing me with a vote. (I am a British citizen, but not entitled to vote in the UK, or anywhere now).

    If, for example, Austria leaves the EU, citizenship may not turn out to be permanent.

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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.