What Happens to UK Citizens Working in Germany in Case of a No-Deal Brexit?


By Saskia Hildebrandt October 9, 2019

​The official deadline for the United Kingdom (U.K.) to leave the European Union (EU) is Oct. 31, unless the EU member states and the U.K. agree on an extension. The current prime minister of the U.K., Boris Johnson, wants the U.K. to leave the EU then, if necessary, without concluding an exit agreement with the EU. This would have consequences for U.K. citizens living and working in Germany.

According to the German Residence Act, non-EU nationals may live and work in Germany only if they hold a German residence title (a work and residence permit) entitling them to do so. If the U.K. leaves the EU, U.K. citizens would no longer be EU nationals. Since there are no special rules for U.K. citizens at present, they would be subject to the same residence provisions in Germany as all other non-EU citizens. If Germany did not make any further arrangements for the no-deal scenario, U.K. citizens would need a visa to enter Germany.

Brexit Residence Transition Act

But the German government has already prepared itself for the worst-case scenario. On July 31, the German federal government presented the draft of the Brexit Residence Transition Act, which is intended to supplement the current Residence Act.

According to the draft law, all U.K. citizens and their family members residing in Germany would, on the date the U.K. leaves the EU, have a special right to obtain a residence title that would enable them to continue living and working in Germany. The German parliament has not adopted the law yet, but the measure is expected to pass easily. The Brexit Residence Transition Act would take effect only if the U.K. leaves the EU without concluding an exit agreement.

In order to give the German authorities enough time to process the numerous applications for German residence titles made by U.K. citizens in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a decree temporarily exempting U.K. citizens from the requirement of a residence title is expected. This transition period would be initially three months and extendable for a further six months. During this period, U.K. citizens and their family members who have been entitled to freedom of movement in Germany would continue to have a right of residence. For the subsequent stay, all those affected would need to have submitted applications for their later residence titles to the proper local immigration authority by the end of the transition period.

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What If There Is a Deal?

Should the exit agreement be ratified, the Brexit Residence Transition Act would not take effect. Instead, a transition period would apply until Dec. 31, 2020, under the agreement. During this period, the U.K. would continue to be treated as a member state of the EU, and the free-movement regulations of the EU would continue to apply.

The exit agreement contains a preservation of rights of free movement for U.K. citizens and their family members living in the EU at the end of the transition period.

Saskia Hildebrandt is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Berlin.


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