Is It Easy to Move to Europe After Brexit?
2021 has brought the full force of Brexit with it, calling time on the golden age of moving from the UK to European Union (EU) countries. Gone are the days of travelling through the continent without a care – or visa – in the world.
However, your dream of a new home in Europe is still very much alive. You’ll just have to work a little harder to make it a reality – and we can help you with that.
If you’re looking to move outside of Europe, you’ll have to check your chosen country’s regulations to see if they’re altered in the coming months.
Reassuringly though, nations such as Canada and Brazil do not appear to have introduced more stringent rules, and when Movehub spoke to the UK’s Foreign Office, no changes were highlighted to us for UK nationals moving to non-EU countries.
This page will focus on post-Brexit rules, but the COVID-19 pandemic may also impact any potential move you make. For information on which countries will let you in at the moment, read our guide to where you can move during the coronavirus crisis.
If you're confused about Brexit, you're not alone
The UK no longer has special status with other European countries. It’s now defined as a “third country” – that is, a nation outside of the EU.
You can still stay in one or more EU member states for up to 90 days of any 180-day period without much trouble, but if you want to move to Europe, you’ll now require a visa.
To secure a visa, you’ll have to comply with the specific requirements of the country you’ve chosen to call your new home. Unfortunately, it’s just that complicated.
It’s also worth noting that your professional qualifications aren’t automatically recognised on the continent anymore. If you’re an architect, dentist, doctor, engineer, nurse, pharmacist, or vet, you must have your qualifications recognised by each country you practice in.
So before you make any move, check with the country’s UK embassy that you’ll be allowed to do your job when you get there.
Make sure you also have at least six months until your passport expires when you travel, as most European countries require this – otherwise, you may be turned away at the border.
If you already live in an EU nation, you must register as a resident of that country by June 30th 2021 if you want to keep living there.
If you’re looking to move to Spain, you’ll firstly need to get a temporary residence visa (Tarjeta de Residencia), so you can stay in the country longer than 90 days.
Make an appointment with the Spanish Consulate in London by emailing email@example.com with your details, including your:
- Passport number
- Telephone number
- Preferred date for an appointment, which are only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays
You can also make an application for a temporary visa within Spain, though you must do so at an immigration office (oficina de extranjeros) within 30 days of arriving in the country. We don’t recommend this path, as it’s typically more stressful than applying from the UK.
A temporary visa will allow you to stay in Spain for anywhere from three months to five years, depending on your circumstances.
After five years of living legally in Spain, you can apply for a permanent residence visa.
If you’re successful, you’ll have a year after you arrive in France to apply and obtain a residence permit, which you can do at your local prefecture.
If you’re a UK national over 18 years of age who was legally resident in France before January 1st 2021, apply online before the EU-wide June 30th deadline.
Any legal residents younger than 18 are exempt from this requirement.
When applying, you’ll need to send a photo or scan of your passport, together with one or more additional documents outlined in these helpful flow-charts made by the French government.
If you applied for a Brexit residence permit between October 9th 2019 and January 31th 2020, you don’t need to reapply.
Your application will be processed by the prefecture in question – though we’d recommend contacting your local authorities to make sure they received it.
The German government has created a helpful tool to check whether you’re likely to be allowed to live and work in the country, which you should definitely use.
If you’re moving for work, you will almost certainly need a binding job offer and either a vocational qualification or a university degree.
You’ll only be allowed to start working after you apply for a residence permit, which must be completed within 90 days of arriving in the country.
If your academic or vocational qualification is from an institution outside of Germany (for instance, the UK), you may also have to prove that your qualification is the equivalent of a German one.
Check this German government page to find out whether your new role requires you to receive “official recognition” that your qualification is similar in quality to a German one. You’ll need this if you’re in a regulated profession, as lawyers and doctors are.
If you don’t need official recognition, you may still need a Statement of Comparability, depending on your place of residence and your residency status.
This will also help you to quickly explain your qualifications, especially if you move jobs.
You can still live in Italy, though it’s a two-stage process to make your move permanent.
First, you need to successfully apply for a Long Stay visa. Fill in this form created by the Italian government to see whether you’re able to apply, then be prepared to pay €116 (£102) if you choose to go ahead with the application.
A Long Stay visa is available to anyone who’s moving for work, education, family reunification or adoption, retirement, or religious purposes – but they’re not permanent.
You’ll be allowed to stay in Italy for a specific length of time, depending on which of the above reasons applies to you. The length of visas varies from three months to two years.
If you want to stay in Italy for longer, you must apply for a residence permit at what’s known as an ‘immigration one-stop shop’ and a police station – in that order – within eight working days of arriving in the country.
You should be able to book your appointment at the one-stop shop online, depending on where your local one is.
If you’re moving for work, you’ll need an Italian employer to get you a work permit, at which point you can apply for a work visa – as long as Italy is allowing foreign workers in, and as long as the national quota hasn’t been filled up.
Ask your local Italian Embassy about the quota’s current state before you apply.
As with other European countries, you’re allowed as a UK national to stay in Portugal for three months.
Your first step towards making this move permanent is to get a visto para obtenção de autorização de residência – which literally translates as ‘visa to obtain a residence permit’.
You can request this visa for many reasons, including work, scientific research or teaching, self-employment, and studying. It’ll allow you to stay in the country for four months, and to move onto the next step.
During this time, do exactly what it says on the visa, and obtain a residence permit (autorização de residência).
When applying, you’ll need to show that you have enough money to get by and a place to live, along with other requirements that are specific to your reasons for applying.
Check the Portuguese Immigration website to see what to expect when you’re applying.
If you’re successful, you’ll be given the right to reside in Portugal for a year, which can be renewed for up to five years – at which point you can apply for a permanent residence visa.
As mentioned above, there’s little to suggest that much has changed for British expats who want to move to countries outside of Europe.
And a spokesperson from Canada’s department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship told us: “Brexit has not changed the requirements for people in the UK who are interested in coming to Canada. Anyone can emigrate to Canada provided they meet the qualifications.”
UK government figures have raised the idea of deals with Australia, New Zealand, and Canada which establish freedom of movement between those countries and the UK, but this so-called CANZUK Union is just a theoretical prospect at this point.
In case anything does change, we recommend that you consult the UK government guide to living in the country which you plan to make your home, before making any move.
It might be more of a headache to move abroad after Brexit – especially to Europe – but it’s completely feasible.
The UK’s third country status means you’ll have to jump through lots of additional hoops to move to a country in the EU.
However, outside of Europe, it doesn’t seem that much has changed for prospective expats. You may be able to move more easily to some non-European countries – particularly former British colonies – at some point in the future, but not yet.
But in the end, if you’re determined enough to make your dream move happen, it is still absolutely achievable.