I have put together this guide for Brits who are wondering what their future options are in terms of living in the EU. I have chosen Portugal as an example because as I have personal experience of getting EU residency there.
The United Kingdom has left the building (and planet’s largest trading bloc!)
Despite having left the European Union there is still time to establish residency in the EU, but the clock is ticking. As things stand you have until 31st December 2020 to claim residency. If the UK and EU strike a trade deal before, then the situation may well change.
I have also included other ways of getting your EU passport back, including investment, ancestors and marriage!
1. Move to an EU country before 31st December 2020
What do you need to do in order to start the residency process in an EU country?
I am going to use Portugal as an example because I have been through the process there myself. In theory you will follow the same process in any EU country. I chose Portugal for a number of reasons, the main one being the climate! You are also entitled to state healthcare from day one of residency, which is not that common in the EU (Britain was another exception).
First job? Emigrate!
First off you need to physically move to the country. As highlighted above, the clock is ticking, so the sooner you can move over to your desired EU country, the better!
Once in the country and you will need to register with the authorities.
Do you really want to stay with this man?
This is the process for claiming residency in Portugal
1. Get your NIF (similar to a national insurance number) from a local tax office. All you need for this is your passport and proof of address. The address can be your existing UK address, so don’t worry if you are still looking for somewhere to live in Portugal.
2. Once you have your NIF you can register your residency. You will receive a certificate that should be valid for five years. You get this from the local town hall (Camara Municipal) where you are going to be based. For this you will need a proof of address in Portugal (this will vary from town hall to town hall), your NIF and your passport. You may need proof of funds to support yourself or a work contract.
The UK govt states that you only have to make a sworn declaration confirming you have enough funds, are self employ/employed, student or retired with a pension income. I have read many accounts of people having to show proof to go along with their declaration. It’s probably wise to go along with all the paperwork you have.
After five years you can apply for permanent residency. After another year you can gain citizenship and an EU passport.
It should be noted that you have to register your residency with the authorities within 4 months of arriving in Portugal, but you can usually do it within days of arriving although some town halls will insist you wait for three months!
Health care and social security?
Free healthcare in Portugal is based solely on your residency, so in theory you should be able to access the Portuguese NHS from when you gain the residency certificate. You should ensure you have your EHIC card to cover you before you can register with the health authority. I cannot really comment on other countries as I have not done the research, but it appears that in Spain and France you have to contribute to the social security to gain access to healthcare.
Due to the varying nature of town halls and tax offices the amount of paperwork you will need could be quite different to what you expect! Portugal is famous for it’s variable bureaucracy that can differ from one place to another.
To sum this all up…
- Move to Portugal or your desired EU country before December 31st 2020
- In the case of Portugal, go get your NIF from a local tax office
- Register for your residency certificate at your local town hall within 4 months of arriving.
- After five years claim permanent residency
- After a further year (year 6) apply for citizenship
This option is probably the most realistic way of reclaiming an EU passport but it also involves a 6 year commitment to living in that country. You will of course need to find work or have other means to support yourself. Finding work in countries like Portugal and Spain is tough enough for locals, let alone foreigners who will probably not speak the local language.
For those who can support themselves or find a way to make money, then this is a good option, but the window is closing so I would not delay.
I registered in Lisbon and only needed to show my passport, bank statement with local address and my NIF. It cost 15 Euros and I had the certificate within 20 minutes.
Time frame for getting an EU passport: 6 plus years
2. Ancestral links to gain an EU passport
This is by far the quickest and easiest method of gaining an EU passport. Ireland and Italy seem to be the most popular countries to claim citizenship based on your parents or grandparents.
More than 150,000 people living in Northern Ireland have claimed an Irish passport since Brexit.
Time frame: under six months
3. Buy your way back into the European Union
If you have a lot of cash to spare then this is going to be your easiest route to European Union citizenship. A number of EU countries have investor schemes including Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. The latter is particularly popular with the Chinese.
Portugal has a golden visa scheme, but you are looking at an investment of 500k Euros to qualify, usually invested in real estate.
Time frame: under 1 year
4. Marrying a national from an EU country
Probably not the easiest or quickest way to gain European citizenship unless you are already married to an EU national.
Taking France as an example, you can claim French citizenship if you are married to someone from France even if you have not lived there. You will be required to have been married for at least five years though.
Time frame: 5 years plus engagement etc etc!
5. Joining the French Foreign Legion
Bit of an extreme way of keeping your European passport but serving three years with the French Foreign Legion would make you eligible for a French passport. Be aware that it could also make you eligible for military service!
Time frame: 3 years
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