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BREXIT

Moving back to UK: Brits in France with EU partners warned of Brexit deadline

Brits living in EU countries have been warned of complicated and lengthy administrative processes if they want to move back to the UK after the latest Brexit deadline of March 29th, 2022.

Moving back to UK: Brits in France with EU partners warned of Brexit deadline
Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP

Brits who are living in France with an EU spouse or partner may have no imminent plans to move back to the UK, but new post-Brexit requirements mean that the process is already more complicated, and is set to get more difficult still.

After British media highlighted a series of stories of Brits left stranded when their EU partners could not get the necessary paperwork, campaign groups are urging UK nationals to plan ahead.

Jane Golding, chair of the campaign group British in Europe, said: “Families considering a move now need to be aware that the process is time-consuming and complex, and that non-UK family members will first need to apply for a EU Settled Status family permit from outside the UK before the end of March 2022 and only when they have that and move to the UK will they be able to apply for EU pre-settled status.”

Pre-Brexit, Brits who had moved abroad, fallen in love and got married to a European could move back to the UK with their partner with minimal paperwork, but that has changed.

Although UK nationals can move back at any time, their EU spouses or partners now face a raft of extra paperwork to be allowed to live in the UK.

March 2022 deadline

From March 29th, 2022, the EU spouses of UK nationals will be subject to the full visa process if they wish to move to the UK, which includes fulfilling qualifications around language, skills and sufficient financial resources. Those who don’t meet the criteria may not be allowed to enter, despite being married to a Brit.

Extra permits needed

But even those who move before the March deadline need more paperwork than they used to – the EU partner needs to first apply for an EU Settled Status family permit before they enter the UK, and then once in the UK apply for EU pre-settled status.

You can read full details on how the process works HERE.

This might seem like a fairly simple administrative process, but UK media has reported on many cases where the process has taken months, or was rejected for seemingly spurious reasons, leaving families divided and in limbo.

Jane Golding said: “We are worried that there are many families across the EU who do not understand the implications of stringent immigration rules now applying to UK citizens in the EU.

“Many of us have older relatives in the UK who may need our care, or we had always planned to retire to the UK to be near family.”

Children who have dual nationality through their parents should not have any problems moving countries, but those without British citizenship will also need to go through the immigration process once they reach 18.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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