Guidance

Living in the EU: prepare for Brexit

This page provides information about Brexit for British people who are living in the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries.

Stay up to date

The UK will leave the EU on 31 October. This page tells you how to prepare for Brexit. It will be updated if anything changes, including if a deal is agreed. Country-specific information will be added to the living in country guides for UK nationals moving or living abroad. Sign up for email alerts on these guides to get the latest information.

UK nationals in the EU

There will be no change to your rights and status as a UK national living in the EU until after Brexit. You can still work, access healthcare and collect your pension as you do now.

After Brexit, your rights will change. Protecting the rights of UK nationals in the EU is a priority for the government, but we cannot fully protect the rights of UK nationals unilaterally. The government welcomes what other EU countries have done so far. We continue to encourage them to do as much as they can to protect UK nationals living in the EU, and to communicate details of their plans as soon as possible.

It remains the government’s preference to leave with a deal. The agreement on citizens’ rights would protect the rights of UK nationals in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

The UK has committed to protect the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK in any Brexit scenario.

Living in the EU

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, your rights and how you access services may change.

Check the living in guide for your EU country for more information, including actions you need to take to secure your rights.

All EU countries have drafted or enacted legislation on the residence rights of UK nationals if there’s a no-deal Brexit. The European Commission has also published a No Deal Contingency Action Plan which calls on EU countries to take a generous approach to UK nationals who are already resident on exit day. This includes a call for member states to take measures to protect all UK nationals legally residing in the EU on exit day and provide a route to protect their residence status. The government will continue to work with the EU and all member states to ensure UK nationals are given the certainty they need.

If there is a deal, you will be able to live and work in the EU broadly as you do now. If you currently live in the EU and want to move to a different EU country, you will also be able to continue to do so until the end of any implementation period. With an agreement on citizens’ rights, you and your family would:

  • continue to have broadly the same access to healthcare, pensions and other benefits as you currently do
  • be able to leave your EU country of residence for up to 5 years without losing your right to return, if you have acquired the right to reside there permanently in line with any such agreement

Staying in an EU country with an EU family member

EU citizens with non-EU family members, including UK nationals once the UK has left the EU, are usually entitled to register them in their EU country of nationality, as long as the relevant criteria are met. For further details see the EU guidance on registering EU family members in another EU country.

Third country family members joining you in an EU country

EU countries determine their own immigration policies. If there’s no deal, consult your host country’s immigration authorities on family reunion. Check the living in guide for your EU country.

Travelling in the EU

You should check you have enough time left on your passport to travel.

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, you must have at least 6 months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland). If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed.

Find out more about passport rules for travel to Europe after Brexit.

Travelling to the UK

You can travel to the UK at any time. This will not change after Brexit.

If there is a deal, you and your family members who are not UK nationals (both EU citizens and in some cases non-EU citizens) will be able to travel to the UK in the same way as now until 31 December 2020. After that date, the UK’s family Immigration Rules will apply where a family member is not a UK national or an Irish citizen. We will also set out initial proposals for our future immigration arrangements for EU citizens in due course.

Returning to the UK

Your right to enter and return to live and work in the UK is not affected by Brexit. You will be able to continue working in the UK after Brexit.

Bringing your close family members back to the UK depends on when the relationship started:

  • relationships that begin before Brexit: your spouse or partner and other existing close family members (such as parents, grandparents and children) will be able to join you in the UK and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme until March 2022. After 29 March 2022, they will have to apply through UK family Immigration Rules.
  • relationships that begin after Brexit: your spouse or partner and other dependent relatives (such as parents, grandparents and children) will be able to join you in the UK and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme until 31 December 2020. From 2021 they will have to apply through UK family Immigration Rules.

Your children will continue to have the right to British citizenship, wherever they were born. This will apply when the UK leaves the EU, whether or not there is a deal.

Healthcare access

If there is a deal, your current rights on access to healthcare will remain the same during any implementation period. As long as you are covered by the deal, your equal treatment rights to healthcare in your EU country of residence will continue to be protected after the end of the implementation period. Your equal treatment rights would be on the same basis as a comparable national of your EU country of residence.

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, you should be ready for possible changes to how you access healthcare.

The government aims to reach reciprocal healthcare arrangements either across all EU countries or with each country individually.

The government has made an offer to all EU countries to continue the current reciprocal healthcare arrangements if there’s a no-deal Brexit until 31 December 2020. This would mean the government continuing to pay for healthcare costs for current or former UK residents who are living in or visiting EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

Find out more about healthcare in the EU.

If you return to live in the UK and meet the ordinary residence test, you will be able to use NHS services. If you are living in an EU country on exit day and have an S1 form or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by the UK, you may use NHS services in England, Scotland and Wales without charge when visiting the UK. This will not change after Brexit.

Travel insurance

When you visit another European country, you should continue to buy travel insurance to ensure you can travel safely. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the travel insurance policy, and that you are content with the level of healthcare and travel disruption cover it provides. Read guidance on what your travel insurance policy should cover.

Find out more about healthcare while visiting the EU if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

If you already have travel insurance to cover your trip, your insurer should tell you if there will be any changes to the way your policy is serviced after Brexit. If you have questions about what your travel insurance policy covers, contact your insurer.

State Pension and benefits

You will continue to receive benefits you are already receiving from the UK after Brexit, such as:

  • State Pensions
  • child benefit
  • disability benefit

Find guidance on benefits and pensions if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

If there is a deal, the current framework of EU rules and regulations will continue to apply during any implementation period. If you continue to live in an EU country at the end of the implementation period, if you are still covered by the deal, you will keep the right to export an uprated UK State Pension.

Personal pensions and annuities

If you have a personal pension or annuity with a UK-based provider, your provider should have made plans to make sure you can still get payments even if there’s a no-deal Brexit. Your provider should contact you if they need to make any changes to your personal pension or annuity, or the way they provide it. If you have any concerns, or if you are unsure whether you have an occupational pension or personal pension, contact your provider.

Find more information on financial services for UK nationals living in the EU or EEA.

Occupational pensions

There is nothing in UK pensions legislation which prevents occupational pension schemes from making pension payments overseas. This should not change as a result of Brexit. If your pension is paid into a UK bank account, your bank should contact you if they need to make any changes to your product or the way they provide it as a result of Brexit. If you are unsure whether you have an occupational pension or personal pension, contact your provider to check.

Continuing education in the EU

If there is a deal, you will continue to be able to access education as you do now until the end of any implementation period. Students in UK-based organisations will be able to continue to participate in Erasmus+ exchanges and placements after Brexit until the end of the current Erasmus+ programme in December 2020.

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, continuing education in the EU and any associated fees will depend on the immigration requirements of your host country and/or the requirements of the educational institution you are studying at. Contact your institution or host country government for advice.

If you have made arrangements to enrol on courses with universities in EU countries, read further guidance for UK nationals studying in the EU.

The government Erasmus+ and ESC underwrite guarantee means funding is available to UK organisations to support their students to continue their Erasmus+ placement in their host EU country.

Recognising professional qualifications

The European Commission has stated that recognition decisions made on qualifications obtained in the UK before Brexit are not affected and has published guidance confirming this.

The Commission has advised people with qualifications obtained in the UK before Brexit to contact the relevant national authorities to assess whether they should obtain recognition in an EU country before the day the UK leaves the EU.

UK-employed and self-employed workers in the EU

If you are employed or self-employed in the EU and you have a UK-issued A1/E101 form, you will remain subject to UK legislation for the duration of the period shown on the form.

After Brexit, or after any implementation period ends, you will need to contact the relevant EU, EEA or Swiss authority to confirm whether you need to start paying social security contributions in that country from that date, as well as National Insurance contributions in the UK.

If you are a UK or Irish national working in Ireland, your position will not change after Brexit. You are covered under the UK-Irelandsocial security international agreement signed in February 2019 and you won’t need to do anything differently.

Banking, insurance and other financial services

Many UK providers are planning to continue providing services to EU and EEA residents, whether or not there is a deal. Your provider should contact you if they need to make any changes to your product or the way they provide it. If you have any concerns about whether you might be affected, contact your provider.

Find more information on financial services for UK nationals living in the EU or EEA.

Inheritance tax and wills

Any valid will made under UK law before Brexit, including wills that apply to property situated in the EU, will remain valid under UK law. However the effect of the will in relation to property abroad continues to be subject to the law of the country in which the property is situated.

Brexit will not change any existing UK rules for inheritance tax. Inheritance tax is levied on transfers of worldwide assets by people domiciled in the UK, and transfers of UK assets by non-domiciled people.

Tax payments

Brexit will not change existing double taxation arrangements. These ensure that everyone (not just British citizens) living in a country that has a treaty with the UK will not pay tax in 2 countries on the same income or gain, and determines which country has primary taxing rights. The UK has double taxation agreements with all EU countries which will continue to apply after Brexit.

Driving licences

If there is a deal, driving licence rules will stay the same during any implementation period.

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, you should exchange your UK driving licence for a licence issued by the EU country where you live, before the UK leaves the EU.

If you haven’t exchanged your UK licence after Brexit, you will be subject to the domestic laws of that country and how they treat non-EU licence holders, which could mean retaking your driving test. Many EU countries only recognise third country licences for up to 6 months. EU-issued driving licences will continue to be recognised in the UK after Brexit.

Find more guidance on driving licences if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

Vehicle insurance

If you drive a UK-registered and insured vehicle, all UK motor insurance providers will continue to provide third party motor insurance cover for travel to EU or EEA countries. You will not need to purchase additional third party motor insurance policy cover if driving in these countries with a UK-registered vehicle.

If there’s a no deal Brexit, and the European Commission does not issue a decision that allows the UK to remain part of the Green Card-free circulation area, drivers of UK registered vehicles will need to carry a Green Card when driving in the EU, EEA and all other countries that recognise Green Cards. If you are driving a vehicle that is registered and insured in your host country, you will not be affected.

Find more information on vehicle insurance if there’s no Brexit deal.

Travelling with pets, horses or plants to and from the UK

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, you will still be able to bring pets to and from the UK but the rules will change. Find out about pet travel to Europe after Brexit.

If you plan to travel with your pet using a UK-issued pet passport, speak to your vet. They’ll help you understand the effect of Brexit and ensure you comply with EU Pet Travel Regulations.

If you have a pet passport issued by an EU country, you can use it to bring your pet to the UK. You can also use it to return to the EU, as long as your pet has had a successful rabies antibody blood test. You must make sure the blood sample is taken at least 30 days after the date of rabies vaccination.

If the blood sample is taken in the UK, you must wait 3 months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you travel back to the EU. You do not have to wait the 3 months if your pet had a successful blood test before leaving the EU.

To move your horse from the UK to an EU country, you will need to make sure it has had any additional health checks and has the correct documentation for travel. Consult a vet at least 6 weeks before you plan to move your horse. Read about taking your horse to an EU country.

Trading or moving endangered species listed under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) will change if there’s a no deal Brexit. Read about trading and moving endangered animals, plants, and their products.

Owning or renting property in the EU

Some EU countries have laws which govern property ownership and differentiate between their own citizens, EU citizens and non-EU citizens. If there’s no deal, check with local authorities about how these might apply to you.

Voting in elections whilst living overseas

You are entitled to register to vote in UK Parliamentary elections as overseas voters for up to 15 years after you were last registered to vote in the UK.

For voting in local election in EU countries, the UK is seeking bilateral arrangements with individual EU countries. These would preserve reciprocal voting rights for both UK nationals living in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

After Brexit, UK nationals will no longer be eligible to vote in European Parliament elections.

Returning to the UK

Your right to enter and return to work in the UK is not affected by Brexit. You will be able to continue working in the UK.

UK nationals in prison in an EU country

The impact on UK nationals in prison will depend on the approach each EU country takes. A range of mechanisms exist which enable offenders to be returned to their home countries. If there’s a no-deal Brexit, the EU Prisoner Transfer Framework Decision will cease to apply. If that happens, we will use the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and its Additional Protocol after Brexit.

Find further information about transferring to a UK prison after Brexit.

UK nationals in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland

EEA and EFTA states

The government has reached an agreement with the European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) states to protect citizens’ rights whether or not there is a Brexit deal.

For further information read the:

Switzerland

The government has reached an agreement with Switzerland to protect citizens’ rights whether or not there is a Brexit deal. This protects the rights of UK nationals in Switzerland and Swiss citizens in the UK, ensuring that you can continue to live your lives broadly as you do now.

For further information read the:

Bringing your family to the UK

If you live in the EEA or Switzerland, bringing your close family members back to the UK depends on when the relationship started:

  • relationships that begin before Brexit: your spouse or partner and other existing close family members (such as parents, grandparents and children) will be able to join you in the UK and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme until March 2022. After 29 March 2022, they will have to apply through UK family Immigration Rules
  • relationships that begin after Brexit: your spouse or partner and other dependent relatives (such as parents, grandparents and children) will be able to join you in the UK and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme until 31 December 2020. From 2021 they will have to apply through UK family Immigration Rules

Your children will continue to have the right to British citizenship, wherever they were born. This will apply whether or not there is a Brexit deal.

Access to higher education, 19+ further education and apprenticeship funding in the UK

You will continue to be eligible for home fee status and student support from Student Finance England for a 7-year transition period if either:

  • you previously lived in England, and now live in the EEA or Switzerland and wish to study in England, or
  • you have not previously been resident in the UK, but have lived in the EEA or Switzerland for 3 years

You will also be eligible to apply for further education 19+ courses in England, and apprenticeships, for that period.

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, the 7-year transition period will start on exit day. If there is a deal, the 7-year transition period will start at the end of any implementation period.

During the transition period you will still be eligible to apply for student support and further education 19+ funding in England, or apply for apprenticeships, as soon as you return to the UK.

Professional qualifications

The UK-Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement and the EEA EFTA No Deal Citizens’ Rights Agreement include specific arrangements for recognising professional qualifications held by Swiss and EEA EFTA nationals in the UK and UK nationals in Switzerland and the EEA EFTA states.

UK nationals in Ireland

The rights enjoyed by UK and Irish nationals in the Common Travel Area will not be affected by Brexit. View the Common Travel Area guidance.

Read the Living in Ireland guide.

Published 11 July 2016
Last updated 8 August 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated the 'UK nationals in the EU after Brexit' section
  2. Updated the Common Travel Area guidance link.
  3. EU Exit update - update to UK nationals in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway section
  4. EU exit update: link to information on preparations for UK nationals in the event of a no deal scenario added.
  5. EU Exit update: Updated UK nationals in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway section following EEA EFTA Separation Agreement and UK nationals in Switzerland section following Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement.
  6. Updated preparations for no deal section following the publication of citizens' rights policy paper
  7. Updated citizens' rights section to reflect the 25 November Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration
  8. updated following the Prime Minister’s 15 November statement to Parliament on the Draft Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU
  9. EU Exit update: Link to technical notices
  10. Additional information under section: What this could mean for you
  11. update to agreement information: further agreement of time-limited implementation period that will start on 30 March 2019 - 31 December 2020.
  12. updates and links to various segments, with additional segments
  13. additional link to Commission’s Q&A on citizens’ rights
  14. New section on UK nationals in Ireland added
  15. addition of the Prime Minister facebook note to UK nationals living in Europe with details of the agreement reached with the Commission in the first phase of the negotiations.
  16. New section on UK nationals living in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states section added.
  17. Update to agreement on rights for UK nationals and UK nationals who move to the EU after 29 March 2019
  18. update to 3rd paragraph text
  19. Reference to fifth round of negotiations
  20. Added links David Davis' closing remarks at the end of the fourth round of EU exit negotiations in Brussels, and the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence.
  21. Link to information on the latest negotiations. Link to sign up for email alerts.
  22. Add in link to Article 50 and negotiations with the EU page
  23. Updated on 26 June 2017 to reflect UK Government's offer on EU Citizens' Rights
  24. Updated information following the triggering of Article 50
  25. Updates to first and second paragraphs to reflect current situation
  26. Change to intro
  27. Amendment to introduction text and link added to Department for Exiting the EU
  28. First published.