Living in Europe: citizens' rights if you moved before 1 January 2021
Information for UK nationals living in the EU, EEA EFTA countries and Switzerland since before 1 January 2021, including guidance on residency and healthcare.
This guidance is for UK nationals who moved to European countries before 1 January 2021.
This information is a guide only. You should obtain definitive information from authorities in the country where you live. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is not liable for any inaccuracies in this information.
For general information about living in a European country go to the living in guide for the country you live in and sign up for email alerts for that country.
UK nationals in EU countries
Your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement
If you were lawfully resident in an EU country before 1 January 2021, your rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. You continue to have broadly the same rights to live, work, study and access benefits and services as you had before Brexit.
Residence documents and status
You and your family may need to apply for a new residence status to secure your rights if you were living in an EU country before 1 January 2021. If the country where you live does not require you to apply for a new residence status, you can still request a new residence document if you want one.
- EU residency guidance for the country you live in to find out how to secure your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement
- Living in guide for the country you live in
- EU guidance on holding multiple statuses
Your close family members can join you in the country where you are living. This applies to spouses, registered partners or durable partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents, including those of your spouse or registered partner. Your relationship with them must have begun by 31 December 2020.
If you have, or if you legally adopt, children in the future, and you have custody of them, your children will have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Passports and travel
When you travel, especially within the EU, you should carry your residence document or frontier worker permit issued under the Withdrawal Agreement, in addition to your valid passport.
You must proactively show your residence document, or other evidence of status under the Withdrawal Agreement, if you are asked to show your passport at border control. If you have applied for, but not yet received, your residence document, you should carry evidence that you have applied. This could be your certificate of application or certificate of registration. If you cannot prove that you are a resident, you may be asked additional questions at the border to enter the EU.
Your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. This will not affect your rights in the country or countries where you live or work. If a passport is stamped, the stamp is considered null and void when you can show evidence of lawful residence.
If you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, you do not need any extra months on your passport to enter or exit EU countries.
Read EU guidance for UK nationals on entering and leaving the Schengen area
You retain your rights to healthcare in the EU country you live in, as long as you remain covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. Read further guidance in the Living in guide for the country you live in.
Working in Europe
If you live in an EU or EFTA country and were regularly commuting to work in other EU or EFTA countries before 1 January 2021, read guidance for frontier workers.
Studying in the EU
You have the same rights to access education as nationals of the country where you live. This includes home fee status (the fee rate that students who live in that country are charged).
You may not be entitled to maintenance grants or loans from the host country unless you have permanent residency or are a worker in that country.
Read the studying in the EU guidance which includes information for UK nationals living in the EU before 1 January 2021.
Studying in the UK
Find out about access to higher education for UK nationals coming from EU and EFTA countries to study in:
- England: access to higher and further education
- Scotland: support for students
- Wales: education and skills
- Northern Ireland: student finance
Apprenticeships in the UK
Read about apprenticeships for UK nationals who live in EU or EFTA countries.
Pensions and benefits
- guidance on entitlement to UK benefits and pensions in the EU
- Money and Pension Service guidance on pension and retirement for more information on cross-border pensions
- State Pension guidance if you have lived in Australia, Canada or New Zealand and you are claiming or waiting to claim your UK State Pension
Buying property in the EU
If you are buying a new property, some EU countries have different property acquisition laws for EU citizens and non-EU citizens. Check with local authorities how these apply to you. Read the Living in guide for the country you live in.
Inheritance tax and wills
Wills made under UK law remain valid, subject to local laws on property and assets abroad. You can find information on English speaking lawyers abroad, which may be useful if you wish to seek legal advice.
Citizens’ rights: advice and complaints
The European Commission provides information on enforcing citizens’ rights in EU countries, and what to do if your rights are not respected.
Its assistance service provides advice on your rights in the EU country where you live and how to resolve issues with or submit a complaint about a public body regarding your rights (link may not be accessible on some web browsers). You can also bring your case to national courts and tribunals to resolve issues relating to your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
You can complain to the European Commission about a breach of EU law.
You can also contact the European Ombudsman to submit a complaint about an EU institution or body.
Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights: joint reports
Read reports setting out how the UK and EU countries are implementing residence rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Returning to live in the UK
You continue to have the right to return to the UK in future.
Your close family members can join you in the UK if your relationship with them began before 31 December 2020, by applying to the EU Settlement Scheme until 29 March 2022. After this date the UK Immigration Rules will apply.
Your children retain their rights to British citizenship.
Read guidance on returning to the UK permanently, including on tax and access to services.
Brexit does not affect UK and Irish nationals’ rights in the Common Travel Area. View the Common Travel Area guidance.
Read the Living in Ireland guide.
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland
The EEA EFTA countries
Your rights under the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement
The UK has an agreement with the European Economic Area European Free Trade Association (EEA EFTA) countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway which protect citizens’ rights.
If you were lawfully resident in Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway before 1 January 2021, you are covered by the Agreement, and your rights will be protected for as long as you remain resident. You continue to have broadly the same entitlements to work, study and access services and benefits.
For more information read: the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement and Explainer.
Your rights under the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement
The UK has an agreement with Switzerland to protect citizens’ rights.
If you were lawfully resident in Switzerland before 1 January 2021, you are covered by the Agreement, and your rights will be protected for as long as you remain resident. You continue to have broadly the same entitlements to work, study and access services and benefits.
For more information read the UK-Switzerland Citizens’ Rights Agreement and Explainer.
Last updated 30 June 2022 + show all updates
Inheritance, tax and wills section updated
Added 2 new links: 1. 'EU guidance for UK nationals on entering and leaving the Schengen area' for information about the 90/180-day rule and passport stamping for UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. 2. 'EU guidance on holding multiple immigration statuses' for information about the rights of UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement to hold multiple immigration statuses.
Guidance reviewed and updated for UK nationals living in the EU and EEA EFTA countries before 1 January 2021.
Citizens’ rights section updated including a link to the European Commission complaint form.
Update on pensions if you have also lived in Australia, Canada or New Zealand
Healthcare section updated including guidance on applying for EHIC and GHIC cards; studying in the EU section updated with information on funding eligibility for students; and citizens' rights section updated with advice on submitting complaints.
Updated as the transition period ends
Updated information on studying in the UK and new information on UK apprenticeships
New information on cross-border banking and pensions
New citizens’ rights in EU countries section added on how to get advice in the EU country where you live.
New information on using UK banks if you live in an EEA country
Updated information on financial support if you return to study in the UK before 31 December 2027