The Withdrawal Agreement: what UK nationals need to know about citizens’ rights

The Withdrawal Agreement protects the rights of UK nationals and their family members who live in EU countries.

Who it covers

If you are a UK national living in an EU country by 31 December 2020 you are covered, provided you meet one of the residence conditions that you:

  • are a worker or self-employed person in the country where you’re living
  • are a student and can show you have enough money to live on and have comprehensive sickness insurance
  • are a self-sufficient person and can show you have enough money to live on, and have comprehensive sickness insurance, or
  • already have the right of permanent residence

If you are covered, your family members living with you in an EU country by 31 December 2020 are also covered.

The Withdrawal Agreement also protects you if you live in the UK or another EU country and work in a different EU country. These are known as ‘frontier workers’.

Residence rights

You may need to register or apply for a new residence status to be able to stay. Read more specific information on living in your EU country.

If you have lived in your EU country for less than 5 years, you will be able to stay for as long as you meet one of the residence conditions. There are exceptions (eg you may have a short period of unemployment and still remain covered as a ‘worker’). You must spend at least 6 months in any 12-month period in your EU country to keep your residence rights.

After you have lived continuously in an EU country for 5 years, you will be able to obtain permanent residence. Once you have this right, you no longer need to meet the residence conditions and can only lose it if you live outside your EU country for more than 5 consecutive years.

If you have residence rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, you also have the right to be treated equally with nationals of the country where you live and cannot be discriminated against. You will have broadly the same entitlements to work, study and access benefits and services as before the UK left the EU.

Social security coordination

If you have residence rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, existing EU social security coordination rules will also apply to you. These mean that:

  • you only pay into one social security system at a time
  • your UK State Pension (if you get one, or when you start receiving it) will increase in line with rates in the UK (uprating)
  • social security contributions that you have paid in different EU countries can be used to help meet the entitlement conditions for certain benefits and state pensions
  • you can continue to be covered by reciprocal healthcare arrangements. This includes:
    • reciprocal healthcare cover if you, for example, get a UK State Pension or certain other benefits (using an ‘S1 form’)
    • planned health treatments (known as the ‘S2 route’)
    • necessary healthcare during a temporary stay (under the European Health Insurance Card scheme, known as an EHIC)

These social security coordination rules may also apply to other people, for example UK nationals who are frontier workers in an EU country.

More information

For a detailed guide on the citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement, read the citizens’ rights explainer. You can also view the text of the Withdrawal Agreement in full.

The UK has similar agreements with the EEA EFTA states (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland. You can read the:

Published 6 November 2020