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Brexit 2021 - new residence law regulations in Germany and the UK

15 January 2021
On December 31, 2020, the free movement of workers between the EU and the United Kingdom ended. This article will explain to you what companies and employees should now pay attention to.

The United Kingdom ("UK") left the European Union ("EU") on February 1, 2020 ("Brexit"). Until December 31, 2020, a transition period applied during which the previous law continued to apply unchanged. The transition period has now expired.

In the following, we would like to give you a brief overview of some changes relevant to residence law as of January 01, 2021.

I. Right of residence from 01 January 2021:

As of January 1, 2021, new residence law regulations apply in both the United Kingdom and Germany.

1. Germans in the UK:
For German nationals who already lived in the UK before December 31, 2021, little has changed, they only need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after June 30, 2021. They can be granted so-called "Pre-Settled Status" or "Settled Status", depending on the length of their previous residence. Settled status means a permanent right of residence for life, while pre-settled status means a right of residence limited to 5 years.

According to information from the British government, German nationals will not need a visa for visits and business trips of up to 180 days from January 01, 2021. It should be noted, however, that the visa-free stay only entitles the holder to engage in certain business activities (such as attending a conference or meeting). It should also be noted that entry into the United Kingdom with an identity card is only possible until September 30, 2021, after which it is only possible with a valid passport.

Anyone wishing to move their residence from Germany to the United Kingdom in the future must first apply for a visa and meet various criteria.

You can find more information here >

2. British citizens in Germany:
British nationals who were already entitled to work in Germany until January 01, 2021 have the same rights as before the Brexit. Their status has been effectively "frozen". 

This applies qua law, however, British nationals who were already residing in Germany on December 31, 2020 and wish to continue residing in Germany will need a residence document from the relevant foreigners office. In order to obtain the new residence document, British nationals must report their residence to the foreigners office responsible for their place of residence by June 30, 2021. For this purpose, they must fill out a form and provide certain proof (e.g. copy of passport, current proof of salary for employees).

British citizens in this sense are only "British Citizens", but not persons with a "British Nationality (Overseas)".

However, this does not apply to British nationals who intend to reside in Germany from January 01, 2021 onwards (e.g. for study purposes, gainful employment or family reunification). For these, the general immigration law for third-country nationals applies and they require a residence title, only for entry, as for some other privileged states (e.g. USA), no visa is required. Visas are also not required for visiting and/or business trips with a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180-day period.

British professionals and other employees may be granted facilitated access to the labour market. The Federal Employment Agency can grant approval to take up employment with a priority check regardless of the seat of the employer.

II. Practical advice for employers:

Until June 30, 2021, British nationals can be employed without a residence document and they can continue to work. Employers do not need to provide any supporting documents and do not need to keep any additional documents.

From July 1, 2021, employers should ask to see the residence document and sensibly make a note in the personnel file. 

British nationals who enter Germany after January 1, 2021, and who have neither a residence document nor any other residence title, require - like other third-country nationals - permission from the relevant foreigners office to take up employment. Without such a permit, British nationals may not be employed. Failure to do so constitutes illegal employment of foreign nationals and may result in fines and, in the worst case, a future ban on entry and residence.

We hope that this overview will give you a good insight in the new immigration law regulations. Of course, we will keep you informed about current developments on an ongoing basis. If you have any questions on the above topics, please do not hesitate to contact our colleagues in our offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Munich and Cologne by telephone or e-mail.

Further Reading