The freedom of movement is one of the foundations of the European Union, and many EU citizens and UK nationals moved abroad to live, work or study, back when the UK was a Member State of the EU.
Protecting those who moved abroad has been the first priority from the beginning of the negotiations.
- More than 5 million EU citizens were granted a new residence status in the UK (most come from Poland, Romania, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Bulgaria).
- EU Member States currently estimate that there are more than 1,060,000 UK nationals residing in the EU (most in Spain, France, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands).
What’s in the Withdrawal Agreement?
The Withdrawal Agreement guarantees these citizens and their family members broadly the same rights they had before the UK withdrew from the EU: they can continue to live, study, work and travel freely between the UK and the EU.
The same applies to any EU citizen who moved to the UK or UK nationals who moved to an EU Member State during the transition period.
Who is protected by the Withdrawal Agreement?
The Withdrawal Agreement protects those EU citizens lawfully residing in the United Kingdom, and UK nationals lawfully residing in one of the 27 EU Member States at the end of the transition period.
It also protects the family members that are granted rights under EU law (such as current spouses and registered partners, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren and a person in an existing durable relationship) to join their family member in the future.
Children will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, wherever they are born, before or after the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, or whether they are born inside or outside the host state where the EU citizen or the UK national resides.
The only exception concerns children born after the United Kingdom's withdrawal and for which a parent not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement has sole custody under the applicable family law.
The Withdrawal Agreement protects all those EU citizens who, at the end of the transition period, were in a situation involving both the United Kingdom and a Member State at a time. Their family members and their survivors are also protected.
The substantive conditions of residence are, and will remain, the same as those under current EU law on free movement.
In essence, EU citizens and UK nationals meet these conditions if they:
- are workers or self-employed;
- have sufficient resources and sickness insurance;
- are family members of another person who meets these conditions;
- have already acquired the right of permanent residence and are therefore no longer subject to any conditions.
The Withdrawal Agreement does not require physical presence in the host state at the end of the transition period – temporary absences that do not affect the right of residence and longer absences that do not affect the right of permanent residence are accepted.
Those protected by the Withdrawal Agreement who have not yet acquired permanent residence rights – if they have not lived in the host state for at least five years – will be fully protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, and will be able to continue residing in the host state and acquire permanent residence rights in the host state after accumulating five years of residence.
EU citizens and UK nationals who arrived in the host state before 1 January 2021 enjoy the same rights and obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement as those who arrived in the host state before 1 February 2020.
UK nationals’ residence rights in the EU27
To benefit from these rights, citizens may need to apply for a new residence status, according to each country’s decision to opt for a so-called constitutive or declaratory system.
Choices each countries made for their residence system, and deadlines by when UK nationals and their family members resident in countries with constitutive system must apply for a new residence status, can be found in the file below, together with key national websites.
Please note that the information provided in the file above does not reflect the official opinion of the Commission. Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies entirely with the relevant national authorities of the Member States who are the first contact point for UK nationals. Please also note that the situation keeps evolving, so check regularly for the latest information and news at the listed national websites. The Commission will continue to update the information on this webpage with the latest input from the EU27 Member States.
On 12 May 2020, the European Commission adopted a Guidance Note, which will be instrumental for national authorities in the proper implementation of the Citizens’ Rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The documents below describe the rights and entitlements of UK nationals in their EU host State under the Withdrawal Agreement. They do not seek to describe the rights and entitlements of UK nationals under domestic rules adopted by the EU host State to enact the Withdrawal Agreement.
A dedicated webpage provides information about national residence schemes, assistance measures and key websites for each EU country.
The EU Settlement Scheme in the United Kingdom
The document below describes the rights and entitlements EU citizens have in the UK under the Withdrawal Agreement and does not seek to describe the rights and entitlements EU citizens have under UK domestic rules adopted to enact the Withdrawal Agreement.
Implementation and monitoring: citizens' rights
The text of the Withdrawal Agreement on citizens' rights can be relied upon directly by EU citizens in British courts and by UK nationals in the courts of the EU Member States. Any national law provisions that are not consistent with the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement will have to be disapplied.
UK courts will be able to ask preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the EU on the interpretation of the citizens' part of the Withdrawal Agreement for a period of eight years starting on 31 December 2020. For questions related to the application for the UK settled status, that eight-year period started running on 30 March 2019.
The implementation and application of citizens' rights in the EU is monitored by the Commission acting in conformity with the Union Treaties.
UK nationals who believe that the national authorities of an EU country have not respected the rights under the Withdrawal Agreement can seek remedy at national or EU level.
The document below describes the solution that UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement can use to defend their rights.
The UK’s Independent Monitoring Authority is granted equivalent powers to those of the European Commission to:
- receive and investigate complaints from Union citizens and their family members;
- conduct inquiries on its own initiative; and
- bring legal action before UK courts on alleged breaches by the administrative authorities of the United Kingdom of their obligations under the citizens' rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Authority and the European Commission inform each other annually through the Joint Committee established by the Withdrawal Agreement of the measures taken to implement and enforce the citizens' rights under the Agreement. Such information should include in particular the number and nature of complaints treated and any follow up on legal action taken.
Joint reports on the implementation of residence rights
The joint reports provide an overview of implementation progress in relation to new residence status and issuance of residence documents evidencing such status for EU citizens in the United Kingdom and for United Kingdom nationals in EU Member States.
- Travel documents required from EU citizens when travelling to the UK from 1 October 2021
- Residence rights for UK nationals in the EU, and EU nationals in the UK
- European Parliament resolution on implementing and monitoring the provisions on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement
Last update: 20 April 2021