Brexit: a guide for UK citizens working in the EU after January 2021

December 1, 2020


Source: Clare Louise Jackson/Shutterstock

The UK formally left the EU on Friday 31 January 2020 and is undergoing a transition period before it is finalized.

If you are working in Europe at present and want to know if UK citizens can still work in the EU after 1st January 2021, we have a brief overview of key things you need to know.

If you are unsure about what to do next, it is highly recommended that you visit the website for advice. They have a transition checker to help you assess your priorities.


What is the essential Brexit information I need to know?

New rules for businesses and citizens will be imposed on 1st January 2021 when the transition period ends.

 If you are a EU citizen working in the UK or UK citizen working in the EU currently (i.e. before the 31st Dec 2020), you need to have applied for residency or settled status before 30th June 2021 to avoid any immigration concerns beyond June 2021.

Key Brexit terms

The Withdrawal Agreement

On 17 October 2019, a revised Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration was agreed at European Council. The agreement establishes the terms for the UK withdrawal from the EU and provides information on citizens’ rights.

You will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement if you are a UK national lawfully residing in another EU country by the end of the transition period, on 31 December 2020.

The Withdrawal Agreement secures your rights and allows you to stay in the EU country where you live after 31 January 2020. You will continue to have broadly the same entitlements to work, study and access public services and benefits as before the UK left the EU.

The transition period

The Withdrawal Agreement outlines a time-limited transition period before the changes relating to Brexit formally take place. This period ends on 1st January 2021.

During the transition period, you can move to a different EU country as you could before 30 June 2021.

What should UK citizens know about travelling and working in the EU from January 2021?


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1. Residency documentation and statusICON-MISC-DocHouseCheck-GRADIENT

If you were living in an EU country before 31st December 2020,
you may need to apply for residence status. You have until 30 June 2021 to submit your application.

The UK government country guides can provide more details about the specific application process you will need to follow.


2. Permanent residency documents

If you have the permanent right to live in a country, you will be able to exchange your residency documents for a new one, at no cost, before 30 June 2021. You may need to provide proof of identity and undertake security and criminality checks.

3. Can family members join?ICON-MISC-HouseFamily3ppl-GRADIENT

The withdrawal agreement allows for close family members to join you after the transition period ends. Close family members are outlined as

  • Spouses or registered partners
  • Dependent children or grandchildren
  • Dependent parents or grandparents

If you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, your children are also protected by the agreement, if you have custody of the children. This includes adopted children.

4. Pensions and benefits ICON-MISC-HandCoinDollarBox-GRADIENT

If you are already living in the EU, EEA, or Switzerland by 31st December 2020 you will continue to receive a UK State Pension with full annual increases.

Your UK State Pension will be uprated every year for as long as you continue to live there.

The state pension and associated uprating is also available for those who qualify to start claiming after 1st January 2021.

If you are working in an EEA state, or Switzerland, by 31st December 2020 you will be able to count future social security contributions towards the qualifying conditions for your UK State Pension.

If you are living in the EU, EEA or Switzerland by 31 December 2020, you will continue to receive any UK benefits you already receive. This will continue for as long as you live there and meet all other eligibility requirements.

If you are paid a pension or benefit by Switzerland or an EEA state, you will need to check what you need to do to continue receiving these after 31st December 2020. The UK government country guides can help you find this information.


Source: Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

5. Moving to another EU country ICON-MISC-TravelPlaneEUstars-GRADIENT

You can still move to a new country within the EU up until 31st December 2020. After that date, you will have until 30th June 2021 to apply for residence status if you wish to stay.

6. Travelling to the UKICON-MISC-TravelUK-GRADIENT

Travel to the UK will not change after 31st December 2020 and you can travel to the Untied Kingdom at any time.

7. Returning from the EU to live and work ICON-MISC-TravelLuggage-GRADIENT
in the UK

There are no changes that prohibit you from returning to the UK to live, work and access benefits and services. Your children’s rights to British citizenship also remain unchanged.

Family members will be able to join you in the UK and can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme before 29th March 2022.

Family members moving to the UK from the EU before 29th March 2022 will be able to do so without a visa.

If you plan to return to study courses and apprenticeships in the UK you will still be eligible for financial support until 31st December 2027.

8. You may need to renew your passport ICON-MISC-TravelPassport-GRADIENT

Your passport will need to be 6 months from expiring and less than 10 years old.

If you do not renew your passport, you may not be able to travel to most EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland after 1st January.


9. Check your healthcare cover

Residents will retain the same current rights to healthcare in the country in which they reside. As long as they remain covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Your UK-issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will be valid up to 31 December 2020.

You will need to ensure you have appropriate travel insurance with health cover when going abroad. If you have a pre-existing medical condition you should check it will be covered by your policy.

10. Border controlICON-MISC-TravelSecurity-GRADIENT

At border control, you may need to:

  • show a return or onward ticket.
  • show you have enough money for your stay.
  • use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing.

11. Banking and financial servicesICON-MISC-FinanceBank-GRADIENT

You will need to check with your UK bank if they are able to serve you as a customer living in an EEA country.

12. Entry requirements for business travel ICON-MISC-IDentificationCard-GRADIENT
in the EU 

Each country may have its own entry requirements or documentation. The website contains an updated list of entry requirements for each country.

If you plan to stay for more than 90 days of 180 day period to work, study or do business, you may need a visa or permit to stay.

13. Professional qualifications


If your profession is regulated by the EU single market, you will need to check your qualifications will be recognised after 1st January 2020. You will need to contact the single point of contact for the country you plan to work in.

If you are already working in an EEA country or Switzerland, you do not need to do anything if your qualification has already been officially recognised in the country you work in.

Here is a small sample of the professions that may be regulated in EU countries:

  • Chemical engineer
  • Civil engineer
  • Electrical engineer
  • Environmental consultant
  • Land surveyor
  • Machinery operator
  • Mechanical engineer
  • Medical, nursing and health professionals
  • Mining manager
  • Nuclear technician
  • Railway brakers, signallers and shunters
  • Safety advisor

14. DrivingICON-MISC-CarDriving-GRADIENT

You may need extra documents, such as an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries after 1 January 2021.

15. Pet travelICON-MISC-PetTravelDocument-GRADIENT

You will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme after 1st January 2021. A new three tier system will need to be followed and could take up to 4 months to process.

What areas will remain unchanged when the Brexit transition period ends?


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  • Rules about property ownership, rent, taxation and shared ownership are unchanged. However, if you are buying a property some EU countries have differing property acquisition laws so it is recommended you check with local authorities.
  • Wills made under UK law remain valid, including wills that apply to property in the EU.
  • UK inheritance tax rules have not changed.
  • Existing double taxation agreements that the UK has with all UK countries is unchanged.

Unsure what to do next?

It is highly recommended that you seek the latest government advice by visiting the UK government website

If you are you an Airswift contractor or client and have specific questions about your situation, you can contact your relevant service consultant.

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This post was written by: Craig Ferguson, Senior Client Services Manager - Europe & Africa