For UK citizens, New Year’s Day 2021 meant more than just the calendars changing. The Brexit transition period was over, and they woke up without many of the rights and freedoms to travel, live and work across the European Union that they had enjoyed for decades.
Of course, for many this has not changed their day-to-day lives. However, for the 1.2 million living in the EU – including an estimated 65,000 in Italy – as well as anyone hoping to make that move in the near future, the world was suddenly very different.
While the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU protects the rights of those who were already resident in the bloc before the end of 2020, Brits in Italy are suddenly finding that things are a little more complicated than expected.
We’ve gathered some of the key things you need to consider if you are a UK national who lives in Italy. Note that none of the below is formal advice, but you will find links to official sources for further information where relevant. See also the end of the article for some useful resources.
What are my rights?
If you’re a UK national living in Italy, your rights vary by when you arrived.
If you moved to Italy on or before 31st December 2020, your rights are protected under the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement. You can continue to live in Italy on the same terms as an EU citizen. However, there are additional steps you may need to take to ensure those rights are recognised. You may also lose those rights if you move away for an extended period of time.
If you moved to Italy on or after 1st January 2021, your rights are not protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK has left the EU and in most senses you will be treated in the same way as any other non-EU national.
This also applies if you are yet to move to Italy. A UK citizen can freely visit the Schengen area, of which Italy is a part, for up to 90 days in a rolling 180 day period. If you intend to stay longer, you will need a visa. These can be given for a number of reasons, such as work, moving to be with close family (including a British citizen who was in Italy before the end of the transition period) or study. Retirees can also apply for a visa if they can show they are able to financially support themselves. You can find out whether you could be eligible here. Any visas must be applied for before travel to Italy.
The Biometric Residence Card
This document is specifically for UK nationals and their families resident in Italy since before the end of 2020. It is also known as the WA document or as carta di soggiorno in Italian – not to be confused with the permesso di soggiorno, the residence permit granted to most non-EU citizens living in Italy. It’s a biometric card that serves as proof that the holder was resident in Italy before the end of the transition period and therefore has the same rights as an EU citizen.
Both the Italian and British governments insist that it is not a compulsory document, but merely one that serves as quick evidence of your rights. Nevertheless, there have been reports of British citizens without it having trouble with matter including property purchases, work contracts and access to healthcare. This should not be happening, but given how recent and rapid these changes were there is a lot of confusion.
To get the card, you first need an attestazione di residenza anagrafica (attestation of registered residence). This is a document issued by your comune, and shows that you had registered your residence with them before the end of the Brexit transition period.
You then need to make an appointment with the immigration office at your local questura – the police headquarters. This is done by sending an email to a PEC (certified email address) which you will find on the questura website; every questura has a dedicated email address for this purpose, all of which are listed here. Make sure to include:
- Your name
- Your date and place of birth
- Your current residence in Italy
- A copy of your identity document (passport or Italian identity card)
Some people have found that their emails bounce back if they are not also sent from a PEC. You can register for one for a small cost from providers like Aruba.it.
The questura will reply (although sometimes it takes a while!) with an appointment for you. You need to take to this appointment:
- Your identity document
- Four recent passport-sized photos
- Receipt of payment via postal order (bollettino postale) in the amount of €30.46
You will have your fingerprints taken. More details on what to bring, including how and to whom to fill the postal order, can be found on the vademecum (pamphlet) issued by the Italian government. You can also read the UK government’s guidance on how to get the card.
At time of writing, the cards themselves are not yet being issued, except for in a small number of test locations. However, once you have attended your appointment at the questura, you will be given a receipt; this should be accepted in most cases as equivalent to the card itself, and also includes details on how to track the progress of your application. Should you have any problems, contact the IOM (see below).
The Italian government has said that cards will also be issued to British citizens who have not registered their residence with the local anagrafe (the municipal residence register) provided they can show evidence that they were legally living in Italy before the end of 2020, such as an employment contract or proof of university enrolment. However, it’s important to note that in any case a new resident is supposed to register with the anagrafe within 90 days of arrival. If this time has passed, get in touch with your local questura to get your biometric card as soon as possible. You will then have to register with the anagrafe when you receive it.
If you are a British citizen legally resident in Italy, you have full access to the public healthcare system provided you can show that you or an immediate family member contributes to INPS (equivalent of National Insurance in the UK) via employment or self-employment, you are an immediate family member of an Italian citizen, you hold permanent residence (granted after five years of legal residence) or you hold a UK social security form, such as the S1 which shows an exportable pension. There are also allowances made if you have worked in Italy but become unemployed.
If you do not qualify by these routes, you may be able to pay a fee for voluntary access to healthcare. For more information, see the guidance from the UK government.
If you have not previously registered for healthcare, do so by making an appointment at your local health authority (ATS). You will need to take with you evidence of residence and your right to healthcare by one of the means listed above (for example, a payslip, evidence of issuance of a VAT code for self-employed workers, evidence of familial relationship to an Italian citizen), your codice fiscale obtained from the Agenzia delle Entrate and your ID. You will be issued with what is called a tessera sanitaria or healthcare card. This should also include TEAM information on the reverse, which serves as the equivalent of the EHIC card and will allow you to access healthcare across Europe and in the UK.
Since the start of 2021, some UK citizens have found that they are being asked for the carta di soggiorno before being granted their tessera sanitaria. This is incorrect. Should you have problems, contact the IOM on the details below.
Since the end of the transition period, a UK driving licence is no longer valid for residents in Italy, although it can still be used for short visits. If you take up residence in the country, you will have a year in which it is legal to use a UK licence, after which time you will need an Italian one.
The problem is that the two governments have yet to come to an agreement to allow the straightforward conversion of a UK licence into an Italian licence or vice versa, meaning that a Brit who has lived in Italy for more than a year and does not yet have an Italian licence needs to take a driving test. This applies regardless of whether they moved to Italy before or after the end of the transition period.
Fortunately, the British ambassador to Italy has recently said that an agreement is being worked on and it is hoped that there will be news on this soon.
- The UK government’s Living in Italy guide provides information and links about rights and requirements for its citizens in the bel paese. Should you need to contact the British embassy, you can do so via its online contact form.
- The Italian Consulates General in London and Edinburgh are responsible for issuing visas to UK nationals who wish to spend an extended period of time in Italy. They also offer a range of other useful information.
- The International Organization for Migration has a dedicated support fund for UK nationals trying to secure their rights in Italy. While it is primarily aimed at those who are particularly at risk or facing specific challenges, its support is available to all. With consent, it is able to liaise with comuni and the British embassy on your behalf, and it’s an invaluable resource if you come across hurdles in this process.
British in Italy is a group of volunteers and a part of a Europe-wide network supporting British citizens living in the EU. Their website has accessible information about rights and requirements, and they have a useful Facebook community.