20 December 2018 – Great newS
This morning, representatives of the Italian government gave all British nationals resident in Italy the best possible Xmas present. Even if the UK crashes out of Europe with a No Deal Brexit, we will not be illegal from 30th March 2019. High level officials from the Ministero degli Affari Esteri this morning met with and confirmed to the committee of British in Italy that all British nationals legally resident in Italy on 29th March 2019, will continue to be legally resident with their existing rights to work
This is a cause for real celebration amongst the British community who have faced two years of uncertainty. Our worst fears are over. This makes Italy the first EU27 country to publicly declare their plans for citizens’ rights post-Brexit, and to provide the reassurance we have been awaiting so long.
Whilst many of our existing EU rights were provided for under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), until now we were facing the prospect of becoming ‘irregolari’ with no rights to reside, to employment, to healthcare, to social security or family reunion should there be No Deal, the so-called ‘Hard Brexit’. The EU Commission’s ‘paper’ on Contingency Planning issued yesterday 19.12.2018, confirmed that without legislative intervention at individual state level, we would have become ‘illegal’ or ‘irregolari’ on 29th March 2019.
The officials confirmed that contingency planning by the Italian government for a No Deal Brexit is well advanced. They are preparing legislation that will be effective by 29th March 2019 to protect the rights of all those British nationals legally resident in Italy on that date. To get this protection it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that you have obtained, or at the very least applied for, residenza at the anagrafe office of the comune where you live or an attestazione di soggiorno permanente if you have had residenza for 5 years or more. If you are applying now, make sure that you get a receipt if you apply in person or, if you are doing so by post do so by raccomandata con ricevuta di ritorno – PEC if you are doing so by email. (Not all of these methods may be possible in all areas.)
If you do register you will be liable for Italian taxes but that is the price you pay for having the right of residence. If you decide not to register you will not have these rights.
After March 29th there will be a two stage process.
This stage will be a sort of “transition” period beginning at midnight on March 29th 2019. During this period the EU rights of British nationals legally resident in Italy on March 29th will continue automatically by law. You do not need to make any application before March 29th, as the rights you get in this stage are automatic. The purpose of the transition period is to give us all time to apply for the new status which will kick in at stage 2. The length of the transition period is yet to be decided but it is most unlikely to last beyond 2019.
We asked whether, in the event that our legal status was challenged during this ‘transition’ period , there would be some form of document or piece of paper available to show any official, policeman, employer, healthcare worker etc. that we continued to enjoy our legal rights. They thought not, but there will be information available on government websites confirming it.
This is simply the period following the transition period. By that time you will have to have your new status to continue to be legally resident.
THE NEW STATUS
Our new status is that of ‘third country nationals’ (TCN). The details of the new long term TCN status are still being worked out at both EU level and at Italian government level. However, they confirmed to us that our status as TCNs will, in so far as is possible, replicate the rights that we would have had under the WA including the right to reside, to employment, to access healthcare and education, as well as rights to social security, pensions and to family reunion.
It was confirmed, to the delight of the British in Italy representatives at the meeting, that the Italian government’s approach to TCN status will be to apply to all British residents the new TCN status in accordance with the existing EU Directive 2003/109 with very important difference. It will apply to all who are legally resident, whether for 1 year or 20, and that we will not be required to provide evidence of private health insurance or specified income levels (all requirements under the existing EU Directive on TCN applications for long term residence).
To get the new status you will have to apply to your Questura, providing evidence of your residenza or soggiorno permanente.
The government will issue an official communique shortly confirming our rights and status in a No Deal situation.
AN ‘ORDERLY BREXIT’ – OUR RIGHTS UNDER THE WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT
Of course it is just possible that Westminster will ultimately approve Theresa May’s WA, in which case our rights will be governed by that, and what is said above about No Deal will not apply.
However, the WA gives EU27 countries a choice between two different approaches to re-registration of British nationals – one that would require a more complex process of under which you have to apply for your rights and produce evidence that you satisfy various legal requirements, and the other, a simple ‘declaratory’ procedure under Article 18.4 WA. It was confirmed to us that Italy will adopt the declaratory Article 18.4 approach, which is a great relief if the WA is in fact ratified.
If the Withdrawal Agreement does apply, then the main differences are that:
- anyone legally resident in Italy up to the end of the WA transition period (31.12.2020) is covered by it;
- your EU rights continue throughout the WA transition period;
- there will be a new standard EU-wide document to evidence your new status, and you can apply for that at any time up to 6 months after the end of the WA transition period (it might be possible to apply later, but this is not yet clear).
The other issue we discussed was applications by British nationals for cittadinanza italiana.
British in Italy were concerned to know what period of residence would be required for British nationals who apply for cittadinanza based on residence before March 30th 2019 but whose applications have not been decided by that time. The reason for the concern is that the period of residence required for EU citizens is 4 years, whereas it is 10 years for extra-comunitari. The answer we received was clear. Any British national applying for cittadinanza based on residence before March 30th will only have to have been resident for 4 years, even if their application is not decided until much later. The possibility of greater delays in processing applications has been increased by the Decreto di Sicurezza, which gives Italy 4 years, rather than the old 2, for processing, and specifically provides that this new time limit applies to existing applications.
We have asked about the new language test introduced by the Decreto di Sicurezza, and particularly whether it applies to existing applications and whether there will be exemptions for the young and for those who are incapable of passing one through medically-certified infirmity. We will let you have further information on this as soon as it is available.
Our happy mood after the meeting was reflected in our celebrations with a bottle of Prosecco