The British in Italy “ No Deal Checklist”

With the British government admitting that it is making contingency plans for a ‘no deal Brexit’, including proposals to stock pile food and medicines, we think it is sensible for all Brits living in Italy to consider some personal preparations for the no deal scenario in order to put yourself in the best possible situation should the worst happen. Here are some ideas that should not have any negative impact in the event of a deal, but should the worst case scenario happen, could help you deal with the fall-out.

 

  1. Make sure that you’re legally resident in Italy under current rules.

That means you should:

Apply for residenza and a Carta d’Identità under the current rules (register at the Anagrafe office of your local comune – you will need evidence of a specified minimum level of financial income/support (you need to ask your comune what is acceptable evidence; some accept a letter from your Italian bank manager stating that you have the specified amount or more;), and if not working, private health insurance or an S1 (which you obtain from the UK if a pensioner). This will evidence your legal residence in Italy and give you proof that you were legally resident on 29 March 2019. This may be like gold dust in the case of a no deal exit, and if there is a Withdrawal Agreement it will help you benefit from a streamlined process to receive a new card if necessary under post-Brexit rules.

Years of living in Italy do not necessarily count – only legal residence. So if you have been living ‘under the radar’ so-to-speak, try to rectify the situation in advance of 29th March 2019.’

Apply for an ‘attestazione di soggiorno permanente per cittadini europei (‘permanent residence’) under existing EU provisions if you have been legally resident for at least 5 years. It is the best evidence that most of us can have of our long standing residence in Italy. This is not the same as a Permesso di soggiorno which is only available to third country nationals – which British citizens are not at the time of writing (November 2018).

Make sure that you’ve submitted tax returns in Italy. As a resident, (whether in the first 5 years or afterwards with soggiorno permanente, you are required to submit tax returns and pay tax in Italy even if all your income comes from the UK and/or all your assets are situated in the UK).

Make sure that you either have private health insurance (obligatory for the first 5 years of residence unless you have an S1 from the UK or are working), or that you are registered in the Italian health system (eg. you already have a soggiorno permanente under existing EU provisions).

 

  1. Create, and keep up to date, a dossier as if you’re applying for residenza or soggiorno permanente or cittadinanza italiana. In particular:

Collate copies of as many of your tax returns as you can get – tax returns (Modello Unico), the F24’s (proof of payment) and proof of receipt. The more recent ones you can download and print out from within your account at Fisconline, the Agenzia dell’ Entrate website for tax returns, payments etc. You may need them to prove the length of your legal residence, and they will be needed in any event if you are applying for citizenship.

Put together a file of utility bills for at least 10 years if you can. This will prove your continued residence.

If your name is not on the bills (bollette di gas, acqua, elettricità etc)) for your household, or on any utility bills, get it added now. For women in particular: make sure that the name on bills, bank statements, pension statements, payslips etc matches the name on your passport if possible.

Put together a file of bank statements, wage slips and/or pension statements for the last 5 years if you’ve lived here that long. Longer is even better – 10 years is best. You may need these to prove the stability and sufficiency of your resources.

 

  1. Check your passport

Make sure your passport will be valid for several months after 29 March 2019. If not, consider renewing it early.

 

  1. Make sure that you’re in Italy on 29 and 30 March 2019

This is probably not the best time to make a family visit to the UK! Transport could be chaotic, with no agreements on air or other travel between the UK and EU.

If you can’t be in Italy, try to be somewhere in the Schengen zone.

Be aware that at least initially, if not longer, there may be difficulties crossing any Schengen or other border with a British passport! There is a possibility that you could be refused entry back into Italy unless you have a visa.

 

  1. Top up your medication

If you currently rely on an S1 form for access to the Italian health service and/or you need regular medication, think about making sure you have a good supply of it on 29 March 2019.

If the worst happens and the reciprocal health care system stops on that date it might take several weeks to get an alternative system up and running and there may be short term chaos.  Making sure that you have the permitted 3 months of long-term medication would mean that you’d avoid having to pay full whack for your meds or being without a family doctor while the situation was resolved.

 

  1. Check your driving licence

If you’re still using a UK driving licence, apply for an Italian licence now. It’s relatively straightforward and for most people, it can be exchanged (with some fees and a medical) without having to take a full Italian driving test (theory and practical). It’s possible that UK licences will not be valid in the EU in the case of a no deal Brexit.

Consider applying for an International Driving Permit if you regularly drive in the UK

 

  1. Think about moving money

If you have bank accounts, savings or investments in the UK, consider moving them to Italy or some other EU jurisdiction now. Sterling may drop suddenly in the case of a no deal exit; there may also be temporary problems moving money in and out of the EU.

 

  1. Try to have a financial backstop

If at all possible, try and make sure you have access to enough cash to see you through two or three months, especially if your income comes from the UK and is transferred monthly.

 

  1. Consider your personal pension

If you have a personal pension (not state or public service/occupational pension) and have not yet retired, think seriously about cashing it in if you’re old enough, or moving it. There may be issues with passporting rights after Brexit that could cause problems with insurers making payments to those living outside the UK.

 

  1. Look at ways you could maximise your income and minimise your expenses

This applies particularly if the bulk of your income is in sterling, which may take a serious hit after a no deal exit. Can you survive if sterling hits parity? Goes below parity? What’s your bottom line? What can you do to turn your income into euro income?

Create a personal financial contingency plan. Look at ways you can cut your spending temporarily, and at ways you could create additional income.

Get any potentially expensive dental or optical work done now.

 

  1. If you have a business that relies on attracting people from the UK …

Start thinking about changing your client demographic. Whatever the deal or no deal, British people may not want to travel to the EU next year and you’ll need to find new clients if you’re to survive financially. Make sure you have a website in Italian, if you haven’t already, and that you begin to advertise NOW to attract Italian and EU27 customers.

But ….

If there is a no-deal Brexit, it is uncertain as to whether you will be able to continue to run a business at all.

Even if there is a deal, you may not be able to provide services to customers in other Member States: that is still to be decided.

 

  1. Put some serious work into your Italian language

​Whether there is a deal or not, we may be required to re-apply for residenza and/or soggiorno permanente.

There is nothing in the recent Decreto Sicurezza that imposes an Italian language test for applicants for ‘attestazione di soggiorno permanente’, unlike applications for citizenship.

In any case it is a good opportunity to work on the language skills – eg local Italian classes are offered by some ‘comune’ free of charge, or take a 1 month or 3 month course at one of the Università per Stranieri in Perugia or Siena (good fun – and certainly Perugia is on the MIUR list of recognized  institutions so good for the compulsory language test for citizenship applicants)!

 

  1. Think about, or rethink about, applying for Italian citizenship

For many people, their British identity and nationality is important to them and the idea of taking out Italian citizenship has been regarded as ‘only as a last resort’. For some of us a no deal Brexit might be that ‘last resort’. Italian citizenship won’t guarantee all the rights you currently hold as an EU citizen (mutual recognition of professional qualifications, for example) but it will guarantee you the right to reside and to work – and as an EU citizen you’d continue to benefit from full free movement rights.

The recent Decreto Sicurezza, 5 Oct.2018, has added an Italian language test at B1 level, to be taken at a recognized MIUR site, for any application for Italian Citizenship. It is not known whether this requirement will be applied retrospectively to any application already made but not yet concluded.

It you are thinking of applying for Italian citizenship, try to ensure your application is lodged before 29 March 2019. The new Decreto Sicurezza provides that the Italian authorities may take up to 4 years to process citizenship applications (an increase from the previous 2 years). And this period applies retrospectively to any applications already made but not yet finalized. It is important to remember that whilst the authorities have up to 4 years by law they may in fact take very much longer. Contrary to popular belief, for citizenship applications based on residence, there is no automatic right to citizenship if after 4 years the authorities have not concluded the process. There was such a right for applications made on the grounds of marriage to an Italian, but the recent Decreto Sicurezza removed that provision too. There is no guarantee that applications in progress will continue to be processed after 29 March 2019 applying EU rights to the applicant. For example, we do not know whether existing but not concluded applications or those made in the future will require 10 years or some other period of residence as opposed to the existing 4 years.  But if you’ve already made the application, there is more chance that the existing requirements, ie those applicable to all EU citizens, will be applied than if you wait till after 29 March when all the rules may change.

Be aware that taking out Italian citizenship may affect the taxation of certain pensions and you should take good accountancy/financial advice before applying.

Italy does allow dual citizenship so you would not have to give up your British citizenship when Italian citizenship is granted.

 

  1. Marry an Italian citizen

Only joking. (Sort of). But think seriously about it, particularly if you have children.

 

14A. Get your professional qualifications recognised now

The European Commission has said that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, Brexit does not affect ‘recognition decisions’ made pre-Brexit by EU27 countries recognising UK qualifications under the general EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC). For details of which qualifications are covered see

https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/services/free-movement-professionals/qualificationsrecognition_en

So if you have a UK qualification covered by that Directive and you need to be able to use it, apply to get it recognised before March 30th 2019. It is important to remember that ‘recognition decisions’ are personal, in the sense that an individual’s ‘recognition decision’ applies to that individual only and does not signify that the qualification itself is recognized.

 

  1. Above all … don’t panic!

This is about hoping (and working) for the best, while preparing for the worst. Whatever happens you won’t be alone.