Ellie Allen

Thinking About Moving To The EU? These Are The New Rules For UK Citizens Following Brexit

7 min read


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The UK officially left the European Union in January 2020, and the actual transition period expired on 31 December 2020. Brexit brought with it many changes, but for anyone thinking of moving from the UK to EU member states, the biggest change post-Brexit are rules relating to the freedom of movement.

Post-Brexit, UK citizens do not have an automatic right to move to the EU to settle and work, and vice versa for EU citizens wanting to come to the UK. 2021 effectively called time on automatic free movement between the UK and the EU without having to worry about visas and residence permits. However, your dreams of moving to Europe can still become a reality, you just have to make sure you know all the rules of the country you are moving to, and have all the information necessary to apply for residency.


The end of the freedom of movement rules is one of the biggest changes relating to the movement of people in decades. From 1 January 2021, any UK citizen wanting to move to an EU member state has had to make a formal application in accordance with the rules of the country they want to move to.

If you’re looking to work in an EU member state, you’ll need to ensure your professional qualifications are recognised in the country you plan to move to, and that you understand the residency and work rules. Also, the right to ‘onward movement’ to another EU country will also have strict controls and limitations.


One big change brought about by Brexit is that Britons will only be permitted to reside in EU country for a maximum of 90 days at a time. For any period beyond this, you’ll have to apply for a residency or long-stay visa. In essence, the EU has added the UK to its list of visa-exempt countries, this means British citizens will be allowed to travel and remain in a country for up to 90 days without a visa.

It’s also worth remembering that if you are moving to the EU then you will not have the same rights to benefits and healthcare as you did when the UK was an EU member state.

Whilst there may be some additional rules and restrictions, it’s still very possible to move to the EU. The basic rule is that you can remain in an EU country for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. If you want to make a move to the EU country then you will require a visa.

Here is a country-by-country guide to moving to the EU and the different rules for each country.


If you want to move to France the first thing to do is apply for a long-stay visa which will allow you to remain in the country for longer than 90 days. If you successfully obtain a long-stay visa you’ll then have a year from your arrival date to apply for a residence permit. This can be applied for at your local prefecture.

The application is straightforward but can sometimes take time during busy periods. The information you will need to supply includes the following:

  • A scan or photograph of your passport
  • Proof that you have a French address (utility bill, lease etc)
  • Employment certificate (if employed) Evidence of health insurance (if retired)

To make a move to Italy requires a two-step process. The first step is to apply for a long-stay visa by completing the form produced by the Italian government. Once you have completed the form, you’ll have an idea about whether you are eligible to apply.

Anyone who is wanting to move to Italy for education, work, family, religious or retirement purposes can apply for a long-stay visa. The reason for your move will dictate how long you can stay in Italy, the visa length is between three months to two years depending on your reason for moving. If you’re moving for work, then your employer should help you with a work permit and work visa. If you plan to stay in Italy permanently, then within eight days of arriving in the country you will need to apply for a residence permit by attending an ‘immigration one-stop shop’ and a police station. You can book an appointment at the immigration shop online.


If you want to move to Germany, then you’ll need to apply for a residence permit within 90 days of your arrival in the country. If you are moving for work or education then you will need to show evidence of a job offer/contract or a secure place at an educational establishment.

If you plan to stay in Germany for more than 90 days, then within 14 days of your arrival in the country you should register at a local registration office. When applying for a residency permit you need to satisfy one or more of the following:

  • Have an offer of a job
  • Be married to a German citizen
  • Have acceptance in a German university or higher education institute
  • Pursuing vocational training

You can apply for a visa from the German Embassy before you travel to Germany or apply once you are there.


If you want to move to Spain, the first step would be to obtain a Tarjeta de Residencia – a temporary visa. This will enable you to stay in Spain over the 90 day limit. Before you make the move, get in touch with the Spanish Consulate in London.

Send them the following details:

  • Your full name
  • Nationality
  • Passport number
  • Preferred time and date for an appointment (they usually only offer appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays)
  • Telephone number

Although dealing with the temporary residence visa via the Spanish Consulate before you go is best, you can also apply for a temporary visa after you have travelled to Spain.

If you do this then make sure you attend an oficina de extranjeros – immigration office – within 30 days of your arrival in Spain. It is always better to apply for and obtain your visa before you travel as you will not have to deal with the language problems and additional paperwork and bureaucracy you might face in Spain.

Once you have a temporary visa you can remain in Spain between three months to five years, and thereafter you can apply for a permanent visa.


When moving to Portugal from the UK you can stay there (as per other EU countries) for 90 days without a visa. If you want to make the move more permanent, then you will need to apply for a visa to obtain a residence permit.
You can apply for this visa for a variety of reasons including work, teaching, employment, self-employment, and studying. This visa will enable you to stay in Portugal for 4 months, and the next step in the process will be to obtain a residence permit.

In order to apply for a residence permit, you will need to be able to evidence that you have sufficient funds to live in Portugal, somewhere to live, and the reasons for your stay. For example, if you are a student you will need to show evidence from your educational establishment that you are enrolled on a course. Once you have successfully obtained a residence permit this will allow you to live in Portugal for a year, and you can renew this visa for up to five years. Thereafter you should think about applying for a permanent residence visa. Moving from the UK to the EU is still possible, although there may well be more paperwork to complete to get where you want to. It is always a good idea to do the following before you make any concrete plans:

  • Ring the embassy of the country you are travelling to enquire about visas and residency
  • Check the government travel advice
  • If travelling for work make sure your educational qualifications are recognised abroad
  • Plan ahead – write down any necessary addresses and contact numbers and make a list of everything you will need to sort on arrival
  • Keep your important documents including passports, visas, driving licence, and financial documents in one folder and make copies
  • Check the healthcare provisions of the country you are travelling to
  • Check the position relating to the transfer and management of funds so you have access to your money when abroad

We know that things aren’t as simple as they used to be when considering a move to the EU, but as you’ve seen, there are still ways and means of achieving your goal. The information we’ve provided above is just for guidance purposes – if you’re serious about moving to the EU we would recommend speaking to the embassy of the country you’re planning to move to, as well as talking to an immigration lawyer.

Remember, if you do end up taking the plunge and moving abroad, always make sure you get the best exchange rate you can and avoid wasting money needlessly on expensive bank fees. This is especially so if you have a big purchase, such as a property. If this is the case, be sure to give us a ring and we’ll tell you how we can easily arrange a funds transfer for your new life in the EU.

Final thoughts

Opening an account with Currency Solutions is completely free and you’ll be able to make currency transfers anytime at our excellent exchange rates.

We appreciate that navigating the currency market can be daunting! So, a dedicated account manager will always be on hand to offer guidance.

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