January the 27th, 2020 – On the 31st of January, 2020, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland left the European Union after over forty years of membership. For some, on both sides of the English channel, Britain’s departure is a joyous event, and for others – a time of deep sadness. Emotions aside, let’s look at the practicalities for Brits in Croatia.
I’ve covered the Brexit saga from day one when it comes to Brits in Croatia and what it means for their residence rights, their driving licenses, their access the labour market and to health care in Croatia after Brexit and much more.
We’ve looked in depth at what Brexit with a deal means for Brits in Croatia, and what a potential no deal Brexit means for Brits in Croatia. Several articles have been written in an attempt to provide the best information possible for Croatia’s resident Brits, and many emails back and forth with MUP and the EU have allowed us to bring you the clarity you need.
Long story short, all Brits in Croatia who have been living here legally under EU law (in this case freedom of movement) and have the residence documents (either temporary or permanent residence) to prove it, are entitled to stay regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, meaning that whether Boris Johnson manages to strike a deal or not – British citizens with valid residence permits are entitled to stay and will be protected either under the Withdrawal Agreement or by Article 75 of the Croatian Law on EEA nationals and their family members.
Withdrawal Agreement/Orderly Brexit – Brits in Croatia are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and Croats in the UK are too, but they must still apply for Settled status before June 2021.
No deal Brexit after December 2020 (or later if the transition period is extended) – Brits in Croatia are protected by Article 75 of the law on EEA nationals and their family members and Croats are protected unilaterally by the UK by applying for Settled status (the equivalent of permanent residence/Indefinite Leave to Remain).
Now that things are clear for Brits already living in Croatia and indeed Croats already living in the UK, what about those planning to make the move but won’t be able to do so before Brexit day on the 31st of January?
Because the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified, the eleven months of the UK’s transition (implementation) period will begin on the 1st of February, 2020. During the transition, nothing will change for travellers. British passport holders can still freely use the EU lines at EU airports and the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) remains valid.
British nationals will not need any type of visa to go to the EU or to enter Schengen even after the transition period ends.
This eleven month period will continue until December 2020, and will potentially be extended after that. During this period, Brits who want to make the move to Croatia, or indeed to any other EEA country, are more than entitled to do so under European Union law which will still apply to the UK throughout the transition period. The same is true for Croats or indeed any other EU citizen who wants to make the move to Britain during these eleven (and potentially more) months.
What will my post Brexit rights be if I move to Croatia during the transition period? Will they differ from the rights afforded to those who made the move before that?
Your rights will be the same as those of EU citizens, this includes British citizens already living in Croatia. You have the right to move, reside, and register your temporary residence under EU rules in Croatia. In short, no, your rights will not be any different to those who moved to Croatia before Brexit day.
You can find out more about how to apply for residence here (scroll down to the rules for EEA citizens).
Why is the transition period only eleven months long?
Because of the repeated extensions to Brexit, which was originally meant to happen two years after Article 50 was invoked and occur back in March 2019, the transition period will now only be a measly eleven months long.
What about when the transition period ends, either in December 2020 or later on?
When the transition period ends, things will become more difficult for Brits to move to Croatia or elsewhere in the EEA. The British Government wants to end freedom of movement, so unless some other sort of bespoke agreement is reached, the right to simply come and reside in Croatia is likely to alter.
A lot of what will happen after the end of the transition period is complete guesswork at this moment in time as many decisions on the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be decided during the next eleven (or more) months. However, Brits who do decide to move to Croatia after the transition period in which all EU law continues to apply to the UK ends, will be treated as third country nationals.
What does that mean?
Third country nationals are nationals from outside of the EEA. These people can non-Europeans such as American, Australian or Canadian citizens, or they can be other Europeans from outside of the EEA, such as Ukrainians, Belarusians or Macedonians.
Gaining residence in Croatia is notoriously hard for them. Keeping hold of it is also difficult as third country nationals are afforded much less freedom when it comes to travel outside of Croatian borders. EU citizens can be out of the country for six months per year without it affecting their residence. Third country nationals must have a good reason if they want to be out for more than 30 days in a row or risk the termination of their permits. The list of ”cons” for third country nationals is very long. You will absolutely still be able to move here, but it will not be a right governed by EU law and you will face ridiculous hurdles and additional costs.
If I apply for residence during the transition period, what rights will I be granted and have protected?
You will be able to apply under much easier EU rules.
You will have free access to the Croatian labour market and you will not need a work permit.
You will be able to be self employed.
Your right to live and work in Croatia will be protected by the authorities.
You will be able to apply for permanent residence under the same rules in five years.
Once you secure permanent residence in Croatia, you can be out of the country for as long as five years in a row without losing it. Unlike other EEA citizens, who can only be out for two years in a row.
These are what are often known as acquired rights and most importantly of all – you will not be treated as a third country national.
If you want to move to Croatia and you’re a British national, do so before the end of December 2020 to be treated as an EU citizen and be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement or by Article 75 in Croatian law.
If you already live in Croatia and for some reason or another haven’t registered your temporary residence – do so now.
If you already live in Croatia and have done for five years with legal, uninterrupted temporary residence (absences of six months per year are allowed) apply for your permanent residence permit now.
A list of useful links from TCN:
(Please note that some of the names, such as former PM Theresa May, and former Brexit dates that never happened may be included in the links provided below. Ignore them but understand that all of the information remains relevant)
Brits in Croatia – How Croatia will protect your rights deal or no deal (latest article with the newest info!)
A useful link from MUP:
Follow our politics page for more on Brexit.