Brexit. It’s irritating, it sends pound sterling up and down like a rollercoaster, and quite frankly, it’s become a farce.
Nevertheless, British PM Theresa May has somehow managed to get her Brexit deal past the first wobbly stages of acceptance (at least for now, which might still mean very little), and while we’re still miles and miles away from the end of a road which may well simply have no actual end, what does the withdrawal agreement actually mean for citizens rights?
You don’t want to read 500+ pages of political jargon to find out, so I’ve done it for you. Let’s take a look at what has now been formally agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union on the status of Croats in the United Kingdom, and British nationals living here in Croatia.
First things first, no, you’re not getting kicked out after Brexit. There has been a lot of scaremongering and frankly ridiculous headlines from various newspapers, particularly British ones (naming no names here, but you know which I’m referring to), claiming such absurdities. You can breathe easily, not only are mass deportations barely legal, but such a move is in nobody’s interest. Nobody wants to punish citizens for exercising their treaty rights in good faith.
What does this all mean for British nationals living in Croatia?
Believe it or not, but Croatia’s love of residency cards for EEA nationals as well as third country nationals has actually come in handy. Countries like France and the UK don’t demand you possess a card, so while Brits in France scramble to make themselves as known to the French Government as possible before Brexit, Brits in Croatia will already have been issued a bit of paperwork and a residency permit. The system already knows about you, and just this once, that’s a good thing.
If you’re a Brit and you’ve been living in Croatia, ie, exercising your treaty rights derived from EU law (freedom of movement), and continue to exercise them after Brexit day (which in this case, doesn’t actually refer to the 29th of March, 2019, it refers to the end of the foreseen transition period, which is December the 31st, 2020), you’re safe.
Here’s an example, let’s say you moved to Croatia in 2016 and you’re still registered as living in Croatia, legally, with a residence permit, after the end of December 2020, you’re safe and your rights will be protected as if nothing has altered. You’ll go on living your life in Croatia broadly as you did before.
If you have temporary residency, which, as you applied for it as an EU national, will likely be proven with a five year biometric residency permit/card, then you’ll be allowed to apply for permanent residency just as you would before, providing only what is asked of an EEA citizen, and not what would be asked of a third country national. If you already have permanent residency, then you’ve got literally nothing to even think about.
The EU has left it up to national governments to decide whether or not they want to scrap the ”permanent residency” title for something else, as the UK has changed its own to ”pre-settled” and ”settled status”, so if you’re in possession of a permanent residency document and Croatia decides to alter its name, you’ll have the card replaced free of charge to whatever the new system and name will be. The likelihood of Croatia altering this though, is not high, so don’t worry about it.
Applications for permanent residency made during the UK’s transition period (which it likes to refer to as the implementation period) will also remain the same, you’ll only pay what nationals pay for other similar documents for your permanent residency card when approved, and the process will be the same as before.
You do not need to be physically present in the country on December the 31st, 2020, when the UK’s transition period ends, in order to be legally resident, you only need to be in possession of a permit proving your residency in Croatia.
The only change, which is actually rather welcome, is that you’ll be allowed to leave Croatia for up to five consecutive years without losing the right to permanent residency here. Previously, that was two years. So, essentially, unless you’re out of the country for five years straight, you’ll enjoy permanent residency for life, renewing the card as normally every ten years like you do with a passport.
It’s worth remembering that Croatia dropped the restrictions on the domestic labour market for British nationals when Britain dropped its restrictions on Croatian nationals, so you no longer need a work permit to work in Croatia as long as you have residency. Permanent residents have never needed one, nor do they now.
What does this mean for Croatian nationals in the United Kingdom?
To put it bluntly, not a lot.
There has been heightened anxiety about the issue of citizens rights from the very beginning of this long process we’ve come to know as Brexit, but they have always been a top priority for both the EU and the UK, and nobody wants to cause upset in people’s lives.
If you’re a Croat in the UK, you’ll know that the UK doesn’t require EU nationals to register with the government, unlike in Croatia and several other EU countries. The presentation of an EEA passport has been enough to prove your right to live in the United Kingdom, and for nationals of those countries who don’t have labour market restrictions against them in the UK, that means you can work too.
The UK dropped its labour restrictions on Croatian nationals, and Croatia did the same, as mentioned, with Brits in Croatia. This means you can now look for work and gain employment without obtaining a work permit, a stay and work permit, or a work registration certificate.
What will change, however, is your need to be registered with the British Government before the 30th of June, 2021, but if you can do it before December the 31st, 2020, that’s better.
The British Government created an app (which doesn’t work on iPhones. Ah, good old technology), where you’ll prove your right to live and work in the UK and be issued with a status, either ”pre settled” for those who have been in the UK for less than five years when applying, or ”settled status” for those who have been in the UK for five years or more. You’ll be allowed to stay in the UK if you’re applying for ”pre settled status” until you meet the criteria for ”settled status”, which is the same as Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Click here for more. Oh, and go and buy an Android phone.
Once you’re approved with ”settled status” which is essentially just permanent residence, you’ll be allowed to leave the UK for five consecutive years without losing your status. Just like with Brits in Croatia, you do not need to be physically present in the country on December the 31st, 2020, when the UK’s transition period ends, in order to be legally resident, you only need to be in possession of a permit (or whatever the UK decides to offer in this regard), proving your residency in the UK.
We at TCN sincerely hope this answers your questions about what the withdrawal agreement means for you, whether you’re in Croatia or the United Kingdom. While the Brexit road is far from over, and questions as to whether it will even actually happen are more frequent than ever, you won’t be being removed from your host countries.
If you want to find out more about residency in Croatia, click here. To keep up with more news on Brexit, and on Croatian and European politics, follow our dedicated politics page.