As experts in European real estate acquisition and relocation, we are reviewing the impact of Brexit for British people. The UK officially left the European Union on the 1st January 2020 but currently remains in the transition period before fully severing ties with its previous counterpart. The start of 2021 signaled the end of visa free movement within the EU for UK nationals. This article will take an in-depth look at what these changes may mean for those looking to acquire property in, relocate to, or spend more time in Europe in 2021 and beyond.
Travelling to the EU
The ETIAS travel authorisation, Europe’s visa waiver is currently being developed to strengthen security around travel within the EU and will likely be implemented by the end of 2022. It will be a similar waiver system to the one the US operates, which is known as ESTA, where you must apply for an electronic visa before travel. After departing from the EU, Brits will be third country nationals and will need to apply for an ETIAS visa ahead of their travel to the continent.
Before the ETIAS is implemented, the EU have said they are willing to allow UK citizens to travel to the EU without needing a visa, as long as the UK reciprocates (i.e. same for EU citizens wishing to travel to the UK). If a deal is agreed, travelling is likely to remain simple and visa-free until the ETIAS is introduced at the end of 2022. You should expect to be asked for more detail surrounding your trip at the borders, such as reason for travel, length and place of stay. However, if the reciprocal travel agreement doesn’t happen, Brits will need to apply for a Schengen Visa before travelling. This visa grants the holder access to the Schengen Zone for one trip of up to 90 days for business or tourism reasons. The visa can be applied for online and it’s recommended that you apply at least three weeks before your travel date.
It’s also worth noting that to enter an EU country you will need to have at least 6 months left on your passport and your passport has to be less than 10 years old, so double check that before arranging travel.
Today, there is no restriction on how long Brits can stay in Europe. That has changed. After the 31st of December, if you already own a home in Europe, you will likely only be able to stay in that country for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. You will still be permitted to spend up to six months of the year in your home on the continent, as long as abide by the 90/180 rule.
If you are looking to stay for a period longer than 90 days without becoming tax resident, you can then apply for an extended authorisation in your chosen country. To obtain it, you will have to demonstrate that you are in the country for tourism reasons only, and you will have to prove to the authorities that you have enough funds to support yourself financially for the duration of the period. Application needs to be made at the country’s consulate of your main residence country (tax one) and authorisations need to be renewed on an annual basis.
Purchasing a property
For those who are looking to purchase a second home within the EU, you will be wondering if any changes will be taking place within the buying process that will affect your purchase. It’s positive news: international buyers from non-EU countries have every right to purchase a property and so will the Brits. The buying process is currently no different for domestic and non-EU buyers.
The buying costs involved in acquiring a property, including purchases taxes, notary fees and property registration fees are also the same for domestic and international buyers.
If you move to Europe before the 31st December and apply for settlement status in an EU country you will retain your rights as an EU resident, with the potential to gain citizenship after a certain number of years living there, however with about two months until the end of the transition period, the window of opportunity is narrowing.
Brits already living overseas in the EU can continue to live in that country and have until 30th June 2021 to apply for tax residency in the country they are residing in otherwise will likely be limited to spending no more than 90 days there in any 180-day period.
It will be possible from January to relocate to the EU and there are three main ways to do so.
Standard Residency Permit
An individual can apply for permission to move to an EU country in accordance to that country’s existing immigration process. A residency permit will be needed to demonstrate they have the right to reside in, and work within the country of their choosing. Non-EU citizens do currently immigrate to the EU successfully through each country’s immigration system so whilst it is still possible, the process is likely to be more complicated and could end up being a lengthy affair. Please note that you cannot be tax resident of two countries at once which means Brits must give up their residency in the UK to become resident elsewhere. If you are becoming a tax resident in another country, make sure you are seeking independent financial advice ahead of the move to ensure your taxation is planned accordingly.
Golden Visa initiative
From the 1st of January 2021, UK citizens can apply for a Golden Visa residency permit in a number of EU countries including Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Portugal. The Golden Visa is an initiative put in place to drive foreign investment into European countries and offer residency in return of investment, either through a property acquisition, creation of jobs, or a non-refundable donation. Once granted, a Golden Visa allows holders to travel within the Schengen Zone and after a period of 5-10 years (depending on the country’s rules) you can apply for citizenship in the country the visa was issued. It is important to note that you don’t have to become tax resident of the country where the golden visa has been issued and can remain in that country without limit as long as you are meeting your main residence country’s requirements (tax one). However, the 90/180 rule will apply when travelling to other Schengen countries until you become tax resident or citizen.
For those looking for an alternative method of residing in an EU country, some countries such as Malta, Cyprus and Austria are offering citizenship-by-investment programs. These programs allow the investor to secure citizenship within the country via a donation or investment into the country. Once granted, the individual is eligible to settle in the country, plus travel freely between the other member countries without the 90/180 rule.
Whether a deal is agreed or not, leaving the EU was always going to impact how Brits travel and stay in Europe. But not all is doom and gloom. Brits already living in the EU can easily apply for permanent residency in the country they live in, and there will be no change for those who want to acquire real estate in the EU. The process and costs of acquisition is currently and will likely remain the same. The main changes will be the visa requirement (Schengen and then ETIAS), the length of stay (90/180 rule) for those wanting to travel, or the process for those wanting to relocate in Europe. However as described above, options are there to address those aspects.
One thing is certain, whether you want to acquire a property or relocate to Europe, it has never been more important to have experts by your side to guide you and to navigate this new landscape. As international buying agents, we specialise in the search and acquisition of real estate in the United Kingdom, Greece, Monaco, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, Ireland and Portugal. Working solely for the buyer, we represent your interests only and manage the entire buying process on your behalf. Our years of expertise and unlimited access to on and off-market properties make us the ideal experts to have by your side for this new journey.
If you’re looking for an expert buying agent get in touch: email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on +41 44 586 73 10. Follow us on Instagram for the latest updates – and stay safe!