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Italy issues first Brexit residence cards to British nationals

The Italian government has started production of the long-awaited biometric residence cards for UK nationals living in Italy, with the first already delivered.

Italy issues first Brexit residence cards to British nationals
British nationals living in Italy collect their Brexit residence cards from the Questura in Milan. Photo: Beyond Brexit/Facebook

British residents have begun collecting their so-called carta di soggiorno after three months of confusion, with some of the first cards picked up in Milan this week.

The residence card, which proves the special status of Brits who were already living in Italy before Brexit, has been a source of frustration with reports of Brits not being able to access healthcare, renew work contracts and withdraw pensions without it – even though it is supposed to be optional.

While citizens’ rights campaigners have called for an urgent response to the problem, the new residence card is at least finally in production. 

READ ALSO: 

Amit Kothari and his daughter were among the first Brits to pick up theirs in Milan on Wednesday, announced campaign group Beyond Brexit.

“Finally, it’s a relief to have got our hands on the carta di soggiorno that, hopefully, will safeguard our rights in Italy after Brexit,” said Kothari, who first arrived in Italy when he was five months old.

He described his experience of going to the questura (police immigration office) as a third-country national as “tough”. “I hope that will be the end of it,” he added.

Other UK nationals are still no nearer to getting their hands on the long-awaited card. One Brit couldn’t take hers home with her after receiving an appointment to collect the ID card, Beyond Brexit reports. As there were errors in her personal details, she had to return it and is now waiting again.

“We strongly advise people to check the details on their cards very carefully when they go and collect them,” the group urged.

Brits in Italy have faced problems post-Brexit. Photo: Christian Lue/Unsplash

Other British residents are facing setbacks due to technical issues. Problems with taking fingerprints have slowed down obtaining the card for some, with reports of Brits returning to the questura up to three times to give their prints again.

It seems that this is a snag for those whose fingerprints are ‘worn down’ and can’t be read by the machines as easily.

One member of Beyond Brexit’s Facebook group wrote: “I had to go back to the Questura in Bergamo to redo my fingerprints. I just checked my hands and they (the fingerprints) do seem to have largely disappeared over the years.”

EXPLAINED: What are the different documents Italy’s British residents need after Brexit?

Italian authorities introduced the new Brexit residence card as a simple way of proving the rights of British nationals living in Italy post-Brexit. It’s valid for those who registered for residency before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st 2020.

The new card is still not mandatory, but getting one continues to be highly recommended.

People who have already applied can check on the status of their new card by going to the Italian state police’s immigration website here and entering the ten-digit case number (numero di pratica) written on the official receipt they received after making their application.

Further information on the biometric card can be found on the UK government’s website here.

If you need help applying, you can contact the International Organisation for Migration by emailing [email protected] or calling 800 684 884.

Anyone who faces difficulties in accessing services in Italy is advised to contact the British Embassy via their Living in Italy website. You can also find more information on the British in Italy website and Beyond Brexit page.

Member comments

  1. I am amazed at the problems in applying for the biometric are.
    I initially had to get a new British Passport as mine was due for renewal, on its receipt I collected all the other information which took about an hour, established a pec address which took a day, ans sent the documents on a Friday, expecting to hear nothing for several weeks. The following Tuesday I was contacted buy the immigration Department and in English asked to report for an interview on Wednesday or Thursday at any time. On arrival I asked for the lady concerned, was immediately moved to the front of the queue, interviewed had my finger prints taken all within 10 mins.
    I was then warned that the card would take some time to arrive probably in 6 weeks, that was a month ago.
    I don’t think I have ever had any problems with getting a health card or residency in the past, in fact when I arrived 4 years ago all residency requirement were completed in 24 hours and the health card issued.
    I’ve always been extremely please with the service received by the majority of the government departments.

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BREXIT

Driving licences: How does situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

As UK driving licence holders in Italy still wait for answers regarding another extension or a long-awaited deal for the mutual exchange of British and Italian licences post-Brexit, we look at how the situation compares to that of their counterparts across Europe.

Driving licences: How does situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

When Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, the British and Italian authorities hadn’t reached a reciprocal agreement on driving licences.

However, UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences in Italy.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

This was then further extended for another 12 months until the end of 2022.

The UK government announced on December 24th, 2021 that British residents of Italy who didn’t convert their UK licence to an Italian one could continue to use it until December 31st, 2022.

That’s the latest official directive from the authorities, with no decision made on what will happen from January 1st, 2023.

The question on a UK-Italy driving licence agreement rolls on. (Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP)

The latest extension – while providing more time – hasn’t ruled out the need to take the Italian theory and practical driving tests and the clock is ticking again with just over six months left of this grace period.

READ ALSO: How do you take your driving test in Italy?

In fact, the authorities recommend sitting the Italian driving exams whatever the outcome, just in case. The process is known to take months, so UK licence holders find themselves once again taking a gamble on waiting for an accord to be reached or taking the plunge by starting preparations for the tests.

As things stand, the latest update to the driving guidance on the British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage in January states:

“If you were resident in Italy before 1 January 2022 you can use your valid UK licence until 31 December 2022,” however, “you must exchange your licence for an Italian one by 31 December 2022. You will need to take a driving test (in Italian).”

The guidance then states: “The British and Italian governments continue to negotiate long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing to take a test.”

The Local contacted the British Embassy in Rome to ask for an update on the situation, to which they responded:

“Rest assured the Embassy continues to prioritise the issue of UK driving licence validity in Italy and we continue to engage with the Italian government on this issue.”

Presently, the UK’s new ambassador to Italy, Edward Llewellyn, is touring all 20 regions of Italy and no updates on the driving licence have been given in the meantime.

Could there be a deal which sees all UK licence holders in Italy – those who registered their intent to exchange, those who didn’t, those who did register intent but haven’t been able to finalise the process, and future UK licence holders who move to Italy – able to continue using their UK licences in Italy or easily exchange them for Italian ones without having to sit a driving test?

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

It’s still hard to say, as the authorities continue to advise UK licence holders to sit their Italian driving test, while stating that the two governments are still working on an agreement.

The embassy’s most recent announcement was a Facebook post in April acknowledging that “many of you are concerned” about the issue.

“We continue to work at pace to reach a long-term agreement with Italy, so that residents can exchange their UK driving licences without taking a test, as Italian licence holders can in the UK,” the embassy stated.

British residents of Italy can use their driving licenses until the end of this year, the government has confirmed.

British residents of Italy can presently use their driving licences until the end of this year. Photo by PACO SERINELLI / AFP

The embassy reiterated the need for UK licence holders to consider the possibility of obtaining an Italian driving licence via a test, stating: “It is important that you currently consider all your options, which may include looking into taking a driving test now.”

READ ALSO: Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

So is it true that most European nations have reached successful agreements with the UK over reciprocal driving licence recognition and exchange and the Italian deal is lagging behind?

The evidence suggests so.

UK licence exchange agreements across Europe

As things stand, Italy and Spain are the only European countries where licence exchange negotiations are ongoing.

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions, as authorities have still made no decision on exchanging driving licences or reaching a deal.

UK licence holders in Spain are currently in limbo, unable to drive until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

French and British authorities reached a licence exchange agreement in June 2021, considered a generous one for UK licence holders residing in France as those with licences issued before January 1st 2021 can continue using their UK licences in France until either the licence or the photocard nears expiry.

Sweden and the UK reached a deal even earlier in March 2021. British people resident in Sweden can exchange their UK driving licences for an equivalent Swedish one, without needing to take a test, just as they could when the country was a member of the European Union. 

In Portugal, resident UK licence holders can continue to use their valid UK licences until December 31st 2022 but they must exchange their licences for Portuguese ones before that date.

Other EU nations which have decided to allow UK licence holders residing in their countries to swap their driving licences without having to take a driving test include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.   

There are slight variations in the conditions between countries, and some say you “can exchange”, others that you “must exchange” and most encourage UK licence holders to swap “as soon as possible”. In Greece, UK licences continue to be valid without any restrictions or deadlines for exchange.

That leaves Italy and Spain as the two EU/EEA countries where a deal on a straightforward exchange or long-term recognition of UK licences among residents is still hanging in the balance.  

The only question that’s left is why. 

Why are the driving rights of all Britons who resided in Italy before December 31st 2020 not part of the other protected rights they enjoy under the Withdrawal agreement? 

And why is it taking so long to reach an exchange deal?

So far, Italian and British officials have not provided answers to these questions.

The Local will continue to ask for updates regarding the use of British driving licences in Italy.

Are you a British resident in Italy affected by this issue? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below this article or email the Italian news team here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

See The Local’s latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

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