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BREXIT

Brits in Austria have two weeks left to apply for post-Brexit residency

The deadline to apply for the Article 50 card in Austria is New Year's Eve, with many British people living in Austria yet to apply.

Brits in Austria have two weeks left to apply for post-Brexit residency
Former British Ambassador Leigh Turner applying for the Article 50 Card. Photo credit: Amina Taieb / British Embassy Vienna.

As part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, British people who were already living in Austria at the end of the transition period on December 31st 2020 can apply to stay in Austria retaining many of the rights they enjoyed as EU citizens, but the deadline is approaching fast.

Applications for the Article 50 EUV Card should be submitted by December 2021 31st and the card is mandatory for British people who were in Austria under EU freedom of movement laws and do not have another right of residence in order to continue living and working in Austria past New Year’s Eve. If you have another right of residence, such as citizenship of a different EU country, you do not need to apply, but may still want to.

Here’s what you need to know about the Article 50 Card and how to apply.

What is the Article 50 Card?

The Article 50 Card replaces all previous residency permits held by British people in Austria who were living here under EU freedom of movement. In a nutshell, it’s a post-Brexit residency card.

The application process for the Article 50 Card opened on January 4th 2021, although many people in Vienna have experienced delays.

Mike Bailey, from British in Austria, told The Local: “The Article 50 Card application procedures have been handled differently in Vienna and in other provinces.

“In Vienna, the process takes longer and feedback has shown it has taken between two and 39 weeks before people receive the card.

“Some people in Vienna applied at the start of the year and have been asked three or four times for more information, plus there have been very publicised staffing issues at MA35 [Immigration and Citizenship Department].

“But outside of Vienna it has been a different story with quicker processing times.”

British people that moved to Austria after the end of the transition period, in other words from January 1st 2021, have to go through the standard immigration channels as a third-country national.

EXPLAINED: What Brits with EU partners need to know about returning to live in the UK

Who needs to apply?

British people that were living in Austria as an EU citizen on December 2020 31st and want to continue living, working or studying in Austria have to apply for the Article 50 Card – regardless of age or socioeconomic status.

The British in Austria group even advises people with a second EU nationality to apply for the 10-year Article 50 card, if eligible.

This is because the ten-year card offers greater flexibility when it comes to time spent away from Austria, compared to the pre-existing Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts (a legal residency document obtained after five years in Austria as an EU citizen).

If British citizens living in Austria don’t apply for the Article 50 Card they could lose their current rights that are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

There were around 11,500 UK nationals registered in Austria at the end of 2020.

Nerys Jones, Chargé d’Affaires at the British Embassy, told The Local: “It’s very important that British nationals living in Austria now apply for an Article 50 card.

“If you don’t apply before the deadline at the end of December, it will be much harder to stay in Austria from January next year, and you might not be able to access important services.

“We are working hard to reach as many people as possible but are especially concerned about older or vulnerable British people who have been in Austria for some time and may not realise this applies to them.

How does the application process work?

For people that live outside of Vienna, Article 50 applications take place at the local Bezirkshauptmannschaft or Magistrat where a person lives (Hauptwohnsitz). 

In Vienna, applications are processed at MA35, the City of Vienna Immigration and Citizenship department in Arndtstrasse in the 12th district.

In most cases, an appointment has to be made in advance and proof of status will have to be provided, such as a job contract, proof of self-employment, proof of address and ID.

In some cases, additional checks will be made to determine the eligibility of an applicant.

Applicants also have to pay a fee (see below for more information), provide fingerprints and a passport photo.

After applying, each applicant should be issued with an official confirmation of application. If the confirmation is not provided, Mike from British in Austria advises people to request it.

READ MORE: Passport stamps: What British residents in the EU need to know when crossing borders

The British in Austria website has an updated list of offices across the country where an application for the Article 50 Card can be made. You can find the page here.

Typically, the process takes a couple of weeks from lodging the application to receiving the Article 50 Card, but it can take longer in Vienna as there are more British people living in the capital than elsewhere in Austria.

However, earlier this year some people experienced delays in applying for the Article 50 Card as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and closed offices. 

In February, there were also reports of some British citizens in Austria wrongly having their benefits payments suspended due to misunderstandings of the new post-Brexit rules, as reported by The Local.

The suspension of benefits went against the Withdrawal Agreement and resulted in Ambassador Turner reaching out to the Austrian Federal Government to resolve the issue.

How much does the application cost?

The costs of applying for the Article 50 Card ranges from €0 to around €75.

The difference will depend on how long someone has lived in Austria and whether further documentation is required.

The standard fee is €61.50 but this is waived if a person already has a permanent residency status in Austria that was obtained pre-Brexit.

Permanent residency is gained after living in Austria for five years and meeting the conditions for a residency permit under EU law.

Useful links

British in Austria

City of Vienna – Immigration and Citizenship (MA 35)

Austrian Federal Government

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired if the person has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge. 

The EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment and self-employment or education. In addition, EU long-term residence grants the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

READ ALSO: Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

Around 3.1 million third-country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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