Should Brits in Austria get the Article 50 card if they have EU citizenship?

For British passport-holders in Austria, the Article 50 Card secures post-Brexit rights. If you already have EU citizenship, you do not need the Article 50 card but in some cases it is still worth applying.

Should Brits in Austria get the Article 50 card if they have EU citizenship?
British nationals with EU citizenship don't need the Article 50 card, but may want to apply anyway. Photo: Christian Lue/Unsplash

The Article 50 card is available to British citizens who were legally resident in Austria before December 31st, 2021.

Some Brits may have EU citizenship, either in Austria or another country in the bloc. 

What do you get with EU citizenship?

The main advantage of EU citizenship is freedom of movement throughout the bloc, something that is not possible with the Article 50 Card.

For example, if you or your partner got a job offer in another EU country or wanted to move for other reasons, you can move under EU freedom of movement rather than needing to go through the process for third country nationals which is now necessary for Brits, including those with the Article 50 card.

EU citizenship is also permanent — you keep it unless you decide to actively renounce it, unlike the rights granted with the Article 50 card which you lose if you are away from Austria for a certain number of years. 

And EU citizenship gives you the right to vote in EU and local elections (as well as Austrian elections, if you have Austrian citizenship).

READ MORE: What Brits in Austria should know as Article 50 deadline looms

Becki Enright, a freelance journalist and travel writer from Berkshire in the UK, has been living in Vienna for five years and recently became an Irish citizen through ancestry. She has changed her residency status in Austria to an Irish passport holder instead of applying for an Article 50 Card.

Becki told The Local: “I didn’t want to go through the process of applying for the Article 50 Card, even though you can leave the country for a greater length of time with the ten-year card.”

British-EU citizens who do not want to get the Article 50 card will need to change the nationality they are registered with Austrian authorities under. If you originally registered as a British citizen, you will need to contact your local Magistrat or MA 35 in Vienna to change your documentation to show your EU nationality. 

Becki said this was “not a pleasant experience” due to having to show extensive proof of income and savings.

What do you get with the Article 50 Card?

As part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, British people that were living in Austria before the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020 can apply for the Article 50 Card to retain their residency rights. 

In most cases, the application process is quick and simple, although some people in Vienna are experiencing long delays, as reported by The Local.

There are also two types of Article 50 Card – a five-year and a ten-year card.

People that have lived in Austria for less than five years are granted a five-year card, but those that have been in the country for more than five years are given the ten-year card. If you are granted the five-year card initially, you can upgrade to the ten-year card once you have lived in Austria for five continuous years. 

READ MORE: Reader question: Can I exchange my UK drivers licence in Austria now that the deadline has passed?

A big difference between the two is the length of time that a card holder can leave Austria without losing residency.

With the five-year card, a resident can leave Austria for up to six months each year without jeopardising their status. However, the ten-year allows people to leave the country for up to five years and retain permanent residency.

For example, EU citizens that live in Austria are only allowed two years of absence from the country under current freedom of movement rules. It would be relatively simple to return as an EU citizen due to freedom of movement, but you would need to meet the requirements of either studying, working, or having sufficient income to support yourself in order to move back to live long-term.

Useful links

British in Austria

City of Vienna – Immigration and Citizenship (MA 35)

Austrian Federal Government

Member comments

  1. “ EU citizenship is also permanent.” I question this. I was an EU citizen until Brexit, even winning the Nobel Peace prize in 2012, among with 550 million others. Then this citizenship was stripped from me, without even providing me with a vote. (I am a British citizen, but not entitled to vote in the UK, or anywhere now).

    If, for example, Austria leaves the EU, citizenship may not turn out to be permanent.

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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”