‘It’s quite a task’: Meet the UN team helping Brits in Italy protect their rights after Brexit

'It's quite a task': Meet the UN team helping Brits in Italy protect their rights after Brexit
British nationals should act now to secure their rights in Italy after the Brexit transition period. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
UK nationals in Italy have until the end of 2020 to get all their Brexit paperwork in order, and that's not always straightforward. A UN mission is on hand to help.

Most people who live in Italy are faced with their fair share of bureaucracy, but for Brits planning to stay beyond the end of this year the paperwork has an added urgency.

“UK nationals should be aware that in order to be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement they need to be lawfully living in Italy by the end of the transition period, and in order to avoid difficulties in the future they should try to register as residents before the end of the transition period,” explains Laurence Hart, who heads the Italy office of the IOM, the UN’s migration agency.

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His mission is deploying a team of case workers to help the British Embassy get Brits in Italy ready for when the UK’s exit from the EU takes effect on December 31st 2020.

Funded by the British Foreign Office, the IOM's mission is one of six similar projects in different EU countries including Germany and France. In Italy, its work spans from explaining residency procedures to dealing directly with local town halls on behalf of people who might find it impossible on their own.

“The main aim of this programme is to assist UK nationals settling in Italy to secure and maintain their residency rights now that the UK has left the EU,” Hart told The Local.

“And in order to achieve that objective, basically we have four strands. The first one is to raise awareness among UK nationals living in Italy, secondly to provide residents’ rights support in English and Italian, thirdly to share accessible information on residency requirements, and finally also to provide practical advice on completing applications.”

Support “can range from raising awareness and providing general advice, to providing specific advice based on the UK national’s circumstances, or even more direct support such as contacting the municipality or town hall on behalf of the UK national, or even attending as a proxy – particularly for those UK nationals who might be isolating or facing additional barriers,” Hart says.

People eligible for the most hands-on assistance include those with disabilities, chronic illness, language or literacy barriers, or difficulty accessing information and services online.

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One of the IOM’s top priorities is to make Brits aware that there may be extra bureaucratic steps to take, even if they’ve been living in Italy for years.

UK nationals and their family members not only need to make sure they’re registered as a resident in their current municipality, they should also request a new document that specifically states they qualify for protection under the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

Called the ‘attestazione di inscrizione anagrafica’, the certificate shows how long you’ve been resident in your current comune. But it differs from other residency documents in that it directly refers to the Withdrawal Agreement, which makes it the simplest way to prove that the WA applies to you.

Find a guide to requesting the new attestazione here.

“We would like to ask any UK nationals to help us reach out to other UK nationals that might not be aware of the need to take action now – possibly because they’ve lived in Italy for a very long time, or because they have limited access to information shared over the internet,” says Hart.

“We have been limited by Covid-19 for outreach activities, but we continue to really think a little bit creatively about how to reach the offline. So please, tell a friend and spread the word about regulating your status before the end of the year.”

It isn’t just British residents who need to get up to speed – it can be Italian town halls too.

“It is a very unique process that we’re engaging in, the first of its kind I would say, so there’s no surprise to see a difference in the understanding of local administrations of the rules and procedures,” says Hart, whose team is also involved in explaining the process to the Italian anagrafi, or registry offices, responsible for registering British residents and issuing the new attestazione.

Some Brits have reported facing difficulties obtaining their documents, with some officials unsure of what the new attestazione is or why it’s necessary.

“It is in any country very difficult sometimes to deal with bureaucracy, and it requires a certain deal of patience,” Hart acknowledges.

“But I do [encourage] everyone encountering obstacles to really flag them to us so that we can act in a timely manner, not only to resolve the specific case but to enable the local authorities to come up to speed.”


Bureaucracy can be challenging in Italy at the best of times. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Together with the British Embassy and the National Association of Italian Municipal Authorities (ANCI), the IOM has helped put together a step-by-step guide, in Italian, that British residents can show their local anagrafe if officials aren’t clear on the procedure. Download a copy here.

And if that doesn’t work, some ten IOM staff are on hand to assist.

“We have a dedicated team there that is trying to reach out to every one of you,” Hart assures Brits in Italy.

“And you can imagine, it’s quite a task. There are a lot of UK residents in Italy, and they are in all sorts of conditions and kinds of residency, they don’t live all in big cities where they have a very efficient registry office – sometimes they’re very small or the knowledge is pretty limited.

“I know in some cases there might be some frustration because there is no consistent reply, but please do flag it to us, because we’re really trying […] to make them understand, to engage as quickly and as efficiently as possible with UK nationals on the Italian territory.”

Contact the IOM’s support team in Italy:

The IOM and British Embassy are running a virtual ‘registration roadshow’, where UK nationals from each region of Italy can book a personal online appointment with representatives from the IOM and British Embassy for residency advice. Find the details here.


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