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End of the Brexit transition period: what do Brits in Italy need to do now?

If you’re a British citizen living in Italy, you can continue life in your adopted country after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. But that doesn’t mean you can relax entirely just yet.

End of the Brexit transition period: what do Brits in Italy need to do now?
Photo: Getty Images

You'll need to take some action to keep all your rights and access to services. This guide, presented in partnership with the UK Government, tells you what you need to do in four key areas: residency, healthcare, travel and driving.

Get the official UK government advice on living in Italy after the transition ends

1. Registering your residency

If you're a UK national who is legally living in Italy before 31 December 2020, there's a welcome message on residency: no need to say ‘arrivederci'. Your right to live in Italy will be protected. 

However, anyone who wants to stay in Italy for more than three months must register as an Italian resident with their local town hall or comune. Once registered, you can apply for an attestazione di regolarità di soggiorno (declaration of legal residence).

If you’ve been living in Italy for more than five years, you should hold an attestazione di soggiorno permanente.

There is a new document – the attestazione di iscrizione anagrafica – that all UK nationals in Italy are now advised to get from their town hall. This applies even if you already have another residency document. That’s because only the new ‘attestazione’ specifically states that you’re covered by the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. If you have non-EU family members, they should also get it.

“The Italian government has been very clear that it wants British nationals living here to stay and they have advised that UK nationals should try to register their residency by the end of the year if you haven’t done so already,” said Jill Morris, the British Ambassador to Italy. “The new Withdrawal Agreement ‘attestazione’ which has been made available is further proof of your status under the Withdrawal Agreement.”

If you have difficulty registering or getting the new ‘attestazione’, get in touch with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is working with the UK government to support UK nationals on residency (email [email protected] or freephone: 800684884)

Photo: Getty Images

2. Ensuring you’re registered for healthcare

If you’re living in Italy before the end of 2020, you’ll have a life-long right to access healthcare in Italy, as you do now, for as long as you remain resident. You need to register with the Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – SSN) through your local health authority (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – ASL) after registering your residency. You'll need to meet certain requirements to be able to register. 

Once you're registered, emergency care, GP appointments and hospital admissions will be free – but you might still have to make a co-payment (commonly called 'ticket') to use other parts of the healthcare system.

Get the full official UK government advice on your rights to state healthcare in Italy

You can register for free if:

  • you have a work contract, are self-employed in Italy or are an immediate family member of someone who is

  • you’re an immediate family member of an Italian citizen

  • you hold an Attestazione di Soggiorno Permanente

  • you become unemployed after having worked in Italy, and register on the employment lists (liste di collocamento). This also applies if you register for a professional training course while unemployed

  • you hold a UK social security form, such as an S1 form for pensioners

Don’t fit into one of these categories? Depending on where in Italy you live, you may be able to register for healthcare by paying an annual fee – contact your ASL for more information or, alternatively, take out private health insurance.

3. Checking you're ready for trouble-free travel

You live abroad – so crossing borders is no big deal, right? But you'll face some new rules on travel within Europe next year – so doing your homework now could save you a lot of trouble later.

From 1 January 2021, you'll need six months left on your passport to travel within Europe (be aware that any extra months you had added to your passport's validity when renewing it early last time won't count towards this).

You can check your passport's validity here to know for sure if you need to renew it before booking a trip. This new rule applies to children's passports, as well as adults, and applies for travel to most European countries. 

It doesn't apply for Ireland. Equally, it doesn’t apply if, as a resident of Italy under the Withdrawal Agreement, you want to enter or transit to Italy.

4. Exchanging your driving licence

Italy is a beautiful country to explore by car – whether following the stunning Mediterranean coastline or hopping between hilltop towns.

Photo: Getty Images

But if you still have a UK driving licence, you should exchange it for an Italian licence before 31 December. After that, the rules on driving licence recognition could change – meaning you could end up having to re-sit your test. You can exchange a UK driving licence at an agency of Italy’s Ministry of Transport. So, what are you waiting for? Time to set the wheels in motion!

Staying up-to-date 

You can sign for emails with the latest official UK government updates about these topics in Italy. Since 2017, British embassies across Europe have organised 853 Brexit-related outreach events, with more than 510,000 Brits attending in person or online.

The Embassy in Italy regularly engages with British community groups, shares information on their social media pages, and hosts regular Q&A sessions for UK nationals in Italy. Sessions are announced both on Facebook and on this government page.

Get all the latest official guidance for UK nationals in Italy on these topics and more by visiting the UK government's Living in Italy web page

For members

BREXIT

‘So stressful’: How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple’s Tuscan dream

One couple from Manchester found the home of their Tuscan retirement dreams, but the stalemate over a UK-Italy driving licence agreement is throwing their future into question.

'So stressful': How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple's Tuscan dream

Iain and Lynn Gosling lived and worked all their lives in and around Manchester – at a bank, where they met, then in various schools – but had always dreamed of retiring in Tuscany.

In 2018, with the Brexit clock ticking, they decided to take the plunge, and after a lengthy Place in the Sun-style hunt, they finally found their ideal home.

The podere (farmhouse) they chose just outside the town of Pomerance, in the province of Pisa, checked all their boxes: it had an olive grove, was close enough to the beach, had a friendly local community, and the town was particularly invested in green energy, sourcing most of its power from renewables.

Most importantly, it was just over an hour’s drive from Pisa airport, meaning they could regularly go back and visit family in the UK.

READ ALSO: ‘We bought the cheapest house in Piedmont and live mortgage free’

“We’d holidayed in Tuscany for 20 years, and the views and everything were even better than where we’d been holidaying. So we kind of thought we struck gold really,” says Lynn.

“When we saw it, we just knew, and when we went into the town it was such a good, welcoming feeling.”

Iain and Lynn's podere in Pomerance.

Iain and Lynn’s podere in Pomerance. Source: Iain Gosling.

The couple began building a new life, learning Italian and befriending local residents. They were careful to take the necessary steps to secure their future in Italy before the Brexit deadline, registering with the town hall and later obtaining carta di soggiorno residency cards.

But – like many other British nationals in Italy – the pair didn’t anticipate that almost two years on from Brexit, negotiations for a reciprocal driving licence agreement between the two countries would have stalled. It’s an ongoing state of limbo that threatens to make their retirement dream unworkable.

While with hindsight the pair would have exchanged their driving licences before the Brexit deadline, they believed a deal would soon be reached – especially as the UK allows EU licence-holders to drive with almost no restrictions.

“If we cannot drive in the short term, I’m sure we can find a way round it somehow,” says Iain. “Longer term? No, not really.”

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

A 12-month grace period granted in 2021 is due to expire in January unless an agreement is reached, forcing UK drivers to choose between taking an Italian driving exam that could well turn out to be unnecessary, or gambling on a last-minute deal that risks leaving them without a valid licence if it doesn’t materialise.

For Iain and Lynn, who live a four-minute drive from the town on hilly country roads without access to public transport or pavements, it doesn’t feel like much of a choice.

“I’d be absolutely lost without driving,” says Lynn, who judges that without a car the couple would have to make daily hour-long round walks into town to buy basic necessities.

They decided that Iain would take the exam so that at least one of them would still be able to drive in the absence of a deal, and booked his theory test for November to give him time to prepare.

As a minimum of 32 days must pass between passing the theory test and sitting the practical exam, he’ll only just secure his Italian licence in time in the event that there’s no agreement – if he manages to pass both on the first go.

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

Iain and Lynn outside their Tuscan farmhouse.

Iain and Lynn outside their Tuscan farmhouse. Source: Iain Gosling.

“So – no pressure on the theory test,” says Iain, who plans to fly back early from Christmas holidays in the UK to sit his practical exam if he succeeds in passing the former.

The couple know they could have begun the process earlier. But the test requires answering the same theory questions as a native Italian speaker and a taking mandatory six hours of practical lessons, and it isn’t cheap – Iain and Lynn estimate the total cost to be just under €1,000.

What’s more, those who pass an Italian driving test are classed as new drivers (neopatentati) for three years, which comes with a range of restrictions on speed limits and vehicle engine size, and a zero tolerance policy on alcohol.

READ ALSO: Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

All this has made taking the test a last resort for people who believed the UK and Italian governments would have reached an agreement by this point – or have at least issued clear guidance as to what action UK licence-holders should take.

The UK’s ambassador to Italy stresses that negotiations continue – though has encouraged British residents to book an Italian driving test.

A spokesperson for the British Embassy in Rome told The Local in October: “Since August we have continued and intensified further our work with our Italian colleagues and have made progress towards our shared objective.”

Lynn says: “Over the last six months it was very optimistic, everything we were hearing. It’s just in the past two months that we’ve thought, well, wait a minute.”

If Iain doesn’t manage to pass the test before the deadline and no deal is reached, “we are stuck,” he says.

“This situation is so stressful.”

READ ALSO: How UK drivers in Italy face new problems after passing Italian driving test

The couple fear that without the ability to drive, their current lifestyle would be unsustainable.

“You wake up thinking about it, and you go to bed thinking about it,” says Lynn. “Anxiety, that’s how it makes you feel.”

“Someone will turn around and say, well why didn’t you take your driving tests 12 months ago so you’re not in this situation?” says Iain. “But if all the signs were encouraging from the ambassador, we thought well OK, we can keep our benefits here and we don’t want to lose them.”

While the embassy insists that negotiating the agreement is its top priority, Iain worries that the recent political upheaval in both the UK and Italy has pushed the issue on to the back burner.

“We have no choice but to have faith in our British representatives to deliver and soon too, because the previous regulation extension was far too late,” Iain says. “We need to know now so we can make definite plans and contingencies.”

Despite the stress, Iain and Lynn are determined to do all they can to find a way to remain in Pomerance, where they say they’ve been embraced by local residents and have become good friends with their Italian neighbours who occupy the other half of their semi-detached property.

“We don’t want to give this up,” says Iain. “We love it here and we want to stay.”

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