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IMPORT

How to post packages between Austria and the UK post-Brexit

Sending and receiving parcels between the UK and Austria has become a little more difficult since Brexit. Here's what you need to know.

Parcels being delivered by DHL
na FASSBENDER / AFP

One of the first things many people will have noticed since the United Kingdom left the European Union is it is no longer possible to send and receive parcels between the UK and Austria without filling in a customs form. 

READ MORE: Austria to investigate ‘flood of complaints’ against parcel delivery companies

New rules that came into force on January 1st mean new taxes and charges now apply to almost everything that goes back and forth between the two, including gifts, second hand items, products bought on Amazon or eBay and from private sellers.

So is there any way to avoid paying customs charges and extra tax? 

Gifts valued up to a certain amount do not attract charges

If people in the UK are sending you a parcel with a gift worth under €45 or £39, they should say “No commercial value”or “Birthday gift” or “For private use only”, on the customs form and state the value is below the threshold. 

But gifts worth more than this amount are eligible for VAT and, if valued at over £135 (€156) customs duties, with the recipient receiving the bill.

Sending parcels as gifts to the UK

When sending parcels to the UK from Austria, the sender should fill in a customs form, which you can find here

You should print out two copies of the completed form, and hand it in when sending the package. 

Importing packages from the UK into Austria 

When importing packages for a business from the UK into Austria, the shipping company  may ask you for the correct HS codes, which can be found on the UK government’s website.

You can find out more about  importing goods here.

Exporting goods from the UK to Austria

In order to give businesses time to adapt, the UK government has decided that imports into the UK from the EU can operate as normal until 1st April. From that date, under current plans, all items of animal origin such as meat, honey, milk or egg products, as well as regulated plants and plant products, will require full documentation and, where necessary, veterinary certificates to be sold in the UK.

From 1st July, all companies exporting to the UK will be required to fill out full customs declarations and goods could be subjected to physical checks at new UK customs centres.

So from 1st April, exporting will become more complicated. UK import clearance can only be handled by a UK-based company. The UK company must apply for a UK EORI number and carry out an import declaration.

All others have to hire a British “indirect representative” to carry out the import process. Until the end of June 2021, the import declaration can be made as “entry in the declarant’s records” and a complete import declaration can be submitted later.

You can find out more here

How are businesses finding the post-Brexit world? 

The Local spoke to John Szewczuk, the owner of Bobby’s Foodstore in Vienna, which sells British and American foodstuffs.

He said he had been unable to import any British goods since Brexit until March, and was mainly relying on goods he had stockpiled until December. 

Situation ‘really bad’

Szewczuk said the situation since January had been “really bad”. Due to a lack of correct labelling he has been unable to import any items containing animal products, including milk and butter, from the UK since January.

He received his first post-Brexit shipment of Marmite and tea in March, and said he had to pay an extra 10 to 15 percent in new customs charges for the products. He is now running low on cereals including Rice Krispies and All Bran. 

Due to the butter or milk content, he is currently unable to import chocolate, biscuits or shortbread from the UK.

Szewczuk says these requirements were already in place for the American products he imports, but these have labelling which allow them to be imported into the EU.

He said in the UK, even large firms such as Nestle have yet to introduce labelling which would allow the goods to be imported.

He has been told the situation should improve around the end of March. 

“Learning curve”

Richard Holmes, who makes and sells British sausages from a company called Britwurst in Vienna, said he had found it a “learning curve” trying to import a pea husk ingredient from the UK for his gluten-free bangers.

First his shipping company asked him to provide the HS codes, which he had to look up on the government website.

He says his shipping company admitted they were confused about the new regulations, and were behind on deliveries to Europe due to the new paperwork.

One of his two packages was delivered without problems, attracting a €8 customs charge and €10 admin fee on goods worth £35.

The second parcel was sent without the customs paperwork and is being held at the post office. He has not managed to collect it. 

He said he was looking into buying his ingredients from France in future.

Impact on research

Student researcher Victoria James said the changes in import rules had affected her research into immunology, as essential reagents, which she could only buy from the UK, were getting held up in customs, leaving her unable to plan experiments. She said she believed this problem would be affecting many science researchers in Europe. 

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For members

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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