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Q&A: The British Embassy answers your questions about life in Italy after Brexit

The Local put questions from our readers to the British Embassy in Rome. Here's their guidance on residency, healthcare, driving and protecting your rights after Brexit.

Q&A: The British Embassy answers your questions about life in Italy after Brexit
Jill Morris CMG, the British Ambassador to Italy and San Marino. Photo: UK in Italy

The past year has been tough for everyone in Italy. And for Brits, it came with the added upheaval of the end of the Brexit transition period and the final withdrawal of their EU citizen status. 

As UK nationals grapple with new visa requirements and extra paperwork, as well as the uncertainty over travel and vaccinations facing everyone in the Covid-19 pandemic, we asked our readers what you wanted to know from Ambassador Jill Morris and her team at the British Embassy in Rome.

We put your questions to the Embassy: find the answers below.

VISAS AND RESIDENCY

Q: What are the options for people who wish to remain residents in the UK but spend more than 90 days in Italy? Is there any chance that UK citizens will be allowed to spend up to six months in Italy without a visa, as Italian citizens can in the UK?

The EU treats British citizens as third-country nationals under the Schengen Borders Code. This means that, as of January 1st 2021, British citizens are able to travel visa-free for short stays, such as for tourism, for up to 90 days in a rolling 180-day period. This is the standard length of stay that the EU offers to nationals of eligible third countries, in line with existing EU legislation.

The Government continues to provide information about travelling to Europe on gov.uk. British citizens who are planning to stay in the Schengen Area for longer than 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, including those who own property, will need permission from the relevant Member State(s).

This may require applying for a visa and/or permit. British citizens should discuss the specifics of their situation with relevant Member State authorities ahead of travel, and should be prepared to provide any extra documentation that may be needed to meet the necessary entry requirements.

READ ALSO: What Brits need to know about visas for Italy

Photo: Unsplash/Ethan Wilkinson

Q: Will it be possible for British citizens to retire in Italy from now on? What requirements would they need to meet to live here permanently?

If you want to move to an EU Member State, whatever your age, you will have to meet local immigration and residency rules, as free movement has ended. 

If you are able to move and become resident in an EU Member State under their local rules, then if you are ‘UK insured’ i.e. in receipt of a UK state pension, you will be able to benefit from special provisions where the UK will continue to fund your healthcare. 

READ ALSO: How British second home owners can spend more than 90 days in Italy after Brexit 

British citizens should discuss the specifics of their situation with relevant Italian authorities ahead of travel, and should be prepared to provide any extra documentation that may be needed to meet the necessary entry requirements.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently updated its website on visa applications which you can find here. For those wishing to retire in Italy in the future you may wish to consider applying for an ‘elective residence visa’. Please see the above website for more details including visa fee and where to apply

Q: Can British citizens in Italy who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement request residency for their non-EU partners, including if they are not married?

Close and current family members of UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement are themselves protected by the Withdrawal Agreement where the relationship existed before the end of the transition period (December 31st 2020). This includes durable partners and includes non-EU national close family members. 

Your partner will need to apply for the new Withdrawal Agreement biometric residency card (‘carta di soggiorno elettronica’) from your local questura. More information can be found here.

Q: What would you advise British nationals who applied for residency in Italy before the end of the Brexit transition period but whose application has not yet been processed due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and who now find themselves without proof of residence from the Italian authorities? 

If you applied for residency with your town hall before January 1st 2021 but have not received confirmation of your application you should contact your local town hall to check the status of your residency application.

If you were lawfully living in Italy before January 1st 2021 and you have residency rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, you have the right to complete your registration with your town hall. The town hall must confirm its decision within 45 days of your application.

EXPLAINED: What are the different documents Italy’s British residents need after Brexit?

You should ask the town hall to issue the ‘attestazione di iscrizione anagrafica’ to show at the questura. When you have completed your residency registration, you should book an appointment with your local questura to obtain the new biometric residency card.

DRIVING

Q: Do the UK and Italy plan to negotiate a reciprocal agreement for the exchange of driving licences in future? 

The UK and Italy are currently in negotiations on a future agreement on the right of UK nationals to exchange their UK licence for an Italian one without the need to re-sit their test. Please continue to check our Living in Italy guide on gov.uk for updates. 

READ ALSO: 

UK nationals who have been legally resident in Italy for longer than 12 months can no longer use a UK driving licence when driving in Italy. You will need to re-sit your test to obtain an Italian licence. 

Q: Has the procedure and/or fee for registering a vehicle brought over to Italy from the UK changed? 

The rules regarding car registration depends on whether it is a new vehicle being exported or a second-hand vehicle currently registered outside the EU and being moved into Italy.

New vehicles must meet the necessary EU type approval rules which are the same for EU and non-EU produced vehicles. However, a vehicle already registered in the EU should then be able to be registered in another EU country without any further checks while a vehicle registered outside the EU would likely be treated as a new vehicle. There may be requirements to produce additional evidence that the vehicle complies with the latest EU technical requirements. 

Check this page from the Ministero dei Trasporti which illustrates that there are different instructions for different countries (including for different EU countries).  

Individuals will need to comply with current Italian legislation.

Photo by Jure Makovec / AFP

Q: Can you drive in the UK with an Italian licence and/or Italian-registered vehicle?

Italian and EU driving licences are recognised in the UK without a requirement for additional paperwork.

You can usually use a vehicle with foreign number plates without registering or taxing it in the UK if all of the following apply:

  • You’re visiting and do not plan to live here.
  • The vehicle is registered and taxed in its home country.
  • You only use the vehicle for up to six months in total – this can be a single visit, or several shorter visits over 12 months.

Please check here for further information.

VACCINATION AND HEALTH

Q: How can British citizens in Italy get vaccinated against coronavirus? What about Brits who are not registered as resident and/or enrolled in the Italian health service? 

A phased vaccination programme was launched in Italy on December 27th. The Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) has issued comprehensive information, in English, on the vaccine and the documentation required to book an appointment.

Many regional authorities have launched online booking platforms and are currently inviting those in priority groups to register.

An interactive map (in Italian) details a list of vaccine administration points by region.

Further information is due to be made available on the process for those who live in Italy but who do not hold an Italian healthcare card to book a vaccine so please continue to consult the relevant Italian government websites outlined above. 

READ ALSO: 

Photo by Tiziana Fabi / AFP

Q: Can people with a private UK pension but no S1 form register for national healthcare in Italy?

After you have registered your residency, you need to register with the Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – SSN) through your local health authority (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – ASL).

You can register for free with the SSN if:

  • You have a work contract, are self-employed in Italy or are a dependant of someone who is.
  • You are a dependant 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 you are unemployed.
  • You hold a UK social security form, such as an S1 form for pensioners.

If you do not qualify for free SSN registration, you may be able to pay an annual fee to register for Iscrizione Volontaria. Contact your ASL to see if you can do this in the region where you live.

Read our guidance on healthcare in Italy and make sure you are correctly registered.

BIOMETRIC RESIDENCY CARD

Q: Do British citizens living in Italy have to get the new biometric WA residence card? Are older residence documents, such as a ‘permesso di soggiorno permanente’, still valid?

The Italian government has introduced a new biometric residency card called a ‘carta di soggiorno elettronica’ for people who have residency rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

The card is not mandatory for UK nationals living in Italy. However we advise that you obtain it because it will show evidence of your rights. This includes those who current hold a permanent residency document. 

READ ALSO: 

You can get the card from your local police headquarters’ immigration office (‘questura’). Read the Italian government’s guide (‘vademecum’) on how to obtain the card, available in Italian and English.

Your close and current family members can also get the new biometric residency card. This includes those currently living in Italy and those that move there in the future. This also includes your children in the future either born or adopted.

You can also read our guidance on getting the new card here

Q: Is any assistance available for people applying for the biometric card? 

UK nationals who are resident in Italy, and need help to complete their residence application or registration, can get support from organisations funded by the UK Nationals Support Fund.

This support is only available to people who need additional help to secure their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. They may include pensioners, disabled people, people living in remote areas or people who have mobility difficulties.

Support available includes:

  • Answering questions about residence applications, such as the documents you need and how the application process works.
  • Guiding you through the process, if necessary.
  • Support if you experience language barriers or difficulty accessing online information and services.

If you, or someone you know, are having difficulty completing residence paperwork or have any questions, contact the IOM:

TRAVEL

Q: Is there definitive information now on what documents are required for British nationals resident in Italy to re-enter the country from the UK?

You should carry your residence document (EU document or new attestazione), as well as your valid passport when you travel.

If you have not yet applied for a residence document, you should carry evidence that you are resident in Italy. This could include a tenancy agreement or a utility bill in your name, dating from 2020.

If you cannot show that you are resident in Italy, you may be asked additional questions at the border to enter the Schengen area, and your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. This will not affect your rights in Italy.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules on travel between Italy and the UK?

Photo: Niklas Hallen / AFP

Q: Both Italy and the UK are advising people to avoid travel if possible during the pandemic. If UK residents are currently in Italy and delay returning to the UK until it is safer to travel, could they be penalised for overstaying the 90-day limit without a visa?

Any stays beyond the 90 days in any 180-day period will be dependent on the applicable visas and immigration rules of each EU member state. This may require applying for a visa and/or permit.

British nationals should direct any queries on possible extensions to their length of stay with the local questura and be prepared to provide any extra documentation that may be required. 

READ ALSO: Here’s what you should know before booking a trip from the UK to Italy

The Schengen Borders Code governs the rules for entry and exit in the Schengen Area for third-country nationals. Member State border forces are responsible for the implementation of the rules, including in emergency cases.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office is not in a position to comment on the enforcement or penalty policies of Schengen Area Member States. However, further information on the Schengen Borders Code is available on the European Commission’s website.  

British nationals should discuss the specifics of their situation with their local questura (immigration office).

Q: Does the UK plan to start accepting Covid-19 test results in Italian?

To travel to the UK you must provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to three days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival. The test results must be in English, French or Spanish.

READ ALSO: Where in Italy can you get Covid-19 test results in English?

Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details. You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption. 

When you enter England from abroad (except Ireland), you must follow the new requirements for quarantining and taking additional Covid-19 tests. For those travelling from a country on the banned travel list, you will be required to quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

You can find more information here and here

CITIZENSHIP

Q: Is it correct that British nationals now have to accumulate ten years’ residency in Italy before they can apply for citizenship, instead of four years for EU nationals? Does that include Brits in Italy who are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement?

All UK nationals living in Italy and wishing to apply for Italian citizenship after the end of the transition period (so from January 1st 2021) through residency are required to have been legally resident in Italy for ten years or more before doing so. This is applicable legislation for non-EU nationals when applying for residency. Please see here for more information. 

UK nationals who had accumulated four years’ residency on January 31st 2020 had until December 31st 2020 to apply for citizenship on the basis of the four years’ residency. 

Photo by Philippe Huguen / AFP

FINAL QUESTIONS FROM THE LOCAL…

Q: Are there any other important issues you are aware of for British nationals that have not already been mentioned? 

To stay up to date you can:

Check your passport is valid for travel before you book your trip. You can apply for or renew your British passport from Italy.

You must have at least six months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland). This requirement does not apply if you are entering or transiting to Italy or when travelling around the EU, and you are in scope of the Withdrawal Agreement.

As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. You may have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. You may also need to show a return or onward ticket.

Q: Between Covid-19 and Brexit, the past year has been a period of considerable stress and uncertainty for Brits in Italy. What message would you like to give them?

We would like to reassure UK nationals that we continue to engage with Italian local authorities and with central government to ensure the smooth implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and that UK nationals have the information they need to protect their rights.

Although we have not been able to host our usual in-person town hall meetings due to Covid-19 restrictions, we host regular online events including Facebook live Q&As and residency roadshows. We also work closely with IOM and with consular partners to provide information to those who don’t use the internet.

Find all The Local’s updates on Brexit here.

Member comments

  1. Hello fellow British members, Can anyone help me with this problem?
    My wife left her Rolex watch at our daughter’s house, in the UK last year. Being currently unable to travel she has not been able to get it, so we asked our daughter to send it via UPS, but UPS said they can not do this without it incurring VAT/Duty at Italian customs, which would be a lump! As she has owned this for 17 years, this is very unjust and unfair. Does anyone know how I can solve this?
    Thank you
    Barry

  2. hello. my husband and i own an agriturismo in chianti. we mainly produce olive oil and rent the villa out in the summers to bolster income. the property requires quite a lot of hands on management. brexit has meant will be much more difficult to balance the time needed to run the business against the 6 month limit on time allowed in italy. as a business owner, is there a way we can exceed the 6 month limit? we have UK passports.

    thank you
    lauren

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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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