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Italy issues first Brexit residence cards to British nationals

The Italian government has started production of the long-awaited biometric residence cards for UK nationals living in Italy, with the first already delivered.

Italy issues first Brexit residence cards to British nationals
British nationals living in Italy collect their Brexit residence cards from the Questura in Milan. Photo: Beyond Brexit/Facebook

British residents have begun collecting their so-called carta di soggiorno after three months of confusion, with some of the first cards picked up in Milan this week.

The residence card, which proves the special status of Brits who were already living in Italy before Brexit, has been a source of frustration with reports of Brits not being able to access healthcare, renew work contracts and withdraw pensions without it – even though it is supposed to be optional.

While citizens’ rights campaigners have called for an urgent response to the problem, the new residence card is at least finally in production. 

READ ALSO: 

Amit Kothari and his daughter were among the first Brits to pick up theirs in Milan on Wednesday, announced campaign group Beyond Brexit.

“Finally, it’s a relief to have got our hands on the carta di soggiorno that, hopefully, will safeguard our rights in Italy after Brexit,” said Kothari, who first arrived in Italy when he was five months old.

He described his experience of going to the questura (police immigration office) as a third-country national as “tough”. “I hope that will be the end of it,” he added.

Other UK nationals are still no nearer to getting their hands on the long-awaited card. One Brit couldn’t take hers home with her after receiving an appointment to collect the ID card, Beyond Brexit reports. As there were errors in her personal details, she had to return it and is now waiting again.

“We strongly advise people to check the details on their cards very carefully when they go and collect them,” the group urged.

Brits in Italy have faced problems post-Brexit. Photo: Christian Lue/Unsplash

Other British residents are facing setbacks due to technical issues. Problems with taking fingerprints have slowed down obtaining the card for some, with reports of Brits returning to the questura up to three times to give their prints again.

It seems that this is a snag for those whose fingerprints are ‘worn down’ and can’t be read by the machines as easily.

One member of Beyond Brexit’s Facebook group wrote: “I had to go back to the Questura in Bergamo to redo my fingerprints. I just checked my hands and they (the fingerprints) do seem to have largely disappeared over the years.”

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

Italian authorities introduced the new Brexit residence card as a simple way of proving the rights of British nationals living in Italy post-Brexit. It’s valid for those who registered for residency before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st 2020.

The new card is still not mandatory, but getting one continues to be highly recommended.

People who have already applied can check on the status of their new card by going to the Italian state police’s immigration website here and entering the ten-digit case number (numero di pratica) written on the official receipt they received after making their application.

Further information on the biometric card can be found on the UK government’s website here.

If you need help applying, you can contact the International Organisation for Migration by emailing [email protected] or calling 800 684 884.

Anyone who faces difficulties in accessing services in Italy is advised to contact the British Embassy via their Living in Italy website. You can also find more information on the British in Italy website and Beyond Brexit page.

Member comments

  1. I am amazed at the problems in applying for the biometric are.
    I initially had to get a new British Passport as mine was due for renewal, on its receipt I collected all the other information which took about an hour, established a pec address which took a day, ans sent the documents on a Friday, expecting to hear nothing for several weeks. The following Tuesday I was contacted buy the immigration Department and in English asked to report for an interview on Wednesday or Thursday at any time. On arrival I asked for the lady concerned, was immediately moved to the front of the queue, interviewed had my finger prints taken all within 10 mins.
    I was then warned that the card would take some time to arrive probably in 6 weeks, that was a month ago.
    I don’t think I have ever had any problems with getting a health card or residency in the past, in fact when I arrived 4 years ago all residency requirement were completed in 24 hours and the health card issued.
    I’ve always been extremely please with the service received by the majority of the government departments.

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BREXIT

Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

British nationals living in Italy are becoming increasingly concerned by the lack of news about a reciprocal driving licence agreement post-Brexit, and say the current 'catch-22' situation is adversely affecting their lives.

Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Italy who are currently playing a waiting game on the validity of their driving licences.

Those who are driving in Italy on a UK-issued permit currently have just over six months left before their licence is no longer accepted on Italy’s roads.

READ ALSO: Driving licences: How does situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

That is, unless a deal is reached between the UK and Italy, or another extension period is granted.

Another extension would mark the third time the authorities have deferred making an agreement on UK driving licences in Italy.

When Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, British and Italian authorities hadn’t reached a reciprocal deal on driving licences.

However, UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences in Italy.

With just days to go before the deadline in December 2021, those still using a UK licence were granted a reprieve when it was further extended for another 12 months until the end of 2022.

But the situation from January 1st, 2023, remains unknown.

In the remaining few months, British nationals driving in Italy who hadn’t converted their licence to an Italian one before January 1st, 2021 face the same choice again: wait and hope for an agreement or start the lengthy and costly process of taking their Italian driving test.

There is still no confirmation on reaching an agreement on driving licences. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Many UK nationals have contacted The Local recently to express their frustration, anger and concern over the situation, explaining how the possibility of not being to drive in Italy would profoundly impact their lives.

For some, it would mean not being able to get to work, losing their independence, not being to reach supermarkets for the food shop in remote areas, or not being able to take their children to school.

And in the meantime, many readers told us it means ongoing worry and uncertainty.

Reader David (not his real name), who moved to the southern region of Puglia shortly before Brexit hit, tells us he now finds himself in a “horrible catch-22 situation”.

He summed up the feeling among many of those who contacted The Local by saying: “It is highly concerning and not at all helpful for mental or physical health in a period when we are trying to settle in to a new life in Italy.”

He points out that, for him, retaking his driving test and getting an Italian licence would also mean having to sell his car and buy one with a less powerful engine.

“I realise that if I pass the Italian driving test and obtain an Italian licence, then I will be a neopatente (new driver) with three years of serious restrictions,” he says.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about getting an Italian driving licence post-Brexit

Newly administered licences in Italy carry restrictions including on the maximum engine size of the car the holder may drive, tighter speed limits on the motorway and extra penalty points for breaking them.

“In this situation, I am honestly dis-incentivised to get the Italian licence unless there seriously is a real ‘no deal’ scenario on the table,” he says.

“Because if I get an Italian licence now – and of course I could choose now to invest a lot of time and money to get it – and then an agreement is reached to exchange licenses, then I might find myself in a worse position than if I just waited to do an exchange.”

“I am sincerely hoping for an agreement to be reached for experienced drivers with a UK licence.”

James Appleton lives in Milan and says he feels “frustrated about the situation”. Although he concedes that he lives in the city with all the convenience that implies, he is worried about having a car sitting outside his flat that he can no longer drive from January.

“The frustration now is with little over six months left of the year, advice from the authorities has continued to be quite unhelpful,” he tells us.

“We keep hearing, ‘consider your options’. I know my options: I have to start the process of taking a test, which is expensive and lengthy, and which may turn out to be unnecessary, or wait until the end of the year. Those have been my options for year and a half,” he adds.

Frustration for many British nationals still waiting on a post-Brexit driving licence agreement. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

“I feel very much in limbo. If it gets to November and we still haven’t heard anything, I risk having a car that I can’t drive from January as my licence may no longer be valid.

My hope would be if there’s not to be a deal, let us know so there’s time to take the test,” James says. “I don’t want to find out with a week to go, like last year.”

He points to the fact that many other non-EU countries have reciprocal driving licence agreements with Italy, so why not the UK? Meanwhile, Italy is one of only two countries in the EU still not to have made a deal on driving licences.

While he said he didn’t want to sound “entitled”, the lack of clarity was simply confusing.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

Like many others, he tried but didn’t manage to convert his British licence in time as he moved to Italy shortly before the Brexit deadline.

James registered as a resident in December 2020, leaving little time to begin the conversion process. He admitted it was partly his fault “for not having realised the consequences of what was going to happen”.

But “there are some people in a position where it wasn’t so straightforward to convert your licence,” he notes.

This was true for another reader, who wished to remain anonymous. She tells us that she tried to begin the conversion of her UK driving licence three times in Imperia, where she lives, but was told to “wait and see what is decided”.

“No one has taken a note of my requests and attempts so I cannot prove my attempts to get this sorted or listed,” she says.

READ ALSO: How to import your car or motorbike to Italy

In her case, it would therefore be difficult to prove that she began the conversion process before January 1st, 2021.

She also faced setbacks when trying to convert her licence in time after applying for residency before Brexit.

On being told that she needed her final ID card (carta d’identità) proving her residence, she returned to her town hall but couldn’t get the card for another seven months due to no appointments being available.

“Then I couldn’t get the licence exchanged as the person dealing with this was not at work on the day I went. I had to fly back to UK then Covid restrictions kicked in, hampering travel and by then UK was out of Europe and the Italian/UK driver’s licence issues remained unsolved,” she added.

The question on a UK-Italy driving licence agreement rolls on. Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP

So is there any hope that an agreement will be reached and those driving on a UK licence won’t need to sit an Italian driving test?

At this point there are no indications as to whether a decision will be reached either way. The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test, while also stating that they’re working on reaching a deal.

The latest update to the driving guidance on the British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage in January states:

“If you were resident in Italy before 1 January 2022 you can use your valid UK licence until 31 December 2022,” however, “you must exchange your licence for an Italian one by 31 December 2022. You will need to take a driving test (in Italian).”

The guidance then states: “The British and Italian governments continue to negotiate long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing to take a test.”

So far, so much conflicting advice, as many readers point out.

Of those who have decided to take the plunge and sit the Italian driving test, some say it’s “not as difficult as it sounds” while others report having trouble with the highly technical questions in the theory test, not to mention the fact that the test has to be taken in Italian.

If you speak French or German better than Italian, the test may be available in those languages – but not in English.

READ ALSO: Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

“My question is why can’t you take your driving test in English? Adding it as an option for taking the test would help,” says Njideka Nwachukwu, who moved to Italy in 2019. She failed the theory test and has to try again, at a further cost.

Even if you find taking the test a breeze, the process is known to take around six months – if you pass everything first time – and to set you back hundreds of euros.

At the time of writing, neither Italian nor British government officials have given any indication as to if or when a deal may be reached, or an explanation of why the two countries have not yet been able to reach an agreement.

Nor has any explanation been given as to why this important aspect of life in Italy was never protected under the Withdrawal Agreement in the first place.

When contacted by The Local recently for an update on the situation, the British Embassy in Rome stated: “rest assured the Embassy continues to prioritise the issue of UK driving licence validity in Italy and we continue to engage with the Italian government on this issue.”

The Local will continue to ask for updates regarding the use of British driving licences in Italy.

Thank you to everyone who contacted The Local to tell us how they are affected by this issue, including those we couldn’t feature in this article.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

See The Local’s latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

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