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How Brits can prove their post-Brexit rights in Germany – before they get their residence card

Many Brits in Germany have their rights protected under the Withdrawal Agreement, but that can be hard to prove. Here's what to do if your employer wants to see your residence title - but you don't yet have it.

How Brits can prove their post-Brexit rights in Germany - before they get their residence card
Many Brits are reliant on their post-Brexit residence card to prove their rights - but a large proportion haven't received it yet. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Holger Hollemann

Since the UK left the European Economic Area (EEA) at the end of 2020, ending the free movement of Brits in the European Union, many British people in Germany have faced a long and stressful wait for proof of their status. 

Though the rights of British people who were living in Germany before January 1st 2021 are assured under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, it’s not easy to prove it without the Aufenthaltstitel-GB: the special residence card issued to Brits in Germany after Brexit. 

In a survey conducted by The Local in June, around a quarter of respondents said they hadn’t yet been offered an interview for their new residence title, while 48 percent of people who had attended the interview hadn’t yet received their card.

READ ALSO: Postcode lottery: Brits in Germany on what it’s like to apply for the post-Brexit residence card

In the meantime, life has continued, and some Brits who have applied for new jobs, freelance work or social support have found themselves in a bind.

Most employers want to see evidence that their new hire has the right to work in Germany. And if they haven’t kept up with the latest on Brexit, they may be unaware that Brits who arrived in the country before 2021 have their rights guaranteed – with or without a card to prove it. 

The situation may be a stressful one, but according to citizens’ rights experts, it’s not insurmountable. Here’s what to do if your employer is asking you for a document you just don’t have yet. 

Know your rights

The most important thing to understand is that, unlike a visa, none of your rights as a Brit in Germany are dependent on the card itself. Though it’s an incredibly useful piece of I.D. to have, the Withdrawal Agreement specifies that UK citizens who arrived before the cut-off date (January 1st, 2021) have the right to live and work in Germany indefinitely.

In addition, the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) this year issued a memorandum to employers advising them not to ask for proof of their rights or status until the end of the year. 

READ ALSO: READ ALSO:  Germany extends ‘trust’ period for employing UK citizens after Brexit

“Until the end of 2021, you can trust a statement by UK nationals and their family members to have a right of residence under the Withdrawal Agreement,” the notice says. “You can at least always assume that this is the case if the entitled employee was living in Germany on 31st December 2020.”

Clarify the situation

If an employer or job centre employee is asking for your official documentation and you don’t have it to hand, it may be worth sending them a link to the official advice for employers from BMAS (in both English and German) and gently reminding them of your Withdrawal Agreement (WA) rights, which were passed into German law last year

READ ALSO: Brexit: Germany passes law to guarantee rights of British residents

As a gesture of good faith, you could also offer to show some form of proof that you were here before the cut-off date – such as your registration (Anmeldung) in Germany – and are therefore covered by the WA. 

Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil (SPD). The Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs has issued guidance to employers telling them not to ask for proof of residency from Brits this year. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Another option, according to citizens’ rights group British in Germany (BiG) is to get in touch with your local Foreigners’ Office (Ausländerbehörde) and explain the urgency of your situation. 

“If the employer is digging their heels in and if, for example, the individual has not yet been to their appointment at the Ausländerbehörde or has not received the card yet, then I would also suggest that they contact the Auslaenderbehörde again and see whether the appointment can be held urgently and/or whether the Behörde can issue a letter stating explicitly the right to work,” BiG’s Alison Jones told The Local.

Ask for help

If the discursive approach doesn’t work, BiG recommends getting help from specialist groups set up to support Brits with their post-Brexit residence issues. 

“If people are experiencing difficulties with their employers, I would recommend they contact either one of the UK Nationals Support Fund services set up to support British citizens with the residence process,” said BiG’s Matt Bristow.

“For people in Bremen, Hamburg, Niedersachsen and North Rhine-Westphalia that is SSAFA, and for the rest of Germany it is the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).”

Jones agrees that the UK Nationals Support Fund could be a sensible first point of call when asking for help.

“It can be a really frightening situation for someone to be in, and people may be afraid of getting into an argument with their employer so may want to look for ways to handle it that do not feel like an escalation,” she explained. “Contacting the UKNSF organisations does not have to be an escalation in any way whereas the Betriebsrat or the Ausländerbehörde conceivably might be.”

Seek legal advice – or financial support 

While it’s unlikely to come to this, if you’re facing genuine difficulty with an employer after Brexit, it could be worth seeking guidance or representation from a legal expert.

Brits whose rights are assured under the Withdrawal Agreement are entitled to jobseekers’ support and other benefits. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

“Depending on what the workplace is like, people might consider talking to their Betriebsrat,” said Jones. “It is quite possible that they will know nothing about the Withdrawal Agreement, but they should be prepared to look at the documentation including the advice to employers and, if necessary, to advise on or help the employee represent the position to management.”

READ ALSO: ‘A big worry’: Why Britons living in Germany still face bureaucratic headaches over Brexit

If you’re already employed and your workplace has a trade union, you could also consider contacting your union representative, adds Bristow. 

It’s possible that your local Employment Agency (Arbeitsagentur) may be able to assist if you’re unable to work due to Brexit-related issues – and it’s important to remember that Brits who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement are eligible for benefits and jobseekers’ support.

“I don’t actually know whether there would be any action the Employment Agency could take, although it would at least start to protect the position in case the work contract is terminated,” says Jones. 

Let citizens’ rights groups know

If you’re facing difficulties with your employer due to Brexit, Bristow recommends speaking to BiG so that authorities can be made aware that this is happening – and potentially take steps to fix it. 

“Whilst we can’t provide the individual support that SSAFA and IOM do, we do feed back trends to the British Embassy and the German authorities,” he said. “It really helps for us to know where people are and who they work for.”

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‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

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“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.