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BREXIT

Brits in Austria have two weeks left to apply for post-Brexit residency

The deadline to apply for the Article 50 card in Austria is New Year's Eve, with many British people living in Austria yet to apply.

Brits in Austria have two weeks left to apply for post-Brexit residency
Former British Ambassador Leigh Turner applying for the Article 50 Card. Photo credit: Amina Taieb / British Embassy Vienna.

As part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, British people who were already living in Austria at the end of the transition period on December 31st 2020 can apply to stay in Austria retaining many of the rights they enjoyed as EU citizens, but the deadline is approaching fast.

Applications for the Article 50 EUV Card should be submitted by December 2021 31st and the card is mandatory for British people who were in Austria under EU freedom of movement laws and do not have another right of residence in order to continue living and working in Austria past New Year’s Eve. If you have another right of residence, such as citizenship of a different EU country, you do not need to apply, but may still want to.

Here’s what you need to know about the Article 50 Card and how to apply.

What is the Article 50 Card?

The Article 50 Card replaces all previous residency permits held by British people in Austria who were living here under EU freedom of movement. In a nutshell, it’s a post-Brexit residency card.

The application process for the Article 50 Card opened on January 4th 2021, although many people in Vienna have experienced delays.

Mike Bailey, from British in Austria, told The Local: “The Article 50 Card application procedures have been handled differently in Vienna and in other provinces.

“In Vienna, the process takes longer and feedback has shown it has taken between two and 39 weeks before people receive the card.

“Some people in Vienna applied at the start of the year and have been asked three or four times for more information, plus there have been very publicised staffing issues at MA35 [Immigration and Citizenship Department].

“But outside of Vienna it has been a different story with quicker processing times.”

British people that moved to Austria after the end of the transition period, in other words from January 1st 2021, have to go through the standard immigration channels as a third-country national.

EXPLAINED: What Brits with EU partners need to know about returning to live in the UK

Who needs to apply?

British people that were living in Austria as an EU citizen on December 2020 31st and want to continue living, working or studying in Austria have to apply for the Article 50 Card – regardless of age or socioeconomic status.

The British in Austria group even advises people with a second EU nationality to apply for the 10-year Article 50 card, if eligible.

This is because the ten-year card offers greater flexibility when it comes to time spent away from Austria, compared to the pre-existing Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts (a legal residency document obtained after five years in Austria as an EU citizen).

If British citizens living in Austria don’t apply for the Article 50 Card they could lose their current rights that are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

There were around 11,500 UK nationals registered in Austria at the end of 2020.

Nerys Jones, Chargé d’Affaires at the British Embassy, told The Local: “It’s very important that British nationals living in Austria now apply for an Article 50 card.

“If you don’t apply before the deadline at the end of December, it will be much harder to stay in Austria from January next year, and you might not be able to access important services.

“We are working hard to reach as many people as possible but are especially concerned about older or vulnerable British people who have been in Austria for some time and may not realise this applies to them.

How does the application process work?

For people that live outside of Vienna, Article 50 applications take place at the local Bezirkshauptmannschaft or Magistrat where a person lives (Hauptwohnsitz). 

In Vienna, applications are processed at MA35, the City of Vienna Immigration and Citizenship department in Arndtstrasse in the 12th district.

In most cases, an appointment has to be made in advance and proof of status will have to be provided, such as a job contract, proof of self-employment, proof of address and ID.

In some cases, additional checks will be made to determine the eligibility of an applicant.

Applicants also have to pay a fee (see below for more information), provide fingerprints and a passport photo.

After applying, each applicant should be issued with an official confirmation of application. If the confirmation is not provided, Mike from British in Austria advises people to request it.

READ MORE: Passport stamps: What British residents in the EU need to know when crossing borders

The British in Austria website has an updated list of offices across the country where an application for the Article 50 Card can be made. You can find the page here.

Typically, the process takes a couple of weeks from lodging the application to receiving the Article 50 Card, but it can take longer in Vienna as there are more British people living in the capital than elsewhere in Austria.

However, earlier this year some people experienced delays in applying for the Article 50 Card as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and closed offices. 

In February, there were also reports of some British citizens in Austria wrongly having their benefits payments suspended due to misunderstandings of the new post-Brexit rules, as reported by The Local.

The suspension of benefits went against the Withdrawal Agreement and resulted in Ambassador Turner reaching out to the Austrian Federal Government to resolve the issue.

How much does the application cost?

The costs of applying for the Article 50 Card ranges from €0 to around €75.

The difference will depend on how long someone has lived in Austria and whether further documentation is required.

The standard fee is €61.50 but this is waived if a person already has a permanent residency status in Austria that was obtained pre-Brexit.

Permanent residency is gained after living in Austria for five years and meeting the conditions for a residency permit under EU law.

Useful links

British in Austria

City of Vienna – Immigration and Citizenship (MA 35)

Austrian Federal Government

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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