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Immigration was one of the main concerns which sparked Brexit. The UK voted to take back control of its borders and wants to end free circulation and establishment between the UK and the EU27 member states.

The current, pre-Brexit situation for UK nationals and EU nationals is freedom of movement for EU and UK citizens under Art. 45 TFEU, Directive 2004/38/EC. This gives EU citizens and their family members the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states. This means:

  • no visa requirement.
  • no work authorisation requirement.
  • no residency permit requirement.
  • residency permits for third-country dependents.
  • freedom of circulation and establishment under sufficiency condition.

In practical terms, having a valid ID card or passport entitles EU nationals to enter the territory of another member state. For long stays, – more than 3 months – they may also reside in an EU member state subject to certain conditions and limitations (personal resources, healthcare insurance provisions and provided they are not a burden on the social security system) according to their status in the host country. After five years’ continuous residence, EU nationals have the option of obtaining permanent residence status.

After Brexit, both UK nationals in EU member states and EU nationals in the UK will be treated as third-country nationals. Borders will be back between the UK and the EU.

Key contacts

Haiyan Cai
Legal adviser/Head of immigration
T +33 1 47 38 56 49

Germany – contingency measures


If the UK leaves under the withdrawal deal, Germany will apply the transition period which ends on 31 December 2020 safeguarding the rights of UK nationals. A voluntary registration system will be implemented by the German Federal immigration authorities (Ausländerbehörde).


In the no-deal situation, Germany plans to exempt UK citizens and their dependents from residence permits for the first three months after the Brexit date. A further six-month extension is subject to the consensus of the German Senate (Bundesrat). During the transition period, UK citizens would need to apply for residence status under the third country nationals’ regime.

UK citizens arriving after the withdrawal date are exempted from the requirement of a residence permit for only the first three months after the Brexit date. After that, this group will be granted the same privileges as those allowed to citizens of the USA, Canada and Japan initially until the end of 2020. This means they will be allowed to apply for residence title after entry, and have unlimited access to the labour market.

After the transitional period, the third-country nationals’ regime will apply to newcomers.


In Germany the Federal States (Bundesländer) are responsible for the application procedures and for issuing permits. Some cities, including Frankfurt, have already started contacting UK citizens.

Key contacts

Haiyan Cai
Legal adviser/Head of immigration
T +33 1 47 38 56 49