Beulah Maud Devaney

What next? Advice for British citizens living abroad

I’ve finally limped away from my post-referendum hangover and realised that I’m not the only British immigrant* who spent the weekend freaking out and frantically googling labour + housing laws in my adopted country.

Thing is, when you’ve spent 48 hours straight watching rolling news, scanning Reuters, brushing up on non-EU visas and sending hate mail to your Leave voting family (jks, I settled for subtweeting) it becomes clear that there isn’t, actually, a lot of advice out there for British immigrants.

Most high-profile “expat” blogs lost their funding a while ago and news outlets like The Guardian + BBC have settled for a small Brit-nationals living abroad side-note, rather than a dedicated list of resources.

There are roughly 1.3 million British citizens living in EU countries – I wrote about how that number is much higher than most people realise here – and a good proportion of them were denied a vote in the EU referendum.

On Friday David Cameron “assured” Brits living abroad that “there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances”. Less reassuring words have never been spoken; especially coming from a man who brought his reelection with promises of an EU referendum, only to realise at the nth hour that, historically, appeasing xenophobic scaremongers has never been a good idea.

Obviously nothing is certain yet but there is a deficit of advice available and even though we will be ok anything that seems to threaten your livelihood, home or legal status within a country is, by definition, Really Fucking Scary.

So, with this in mind, here is list of advice** for British immigrants living in EU-countries.

Housing

While British immigrants are unlikely to lose their homes there will potentially be changes in inheritance and tax laws. Check out the European e-Justice Portal which has details of how inheritance laws differ across member states.

House prices were expected to fall as soon as the referendum result was announced and by the end of 2016 houses are predicted to be worth £20,000 less than they were in January.

So if you already own a house in the UK don’t sell and if you moved abroad because you couldn’t afford a house (hello) it’s probably worth keeping an eye on the housing market.

Finance

Brits travelling abroad are facing low exchange rates and many of them will be looking to cut costs. If you’re unsure about your finances or just want to build up a nest egg/apocalypse fund, take a look at your country’s AirBnB laws.

Also get an accountant. Whether you’re a permanent, temporary, freelance or unemployed immigrant, having someone to advise you on finances before Britain exits the EU will (at least) give you some peace of mind.

Passports/Citizenship

While we can keep using the EU-citizens speedy queues at airport check-in, don’t bother renewing your passport now with the hope of keeping an EU passport for the next 10 years.

Information for if you’re considering applying for long-term residence in an EU country as a non-EU citizen, further reading via the European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship and here’s a list of EU-country requirements for naturalisation.

Health Care

Once again this depends on the arrangement the British government reaches with the EU and individual EU countries. But! The same system for passports applies to your UK-based family’s EHICs (European Health Insurance Cards): once Britain leaves the UK they’re invalid.

So it’s probably worth speaking to your health insurance providers and finding out if your current insurance can cover accident prone friends and family.

Employment

Brits with permanent employment will be safe, especially if there are already non-EU citizens in your company and thanks to the EU (sob sob) there are a lot of worker protection laws. Still… Check. Your. Contract.

One thing that might happen is that you have to apply for a EU Blue Cardhere’s a list of countries that require non-EU citizens to have one.

If you are on a temporary contract it’s best to speak to your company HR team and to consider joining one of the UK-based unions (see below).

Freelancers

Urgh. As a freelancer who earns in £ exchange rates are not my friend and my NL bank account is looking a little anaemic, even after having all my invoices paid.

If you’re in a similar situation brush up on freelancer laws and restrictions for non-EU member freelancers and consider joining BECTU or one of the other UK-based trade unions. They can offer legal advice on issues, support during negotiations and are arguably the only protection left for UK residents once the EU worker laws are no longer mandatory.

*I have decided to refer to Brits living abroad as “immigrants” (rather than the slightly more SEO-friendly “expats”) because that’s what I am and because my Leave voting Nan – twittering and twattering on about immigrants – was actually surprised when my long suffering Remain voting Mum pointed out that “your granddaughter is an immigrant”.

“Immigrant” is not a shameful word and dividing emigrants into immigrants and expats is racist.

**This is literally just me googling a lot of stuff, the only things I’m an expert in are referendum anxiety, cooked breakfasts and Daphne du Maurier novels. Please click the links.

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