Following on from the referendum result some 1.5 million British expatriates resident in EU countries are faced with the potential loss of their right to own property, live in it on a permanent basis, work without visas, access healthcare on the same terms as other locals and draw their state pensions after retiring. Many, concerned that the British government will be unable to secure continued residency and work rights for them, are applying to obtain the citizenship of another EU country as an insurance policy.
According to the latest United Nations statistics, the greatest number of British expats are to be found in Spain, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy. If the British government do not negotiate on their behalf then these expats are going to be in exactly the same position as someone who is say, American, or Chinese. George Peretz QC, an expert on EU law, went on record as saying: ‘Anyone British who is in a position to get citizenship of another EU country, through marriage or investment, would be well advised to do so’. Just three days after the Brexit result Ireland’s foreign minister appealed to people in the UK to stop rushing for Irish passports due to the surge in applications.
So, what are the options for British expats? And, what should they do to ensure that they can go on living in their chosen country? In some countries an extended residency automatically makes citizenship a possibility. In other countries (such as Ireland) a close relationship with the UK is likely to lead to favourable negotiations. For those who are single, of course, there is always the possibility of an arranged (or genuine) marriage.
But, what about everyone else and especially those who currently live in the UK and have been planning to become expat at some point in the near future? Paul Chancellor, who advises British residents keen to move to Malta, suggests that the wisest course of action would be to establish residency somewhere else now even if you have no intention of moving for some time. You can, after all, be resident in more than one place at a time. In other words claim your EU rights to be resident in another country now, so that they are well established in the event of Brexit proceeding.
Finally, it is worth remembering that many countries do offer citizenship in exchange for investment. Greece will do so in return for a property investments of a €250,000 or more, Cyprus in exchange for an investment of €2.5 million, Spain if you spend more than €500,000 on a property, Malta for as little as a €650,000 contribution to a national fund and €350,000 in Maltese real estate. Of course, once you have residency in any of these countries living, travelling and working in other parts of Europe will be considerably easier.