How to keep an EU passport after Brexit

31st March 2019 is almost less than one year away. That burgundy coloured British passport is likely to revert back to blue. More importantly, British citizen’s right to live and work in the EU may well cease the very next day.

Many Brits will of course continue to live in the EU. There is a large percentage that will have been resident abroad for over 5 years which qualifies them for residency and citizenship.

Those from the UK who are retired or the financially self-sufficient probably won’t have any issues either. Countries such as Spain and Portugal have already hinted that they would continue to welcome retired Brits to sit out their gin soaked days under the Iberian sun.

What about the rest of us?

Brexit may well impact your ability to retire in the sun if you are young. Perhaps you want to work in the EU and develop a career there?

Fear not stranded citizens of Britain! There are a number of ways to regain European Citizenship.

Beautiful sunny Porto

1. Ancestral Links to gain an EU passport

This is by far the quickest and easiest method of gaining an EU passport.  Ireland and Italy seem to be the most popular countries to claim citizenship based on your parents or grandparents.

More than 150,000 people living in Northern Ireland have claimed an Irish passport since Brexit.

Time frame: under six months


2. Buy your way into the European Union

If you have a lot cash to spare then this is going to be your easiest route into European Union citizenship. A number of EU countries have investor schemes including Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. The latter is particularly popular with the Chinese.

Time frame: under 1 year

3. Marrying a national from an EU country

Probably not the easiest or quickest way to gain European citizenship unless you are already married to an EU national.

It is a viable option though! Taking France as an example. You can claim French citizenship if you are married to someone from France even if you have not lived there. You will be required to have been wed for at least five years though.

Time frame: 5 years

Brexit may well impact your ability to retire in the sun

4. Joining the French Foreign Legion

Bit if an extreme way of keeping your European passport but serving three years with the French Foreign Legion would make you eligible for a French passport. Be aware that it could also make you eligible for military service!

Time frame: 3 years

5. Moving to an EU country before March 2019

This is probably going to be the most realistic option for those Brits who are desperate not to be cast adrift into the North Atlantic. It’s worth reading PM May’s message that she delivered in Dec 17.

If you cannot be bothered to read it all I have summed up below what was said.

Essentially the three key points noted in the joint UK-EU statement are that:

‘UK nationals…who are legally resident in the host State by the specified date, fall within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement’


‘…those already holding a permanent residence document issued under Union law at the specified date will have that document converted into the new document free of charge.’


‘…Rules for healthcare… will follow Regulation (EC) No 883/2004. Persons whose competent state is the UK and are in the EU27 on the specified date (and vice versa) … continue to be eligible for healthcare reimbursement, as long as that stay, residence or treatment continues.’

The main takeaway from this for UK nationals still in Britain is confirmation that the clock is most definitely ticking.  It’s also worth noting that any rules regarding access to healthcare will remain assuming you have moved before the March 2019 deadline.

So what do you need to do in order to start the residence process?

I am going to use Portugal as an example because it’s very popular with Brits and that’s where I am heading to. In theory you will follow the same process in any EU country.

Firstly you need to physically move to the country. As highlighted above, the clock is ticking. The sooner you can move over to your desired EU country, the better.

Once in the country and you will need to register with the authorities.

This is the process in Portugal.

– Claim your NIF (similar to a national insurance number) from a local tax office. All you need for this is your passport and proof of address. The address can be your existing UK address so don’t worry if you are still looking for somewhere to live in Portugal.

– Once you have your NIF you can register your residency. You will receive a certificate that should be valid for five years. You claim this from the local town hall where you are based. For this you may need a proof of address in Portugal (this will vary from town hall to town hall), your passport and sometimes proof of funds to support yourself or a work contract.

The UK govt states that you only have to make a sworn declaration confirming you have enough funds, are self employ/employed, student or retired with a pension income. I have read many accounts of people having to show proof to go along with their declaration. It’s probably wise to go along with all the paperwork you have.

After five years you can apply for permanent residency. After another year you can gain citizenship and an EU passport.

It should be noted that you have to register your residency with the authorities within 4 months of arriving in Portugal.

Free healthcare in Portugal is based solely on your residency so in theory you should be able to access the Portuguese NHS from when you gain the residency certificate. You should ensure you have your EHIC card to cover you before you can register with the health authority.

I cannot really comment on other countries as I have not done the research but it appears that in Spain and France you have to contribute to the social security to gain access to healthcare.

Due to the varying nature of town halls and tax offices the amount of paperwork you will need could be quite different to what you expect. For instance some tax offices might want to see a rental contract before they issue you a NIF. In theory a UK address should suffice.

To sum this all up.

  1. Move to Portugal or your desired EU country before March 2019
  2. In the case of Portugal go and get your NIF from a local tax office
  3. Register for your residency certificate at your local town hall within 4 months of arriving. I’d recommend doing this before March 2019 just to be on the safe side.
  4. After five years claim permanent residency
  5. After a further year (year 6) apply for citizenship

This option is probably the most realistic way of reclaiming an EU passport but it also involves a 6 year commitment to living in that country. You will of course need to find work or have other means to support yourself. Finding work in countries like Portugal and Spain is tough enough for locals, let alone foreigners who will probably not speak the local language.

For those who can support themselves or find a way to make money then this is a good option, but the window is closing so I would not delay.

Time frame: 6 years


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