- Thousands of Britons in Europe have less than a month to avoid becoming illegal immigrants.
- British citizens in France, Luxembourg and elsewhere must apply for residency by June 30.
- Citizens’ rights groups have said people who do not apply risk losing access to health care.
Up to 100,000 British citizens living in mainland Europe have less than a month to apply for permanent residence on the continent or risk becoming unauthorized immigrants with the threat of losing their rights or being deported.
Under post-Brexit rules, British citizens who live in countries including France, Malta and Luxembourg must apply for residency by June 30 or risk losing their basic rights.
But tens of thousands of people living abroad have still not applied, raising fears that those affected could lose access to services such as healthcare due to their new status.
“We are now less than a month away from our deadline, and people just don’t know what the consequences will be – they don’t know exactly how their lives will be affected,” said Kalba Meadows, a resident in France who has co-founded citizens. rights group France Rights, told Insider.
“If they haven’t applied before the deadline and they don’t have reasonable grounds for a late application, they will become undocumented migrants.
“We don’t know what the real consequences will be, but it is highly likely that they will lose access to health care. This has serious consequences, especially for the elderly and vulnerable.”
Fourteen of the European Union’s 27 member states have granted automatic residency to British citizens who were already living there when the UK left the bloc, but the other 13 require British citizens to apply.
These countries include Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, which have extended the deadline until November 30.
According to the Joint EU-UK Committee on Citizens’ Rights, 298,000 UK citizens need to apply for residency, but only 190,100 had done so by April 28.
This figure included 25,500 people in France out of a total of 148,300 who had not applied at the end of April.
Many Britons living abroad don’t know their rights
The UK-EU Joint Committee report said French authorities were conducting “awareness campaigns” online and through print media, but Meadows said she had not seen any.
British in Europe, a citizens’ rights group, has called on other member states to extend the deadline, spokeswoman Fiona Godfrey told Insider.
The UK issued guidance several months ago on how it would deal with late claims from people affected by COVID-19.
Godfrey said Britons in Europe have asked the European Commission for similar guidance in EU member states and no guidance has been issued so far. The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
“What we don’t know is if the deadlines aren’t extended — if people wake up undocumented on July 1 — what it will actually mean for them,” Godfrey said. “I asked in meetings: what does this mean concretely for them? We were not told.”