Brexit - EU Transition

Please check our COVID-19 section for up-to-date information, as the coronavirus outbreak may affect the advice given on this page.

The transition period between the UK and the EU has ended and there are new requirements in place effective from 1 January 2021.

There is some useful information for individual countries at gov.uk/uk-nationals-living-eu but it should be noted that not all of these changes affect UK Armed Forces personnel and their dependants.

UK Armed Forces personnel and their dependants assigned to Europe may have some protection under various Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) and individual Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) so it is important that you check out your individual circumstances against your local chain of command’s advice.

Dedicated resources for Armed Forces personnel include:

With so many aspects still under negotiation AFF advises that families also sign up to official UK updates and review advice.

Contents

01   Are you moving to or from Europe soon?

The MOD has released a new directed letter detailing enhancements to subsistence expenses for families if their belongings are delayed during a move due to customs changes.

This guidance is for families assigned to and from countries that qualify for moves under the Furniture Movement Scheme and who are moving into unfurnished accommodation.

Download additional guidance on managing the impact of Brexit on assignments and moves.

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02   Travelling to Europe

Since the EU exit, passport validity rules have become a little more complex. For travel to EU countries (excluding Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City) you must meet the Schengen area rules and your passport must be both:

  • less than 10 years old on the day you enter the country (checked against ‘date of issue’), and
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave the country (checked against ‘expiry date’)

Families should check both the issue date and the expiry date of passports, especially when passports may have been renewed early as extra months may have been added to the expiry date, affecting your passport to be less than 10 years old.

For further see Visiting the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

The UK and the EU have reached an agreement on healthcare when visiting the EU. Your UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will continue to be valid until its current expiry date. Thereafter you will be able to apply for a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). (Please note a GHIC will only cover you in EU countries, they do not apply in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.)

EHIC and GHIC are issued free of charge – be wary of unofficial websites that may charge.

For more info, see Apply for your GHIC and www.gov.uk/european-health-insurance-card

EHIC and GHIC do not replace travel insurance so make sure you have appropriate travel insurance with health cover for any pre-existing conditions before you travel. Read advice on buying travel insurance with the right cover.

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03   Additional documentation required

All personnel and dependants in Europe holding Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) status will be required to have a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) stamp in their passport. This includes children who would normally live with their parents but are attending school in the UK.

For those travelling to Germany the Families Section will issue a temporary SOFA stamp, but for other locations it may be issued by EJSU National Support Elements (NSEs) once in-country clearance is completed.

Upon arrival at the overseas assigned location you should be issued with a SOFA stamp and SOFA certificate as part of the routine arrivals process.

The SOFA certificate is an expanded version of the SOFA stamp, sometimes written in both English and the host nation languages, and outlines entitlements to privileges, concessions or services.

You should keep this with you at all times when travelling in the EU. You should get in touch with your National Support Element (NSE) if you have any questions about SOFA stamps/SOFA certificates. Contact details can be found at ejsu.net/locations-2

Travel to non-Schengen EU countries: Please note that Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania are not in the Schengen area. You should check the entry requirements for these countries before you travel.

NB: AFF is aware that there have been incidents where local border officials have not understood the authorities under which Army families are living and travelling overseas. Because of this, it is strongly recommend that you carry accountable documents to demonstrate your status and authority to travel at all times; these may include:

  • SOFA stamps in your passport, plus the accompanying certificate of NATO SOFA status and residence that will have been issued to you on arrival. Replacements for these can be obtained from NSEs.
  • NATO travel order if you are travelling on duty.
  • Any relevant host nation identity documents (such as base passes, NATO/national ID cards, etc).

Should any military family identify or experience an issue related to EU Transition they should report it to their relevant NSE. In an emergency situation families should contact their relevant duty officer for their location.

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04   Spousal employment in Europe after 1 January 2021

In EU locations where there are UK dependant roles managed through a Civilian Employment Office, Armed Forces spouses are generally* employed under the Status of the Forces Agreement. This means the only requirement to be able to work is a valid UK Dependant Status Stamp in a current passport.

*Section 73 of the SOFA agreement in Germany does have some restrictions for non-UK/NATO dependants.

Armed Forces spouses who wish to work in the local domestic economy will only require a work permit if they come from outside the EU or were not already living in an EU country prior to 1 January 2021. If you were living legally in an EU country prior to 1 January 2021, you can carry on working as your rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Armed Forces spouses who wish to establish a small business trading in the local domestic economy after 1 January 2021 will need to get a work permit for that country. For more info, see gov.uk/working-abroad.  Each country will have its own arrangements so you will need to contact the relevant UK-based embassy for more details.

Armed Forces dependants who have been issued with ‘limited dependency status’ and wish to seek employment are advised to seek guidance from the sponsor chain of command.

Studying & professional qualifications

If you have studied in EU member states and received professional qualifications in regulated professions, you may need to have your qualifications formally recognised in the UK. See gov.uk/guidance/get-your-eu-professional-qualification-recognised-in-the-uk

Family members posting to EU countries may also be required to have their professional qualifications recognised by the host nation for regulated professions in that country. See europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/work/professional-qualifications/regulated-professions/index_en.htm

 

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05   Driving documents

If you have a card driving licence issued in the UK, you will not need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. However, if you have a paper licence or one issued in Gibraltar, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, you may need an International Driving Permit.

There are three types of IDP and the one you need is country specific. For further info check www.gov.uk/driving-abroad/international-driving-permit

You may require documentation to confirm proof of vehicle insurance such as an internationally recognised green card (or multiple green cards) if you have several vehicles. You should also check with your own insurance provider for the necessary documentation required for travel to the UK after the transition period has ended. You may also need a GB sticker for your car, even if you have a GB identifier on your number plate.

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06   Pet travel

It has now been confirmed that the UK will become a Part 2 listed third country under the EU Pet Travel Scheme from 1 January 2021.

This means that a current EU pet passport issued in GB will not be valid for travel to the EU or NI from 1 January 2021.

For more information see gov.uk 

There is no change if you’re bringing your pet dog, cat or ferret to the UK. For more information see gov.uk

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07   Border administration

When planning travel be prepared for this to take longer – you may have to show your return ticket or onward ticket; and that you have sufficient money for your stay.

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08   Mobile phone roaming

The guarantee of free mobile phone roaming will end. You are advised to check with your provider whether additional roaming charges will apply.

Streaming – You are advised to check with your provider whether your streaming service will still continue in your EU country.

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09   UK bank accounts

Some customers may be affected if they use a European Economic Area address. Contact your UK bank and provide a BFPO address.

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10   Purchasing goods from the UK

There may be additional charges such as import duty on goods, so check with your supplier before you place an order to ensure you are not charged UK VAT.

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11   Sending and receiving mail via BFPO - international and EU mail import and export changes

From 1 January 2021, all parcels posted to/from BFPO customers in the EU/UK will require either a Royal Mail Customs Notification 22 (CN22), Customs Notification 23 (CN23) or Parcelforce Customs Pack (CP72) and Electronic Customs Data (ECD).  This is due to changes to UK and international law which will affect how mail and parcels will be cleared in the future.

NB: It is the sender’s responsibility to ensure that the new regulations are followed and failure to comply could result in items being seized and subjected to additional VAT or clearance charges prior to release by local customs authorities.  In extreme cases, it could also lead to your parcels being returned or destroyed. All mail dispatched to BFPO numbers / BF1 postcodes should be classed as International Post.

Ordering online goods for BFPO overseas addresses (including the EU)

New customs declaration procedures (CN22/CN23/CP72/ECD) will need to be completed by the seller/sender for products destined for overseas BFPO locations. Ordering/sending customers should have the opportunity to either pay VAT/clearance charges (if applicable) up front or opt for these charges to be paid by the recipient under local country arrangements.

BFPO will no longer be accepting mail items addressed to overseas BFPO numbers/BF1 postcodes, which do not comply with current international mail import/export regulations. These items will either be refused at point of delivery at the BFPO Northolt site or returned into the Royal Mail system.

See postoffice.co.uk/mail/customs-forms/CN22-form-guide.

Posting items at a Post Office Counter

When sending items to overseas BFPO addresses, you will be required to complete customs declarations forms in more detail than before, ensuring that exact contents and value are shown.  Your local Post Office Counter staff will be able to take you through this process.

BFPO, which acts solely as the shipping agent, has no responsibility or influence in customs matters and this responsibility rests with the sender or the selling/sending company.

For more information, see gov.uk/export-goodsroyalmail.com/brexit and parcelforce.com/brexit.

Amazon has provided specific guidance to families when using BFPO addresses in their system.

Overseas families – Please note that the Click & Drop service is not available from BFPO locations to the UK or international destinations. Online postage is a UK only service and BFPO cannot support/offer this service. Customers should also note that BFPO will not facilitate any claims for loss or damage for items which are wrongly accepted by unit postal staff in Limited Service locations and overseas Forces Post Office staff have been instructed not to accept these items.

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12   Running a business from an overseas assignment

You may need to make a customs declaration if you take goods to sell abroad or use for business.

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13   Kindergeld (British Army Germany)

As the UK has now left the EU, there is no further entitlement for new Kindergeld claims for families assigned to Germany. However, if you were already living in Germany and claiming Kindergeld before 31 December 2020 it is understood that the German authorities have extended provision to those previously entitled.

Claiming Kindergeld is a personal matter and if you are currently in receipt of a Kindergeld number (KG-Nr) you are advised to email any queries to Familienkasse-Bayern-Nord.F35@arbeitsagentur.de

Additional valuable information in English can be found on the Kindergeld website at
www.arbeitsagentur.de/en/financial-support

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14   Visas – short visits to other countries

UK nationals generally won’t need a visa on a short trip to most EU countries. You’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Non-UK nationals may require additional visas even if assigned overseas with the Armed Forces.

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15   Visas – assignments and living in other countries

You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel. All non-UK nationals should seek advice from their chain of command on receipt of an overseas assignment.

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16   EU settlement scheme

The rule that allows EU, EEA and Swiss nationals to live in the UK will change. You are strongly advised to seek advice on dependants’ immigration status in the UK. Any Army family requiring advice on the EU settlement scheme should contact AFF’s F&C specialists fcsupport@aff.org.uk – or see the Brexit -F&C page.

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17   End of Assignment

The rules have changed and you must complete a form ToR 1. Your shipping agent should be able to advise you and forms can be found at gov.uk/guidance/application-for-transfer-of-residence-relief-tor1.

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18   Residency in certain EU member states

Now that the UK has left the EU, some veterans and UK nationals currently living in certain EU member states will need to take steps to secure their residency rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. The exact steps will vary by country, but in some countries, action is required before 30 June 2021.

UK citizens who wish to live in the EU, including Armed Forces personnel and their families posted in the EU who wish to continue living there once they have left the Services, are advised to visit this guide on gov.uk. This includes information on gaining residency, citizenship, healthcare, pensions, benefits and many other personal administration issues.

UK veterans who require additional support to complete their residence application or registration, can get support from organisations funded by the UK Nationals Support Fund.

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