Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in LEGAL UPDATES, NEWS AND EVENTS

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British citizens in Italy and the rest of Europe are concerned about their legal status and rights now the UK has voted to give up its EU membership.

Many questions have been raised by British citizens in Italy, whether they are retired, working, or who own property or business interests here, for example:

  • Will I lose my resident status and be asked to return to the UK?
  • Do I need to appy for a permesso di soggiorno?
  • Will I still be entitled to healthcare?
  • Should I take up Italian citizenship?
  • Is my right to work here affected, will my company need to apply for a work permit for me?
  • Can I still use a European driving licence?
  • How does the Referendum result affect my right to enforce a judgement of a UK court in Italy?
  • Will English still be an official language of the EU?

All that can be said now is that, for at least the next two years, all EU laws that currently apply remain in force.  Nothing immediately changes as a result of the Referendum which has no binding status, is only advisory. In any case we have yet to see what the “Leave” vote actually means for the UK and the freedom of movement for its nationals in Europe.

The UK is expected now to notify the EU of their decision to leave in accordance with Art. 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and that notification triggers a period of two years of negotiations on the terms of the exit. There is no legal precedent for an Article 50 notification and there are conflicting opinions on whether this can be a decision now made by the “executive” ie the current government without a further mandate, or must be made by a majority vote in Parliament, if this is posible in that a majority of 350 MPs are opposed to leaving EU membership.

Once the Article 50 Trigger is made, the two year period for negotating the terms of the exit can be extended but only with the consent of all other 27 EU member states.

At the end of the 2 year period the UK will formally exit the EU and from that date, and not before, the UK will no longer be bound by EU law, and will have to review and rewrite where necessary, all internal legislation.

For the moment therefore all British citizens in Italy also have a right to enjoy full rights as citizens of the European Union including the fundamental principle of free movement, that is the right to live and work in any of the 28 member states. This principle is set out in the Directive 2004/38/EC, and was implemented in Italy by Law n. 30 of 6th February 2007. (Link to text published on website of Ministero degli Esteri).

British nationals must currently apply for residence in Italy after a stay of more than 3 months, (Article 7, Law n. 30/2007) at which point they will need to show they are employed or have the means to be self-supporting, and if the latter will need to be in possession of private health insurance policy which is valid for at least one year. Family members of EU citizens who have the right of residence are also granted residene where their dependant status is confirmed, whether or not those family members are also EU nationals (Article 8-10 Law n. 30/2007).  If an EU citizen is are employed in Italy and subsequently lose their position, they may preserve their right of residence on fulfilling certain conditions, such as being able to prove the inability to work.

British nationals (and family members) who are currently resident in Italy, in that they are registered at the Anagrafe of the Comune for the area they live, may consider applying for a certificate of permanent residence for EU nationals (Art. 16 of Law 30/2007).

Attestazione di soggiorno permanente in Italia - EU nationals

Attestazione di soggiorno permanente in Italia – EU nationals

This certificate may be granted on request from the Anagrafe following 5 years continuous residence in Italy, and is entitled the “attestazione di soggiorno permanente in Italy“.

This permanent residence status can only be lost on absence from Italy for more than two years.

As it is a right guaranteed by Italian internal legislation, this certificate cannot be revoked in respect of British nationals even after the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union in the future.

This certificate also guarantees the right to be registered without any time limit with the Italian national health service (SSN).

British nationals may also apply for Italian citizenship on the basis of their current EU rights, in addition to rights to Italian citizenship through marriage.

This is now an option being considered by the more than a million British nationals in the EU who were excluded from the franchise for the Referendum having been resident outside the UK for longer than 15 years, but who wish to retain their EU citizenship.