Thousands of Britons across the European Union from tomorrow and on will become illegal stayers in the block, as their 90-day visa-free stay ends today.
After the Brexit transitional phase ended on December 31, 2020, all UK nationals became third-country citizens to the EU and thus fall subject to the same rules that other third-country citizens are subject to.
In order to be able to remain in the EU, British citizens living there had to register in order for their stay to become legal. However, as many of them have failed to do so, their stay in the EU beyond 90 days in any 180 days is considered illegal if throughout this period of three months they have never left the EU.
Those who have left the EU countries, even for a few days, have those additional days until they violate the EU’s rule of permitted visa-free stay.
Speaking for the Local, Kalba Meadows from citizens’ rights group France Rights and British in Europe also pointed out that those who do not meet the conditions to apply for a French residence card under the Withdrawal Agreement are considered illegal stayers after March 31.
“You’ll need to make plans to leave France on or before that day, either returning to the UK or moving on to a country that isn’t part of Schengen. If you don’t do this, you will be clocked as an over-stayer when you do leave, which comes with penalties and may make it difficult for you to return or involves fines,” she said, adding that thanks to Brexit, this is now the new reality for Britons in EU.
Under the Schengen Area rules of stay for third-country citizens, what the UK is now, when entering the borderless territory under the visa-free regime, these travellers can stay for a maximum of 90 days, for every 180 days.
According to this rule, on the very first day a person enters the Schengen Area, his period of 90 days start rolling. If a person stays more than 90 days, in any period of 180 days, he/she will face restrictions when attempting to leave the block.
Check the EU Period of Stay Calculator for British Citizens to find out how long you can stay in the EU.
Will EU Countries Deport Britons Who Are Overstaying?
Recently, many media outlets have reported that EU countries, including countries like Spain where many British citizens own second homes, will deport unregistered EU citizens that remain in the block beyond the permitted 90 days.
The UK Embassy in Spain has reacted to such reporting by issuing a statement that quotes a Spanish Ministry of Inclusion spokesperson saying that “the Spanish government has no plans to deport British citizens who have made Spain their home.”
Ambassador Hugh Elliott also pointed out he is well aware of the concerns of the Brits living in Spain about overstaying, assuring them that such things as deportation will not happen.
“The Spanish government has been clear that it will take a pragmatic approach to anyone who is stuck in Spain due to circumstances beyond their control, so I don’t want people to be overly worried on that count. However, if people do not intend to become a resident here in Spain and see the UK as their base, we do expect them to take steps to return to the UK as soon as they can,” the Ambassador said.
Despite the Ambassador’s statements, the chair of Bremain in Spain, Sue Wilson, says that they have been warning Brits for the upcoming deadline.
She also claims that there are British nationals who are deliberately planning to overstay “assuming we’ll be treated differently from other third-country nationals, simply because we are British.”
“I fear many that have ignored the warnings of the consequences of exceeding a 90-day stay are in for a rude awakening. The time to act is now before it’s too late,” she said for The Local.
While Brits overstaying in the EU may not be searched after and deported, they will for sure face other consequences whenever they attempt to leave the block, as that is when they will be detected as overstayers.
What Happens With Brits Who Overstay Their Permitted Period of Stay in EU?
Bremain in Spain, which is a forum for British migrants who have chosen to live in Spain, warned on March 11 of the upcoming deadline, noting that starting from April 1, any non-resident who fails to apply to remain in Spain will officially become an ‘undocumented’ immigrant and could be fined or placed under an ‘expulsion order’.
“If deported, they could face a ban against re-entry – not just to Spain, but to most other European countries – for up to five years,” Bremain in Spain notes in its warning.
The forum is right, as every illegal move in Europe has its consequences. British nationals overstaying in the block will also face the consequences, which depend a lot on the country where he/she is caught overstaying, as well as the number of days overstayed.
As the EU has no common policy for penalties for overstayers, the Member States apply the penalties differently, some by being softer and others harsher. Yet, in general, they apply similar penalties as fines – which is the most common, deportations, difficulties returning to the Schengen Area, or in some cases even entry bans.
Commenting on the number of Brits remaining in Spain despite that the permitted period of stay has come to an end, Bremain in Spain forum expressed their beliefs that many Brits are lulling themselves into a false sense of security.
“Perhaps they believe the Spanish authorities’ response to Brexit will be as lackadaisical as the British government’s response has been,” the forum says in a warning issued on March 11.
The same warns Brits in Spain not to rely on the Spanish authorities needing time to adjust to new arrangements.
“Third-country rules may be new to us, but they are not new to Spain or to any other EU country. They have been applying them to other foreign nationals for years. All that was necessary was for the UK to be added to an existing list,” the warning reads at the end.
In July last year, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported that the Spanish government had signed an instruction on the procedures that should be followed for the issuance of residence permits to Britons wishing to continue living in Spain upon Brexit.
Data revealed by the Spanish authorities showed that by December 31, 2019, there were 359,471 UK nationals registered as residents in Spain.