Consequences of Brexit in the Ministry of the Interior’s administrative branch

The UK withdrew from the European Union on 31 January 2020. A transition period, which will continue until the end of 2020, began at that point. During the transition period, the current rules, including the free movement of citizens, will continue to be in place as if the UK were still a member of the EU. The EU and the UK will negotiate their future relationship during 2020.

The EU–UK withdrawal agreement entered into force on 1 February 2020. The agreement does not cause any changes for UK citizens living in Finland before the end of 2020. The rights of citizens under the withdrawal agreement, including the right of residence, will be determined on the basis of the moment of the end of the transition period, i.e. on 31 December 2020.

During the transition period, the withdrawal agreement does not affect the right to work or any other rights acquired on the basis of free movement and registration.

UK citizens established in Finland before 1 January 2021

The withdrawal agreement guarantees the status and rights of UK citizens living in Finland and their family members under EU law (such as residence, employment and social security) for life if they have settled in Finland before 1 January 2021 and subsequently continue to reside here. Their status and rights will be safeguarded as they were under the key EU legislation as of 31 December 2020. 

The residence status provided for in the withdrawal agreement justifies the continuation of residence in Finland. It also allows for a stay of up to 90 days during any 180-day period elsewhere in the Schengen area. If a UK citizen moves from Finland to another EU Member State, they must apply for a right of residence (usually a residence permit) based on their status as a third-country national. 

Even if a person does not yet have a permanent right of residence under the withdrawal agreement (i.e. the duration of their stay in Finland is less than 5 years), they may temporarily leave Finland, for example due to work, studies, pregnancy or military service, without losing the rights under the withdrawal agreement. If a person has a permanent right of residence in Finland based on the withdrawal agreement, they will lose that right if they remain outside of Finland for more than 5 consecutive years.

Who is not covered by the withdrawal agreement?

The withdrawal agreement will not apply to UK citizens who are staying in Finland during the transition period (i.e. in 2020) but will not stay there after it. For example, if a UK citizen is posted to Finland during the transition period but stops working here before 1 January 2021, the withdrawal agreement will not apply to them.

The withdrawal agreement also will not apply to UK citizens who enter Finland for the first time on 1 January 2021 or thereafter. However, members of a family that was started before the end of the transition period have the right to enter Finland later and to be covered by the withdrawal agreement. Similarly, children born and adopted after the transition period will be covered by the withdrawal agreement under certain conditions.

Application for a right of residence under the withdrawal agreement from 1 October 2020

  • Those who have previously registered their EU right of residence: UK citizens who have registered their EU right of residence in Finland have to apply to exchange their previous registration based on the right of residence in the EU for a right of residence under the withdrawal agreement. The purpose of the application procedure is to verify that the applicant has the right of residence under the withdrawal agreement. 
  • Those who have previously received a permanent EU right of residence: A permanent EU right of residence requires that a person has resided in Finland for a period of 5 years. UK citizens who have been granted permanent EU residence rights in Finland before 1 January 2021 and who have a certificate demonstrating this will be able to apply to change their status to the permanent right of residence under the withdrawal agreement. The application will be free of charge. 
    • Application is not obligatory for these persons, because the proof of permanent EU residence right in Finland will continue to be sufficient evidence of right of residence. Application is nevertheless strongly recommended for those in this situation so that they too can demonstrate their right of residence as conveniently as possible when going about their business in Finland and at the Schengen external border.
  • Those who are accumulating time to apply for a permanent EU right of residence: A permanent EU right of residence requires that a person has resided in Finland for a period of 5 years. If the applicant has not resided in Finland for the required period of time by the end of 2020, he or she will be entitled to continue accumulating this time after that date and to obtain the permanent right of residence under the withdrawal agreement later on. In this case, however, the person's existing EU right of residence will still need be exchanged for the right of residence under the withdrawal agreement even where he or she will not yet have met the conditions for a permanent EU right of residence.
  • Those who are moving to Finland at the end of 2020: UK citizens moving to Finland from 1 October 2020 can no longer register as EU citizens, but will have to apply directly for the right of residence under the withdrawal agreement. However, they must apply for the right of residence under the withdrawal agreement by 31 December 2020, because the free movement of EU citizens no longer applies to UK citizens as of 1 January 2021.

A residence permit card valid for five years will be issued as proof of the right of residence under the withdrawal agreement. The card will show that the holder is covered by the withdrawal agreement.

After having been granted a right of residence under the withdrawal agreement, UK citizens may then continue to reside in Finland after the transition period, which concludes at the end of 2020. A right of residence will be granted for life unless the person ceases to fulfil the conditions of the right of residence.

Applications can be submitted between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021.

Finnish Immigration Service: How to apply

After the registration of the EU right of residence, residence will remain legal until 30 September 2021. UK citizens can therefore apply for a right of residence under the withdrawal agreement at any time suitable for them during 2021. 

UK citizens moving or travelling to Finland after 31 December 2020

The entry of UK citizens moving to Finland after 31 December 2020 will be restricted compared to the earlier status of EU citizens. After that date, the provisions on third-country nationals will be applied on entry. The EU directive on free movement will no longer apply to them. The EU and the UK will discuss the arrangements in further detail during 2020. More detailed information will be provided as the situation becomes clearer.

According to the current information, UK citizens will not be required to have a visa for stays in the EU of up to 90 days over any 180-day period as of 1 January 2021.

Border checks

During the transition period in 2020

The withdrawal agreement will apply during the transition period until 31 December 2020. During this period, free movement and Union law will be applied. During the transition period, UK citizens will be subject to checks in accordance with Union law for those covered by the right to free movement. 

In practice, there will be no changes to border checks during the transition period.

After the transition period from 1 January 2021 

At the EU’s external borders, there will be separate border controls for EU citizens and third-country nationals. After the transition period, the rules on border controls applicable to third-country nationals will apply to UK citizens when they enter and leave the Schengen area. This means that UK citizens will no longer be entitled to the more relaxed border control regime associated with free movement that applies to EU citizens, the citizens of European Economic Area states and Swiss citizens.

After the transition period, UK citizens will no longer have the right to use the separate lanes intended for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens in checks at border crossing points, and on arrival in Finland they will be subject to the thorough checks required for meeting the entry conditions applicable to third-country nationals.

Before travelling to the EU, passengers are advised to check the validity of their travel documents and to ensure that they meet the conditions for entry. Failure to comply with one of the conditions of entry may result in a refusal of entry into the EU.

The European Parliament and the Council have issued a regulation under which UK citizens travelling to the Schengen area for short stays would not be required to have a visa following the UK’s exit from the EU. Under the Schengen Borders Code rules on border controls, the travel document must be valid for a minimum of 3 months after the planned exit from the Schengen area.

The Schengen countries, including Finland, will jointly agree on the rules for entry and exit.

Five years after the end of the transition period, i.e. from 1 January 2026, only identity cards bearing a biometric identifier will be accepted for UK citizens at border checks.