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

On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom gave notification of its intention to leave the EU. This triggered the two-year period reserved for negotiations on the terms of Brexit. The Brexit negotiations were concluded in November 2018. In a vote held on 15 January 2019, the House of Commons rejected the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union. The European Union is still prepared to sign the withdrawal agreement.

Finland and the EU are striving to bring into force a withdrawal agreement that would enable a well-managed Brexit by 30 March 2019. The European Commission recommends that the Member States prepare for a no-deal Brexit and, as an emergency solution, allow UK citizens living in Member States to continue their right of residence on a temporary basis. Many Member States are enacting temporary legislation to secure this objective.

Right of residence

If the UK and the EU sign an agreement

Should the United Kingdom approve the withdrawal agreement, there would be no immediate changes for UK citizens living in Finland before the end of 2020. UK citizens’ rights under the Brexit agreement, including the right of residence, would be determined on the basis of the end date of the transition period, i.e. 31 December 2020.

If there is a no-deal Brexit

On 25 January, the Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs supported the Ministry of the Interior’s proposal to draft a special act to continue, for a fixed term, UK citizens’ right of residence in Finland.

Under the special act, all UK citizens registered by 29 March could continue to stay, live, work and study in Finland and receive social security benefits until the end of 2020. The length of this period will be further examined during the preparation of the act.

The special act would only apply to those who have been registered. If the registration has not been made, in case of a no-deal Brexit, unregistered UK citizens in Finland will be third-country nationals, and they will not have the right to reside in the country as of 30 March, unless the EU and the United Kingdom agree on visa-free travel. In this case, they could reside legally in the country for a further 90 days.

Registration of right of residence

All UK citizens are urged to register their residence as soon as possible, however no later than 29 March 2019.
Instructions and registrations on the Finnish Immigration Service's website

UK citizens living in Finland who have the citizenship of another EU Member State must register their right of residence on the basis of that citizenship.

The Finnish Immigration Service’s website also contains instructions for those unsure of whether they have registered their right of residence or not.

Residence permits (including spouses and children)

If the UK and the EU sign an agreement

The United Kingdom will become a third country, but should a withdrawal agreement apply, there would be little or no immediate change. In practice, the provisions on free movement would continue to be applied.

The withdrawal agreement would lay down a transition period, which would play a crucial role in terms of exercising the rights specified in the agreement. The transition period will be 21 months, running from 30 March 2019 till 31 December 2020.

In terms of citizens’ rights, it is essential that they exercise their rights during the transition period and also continue to exercise them after it. In other words, it is of key importance to reside in Finland before 31 December 2020 and to continue living in this country subsequently. This way, UK citizens can ensure that they are within the scope of withdrawal agreement application. The rights laid down in the withdrawal agreement will only come into effect after the transition period.

During the transition period, applications referred to in the withdrawal agreement may be submitted as from 1 October 2020; this provides a period of nine months in total for submitting applications, or between 1 October 2020 and 30 June 2021. This is the time period during which UK citizens living in Finland should apply for their rights under the withdrawal agreement. More information on this procedure will be provided at a later date.

The withdrawal agreement will not be applied to persons who stay in Finland during the transition period but not after it. In that case, only the Free Movement Directive will be applicable to them. For example, if a UK citizen is posted to Finland for a year during the 21-month transition period and they stop working here before 31 December 2020, the withdrawal agreement will not apply to them.

Neither will the agreement be applied if a UK citizen arrives in Finland for the first time once the transition period has expired, or after 1 January 2021. In that case, the provisions on third-country nationals will be applied on entry. In other words, a UK citizen will be considered purely a third-country national, and not even the Free Movement Directive will apply to them.

The withdrawal agreement contains provisions on the entitlement of those who have registered their permanent right of residence to exchange their status for a permanent residence permit referred to in the agreement free of charge. In other cases, if the person has not been staying in the country for an uninterrupted period of five years, which is the requirement for a permanent residence permit, by the time the transition period ends, they are entitled to continue accumulating this time after the transition period expiry and obtain a permanent right of residence later on. The withdrawal agreement contains provisions on the information that may be required from a person who applies for a residence permit based on such grounds as family ties, work and studies. The permit procedures should be fast and user-friendly, and the processing fees of the applications should be reasonable. The permit must indicate that it has been issued by virtue of the Brexit agreement.

If there is a no-deal Brexit

If the Brexit agreement fails, the United Kingdom will become a third country, and its citizens will be third-country nationals in terms of their residence from the first day following the Brexit.

However, the Finnish Government is fast-tracking a special act under which the right of residence in Finland of British citizens and their family members who are third-country nationals would be extended until the end of 2020. The act would only apply to those British citizens who have registered their residence before the date of Brexit. It is thus vital to complete the registration, and those who are unsure of their status should contact the Finnish Immigration Service for further information.

Brexit means the end of free movement, and the special act to be passed will only entitle British citizens to continue their residence in Finland.

Under the special act, UK citizens would thus only be required to perform an EU registration with the Finnish Immigration Service, if they have not done so earlier. Their stay, work, business activities, studies, family life etc. could then go on without interruption in Finland. The act would not apply to those UK citizens who arrive in Finland after the Brexit date, or 29 March, as they will then be third-country nationals. The act would provide additional time until the situation can be clarified, and also allow UK citizens some time to prepare for the new situation.

Immigration and residence permits for companies’ employees (including spouses and children)

If the UK and the EU sign an agreement

During the transition period laid down in the Brexit agreement between 30 March 2019 and 31 December 2020, there would be no change in the entry procedures compared to the current situation. Neither would the withdrawal agreement affect the right to work or other rights; see above for more details.

If there is a no-deal Brexit

The Finnish Government is fast-tracking a special act under which the right of residence in Finland of British citizens and their family members who are third-country nationals would be extended until the end of 2020. The act would only apply to those British citizens who have registered their residence before the Brexit date. It is thus vital to complete the registration, and those who are unsure of their status should contact the Finnish Immigration Service for further information. Their stay, work, business activities, studies, family life etc. could then go on without interruption in Finland.

British citizens’ municipality of residence and its consequences

The municipality of residence of a foreign citizen living in Finland is determined under the Municipality of Residence Act. After Brexit, UK citizens will no longer meet the criteria for the determination of the municipality of residence based on an EU citizen’s right of residence. The determination of the municipality of residence is linked to legal residence in the country, and UK citizens will in the future have to meet some other criterion laid down in the Municipality of Residence Act in order to have a municipality of residence in Finland.

If a special act is passed in Finland under which UK citizens retain their right of residence in this country (for a specified period) based on their prior EU citizenship, they will also retain their municipality of residence on these grounds. Consequently, UK citizens should contact their Local Register Office before Brexit and check that their municipality of residence determined on the basis of an EU citizen’s right of residence is entered in the Population Information System.

Border checks

If the UK and the EU sign an agreement

The Brexit agreement contains a provision on a transition period extending until 31 December 2020, during which time the right to free movement and the Union law will be applied. In other words, UK citizens will be subjected to border checks applicable to those who have the right to free movement under the Union law. The same checks will be carried out and the same procedures will be followed on the borders as up till now; in practice, nothing will change in terms of borders checks during the transition period.

As the transition period expires on 1 January 2021, either the procedure detailed below will be followed, or an agreement on visa-free travel will enter into force.

If there is a no-deal Brexit

In border checks carried out on persons on the EU’s external borders, a difference will be made between EU citizens and third-country nationals. As of the date of Brexit, the border control rules applicable to third-country nationals will apply to UK citizens entering and leaving the Schengen area. This means that UK citizens will no longer be entitled to the more relaxed border control regime associated with free movement applied to EU citizens, the citizens of European Economic Area states and Swiss citizens ("EU/EEA/Swiss citizens").

After Brexit, British citizens can no longer use the separate lanes intended for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens in border checks, and on arrival in Finland, they will be subjected to the thorough checks of fulfilling the entry conditions carried out on third-country citizens.

Before entering the EU territory, travellers are urged to check that their travel documents are valid and to make sure that they fulfil the entry conditions. A failure to fulfil a certain entry condition may mean that they will be refused entry in the Union territory.

At the moment, there is no certainty of what a no deal Brexit would mean in practice for short visits to Finland/the United Kingdom. It may mean visa-free travel or the enforcement of a visa requirement. As a travel document, passports will be accepted, but no decision has been made as yet on whether or not identity cards will be accepted. The Schengen Borders Code, under which the travel document must be valid for a minimum of 3 months after the planned exit from the Schengen area, would be applied to border checks.

The Schengen countries, including Finland, have common rules on entry and exit.