Consequences of Brexit in the Ministry of the Interior’s administrative branch
With the UK's withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020, a transition period began until the end of 2020. During the transition period, the current rules will continue to be in place and the right to free movement will be applied 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. There will 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, will be determined on the basis of the end date of the transition period, i.e. 31 December 2020.
During the transition period, the withdrawal agreement will 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 stays of up to three months in the rest of the Schengen area. If a person moves from Finland to another EU Member State, they cannot invoke their rights under the withdrawal agreement in that other EU Member State and must apply for a right of residence (usually a residence permit) based on their status as a third-country national. 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 five consecutive years.
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, nor will the withdrawal agreement apply to UK citizens who enter Finland for the first time on 1 January 2021 or thereafter.
Registration of right of residence
All UK citizens residing in Finland are urged to register their residence as soon as possible if they have not already done so and they intend to continue to stay and live in Finland.
UK citizens living in Finland who also have the citizenship of another EU Member State or EEA country must register their right of residence on the basis of that citizenship.
The Finnish Immigration Service’s website also provides instructions for persons who are unsure of whether or not they have registered their right of residence.
Applying for right of residence under the withdrawal agreement
UK citizens with a registered EU right of residence in Finland must apply to exchange the previous registration based on the right of residence in the EU for the 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.
UK citizens who have been granted permanent EU residence rights in Finland before 1 January 2021 and who have a related certificate may apply to change their status to permanent right of residence under the withdrawal agreement. The application is free of charge. A certificate of registration will suffice as evidence of the right of residence in Finland and, therefore, the application is not obligatory.
The right of permanent EU residence is not considered to be forfeited on the grounds that the person has been absent from Finland for more than five consecutive years before the end of the transition period. If the person has not been staying in the country for an uninterrupted period of five years, which is the requirement for the permanent right of residence, by the end of 2020, they will be entitled to continue accumulating this time after that date and to obtain the permanent right of residence later on. Once the permanent right of residence has been acquired under the withdrawal agreement, it can be lost only if the person is absent from Finland for more than five consecutive years.
The withdrawal agreement also contains provisions on what information applicants may be required to submit in connection with the application for a right of residence. The permit procedures must be fast and user-friendly, and the processing fees of the applications must be reasonable. The permit must indicate that it has been issued under the withdrawal agreement.
The more detailed procedure and timetables are being decided on by an act currently under preparation in Finland. The objective is that applications can be submitted between 1 October 2020 and 30 June 2021. Further information on the timetable and procedure will be provided later on the websites of the Ministry of the Interior and the Finnish Immigration Service.
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. In this case, 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.
During the transition period in 2020
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.
After the transition period, i.e. from 1 January 2021
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. After the transition period, 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.
After the transition period, 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.
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. 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.