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

The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union on 1 February 2020, which also marked the entry into force of the EU–UK withdrawal agreement. Under the agreement, the EU and the UK entered a transition period that ended on 31 December 2020.

UK citizens established in Finland before 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 continue to be safeguarded as they were under the key EU legislation on 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 five years), they may temporarily leave Finland without losing their rights under the withdrawal agreement. Temporarily leaving the country is possible for reasons such as work, studies, pregnancy or military service. 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.

Who is not covered by the withdrawal agreement?

The withdrawal agreement does not apply to UK citizens who were staying in Finland during the transition period (i.e. in 2020) but will not stay there once it is over. For example, if a UK citizen was posted to Finland during the transition period but stopped working here before 1 January 2021, the withdrawal agreement does not apply to them, nor does it apply to UK citizens who settle in Finland for the first time on 1 January 2021 or thereafter. However, people who already belonged to the family of a UK citizen who has settled in Finland 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

  • 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 a permanent EU right of residence in Finland also have to apply to exchange their status for a right of residence under the withdrawal agreement. The application is free of charge for those who have a certificate certifying a permanent right of residence in the EU granted before 1 January 2021.
  • Those who are accumulating time to apply for a permanent EU right of residence: A permanent EU right of residence requires a person to have resided in Finland for a period of 5 years. If the person had not resided in Finland for the required period of time 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 under the withdrawal agreement later on. In this case, however, the person's existing EU right of residence will still need be exchanged for a right of residence under the withdrawal agreement even if they will not yet have met the conditions for a permanent EU right of residence.

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

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

Instructions on the Finnish Immigration Service’s website

UK citizens moving or travelling to Finland in 2021

The right of free movement within the EU no longer applies to UK citizens moving to Finland after 31 December 2020. They will be subject to the provisions on third-country nationals upon entry.

UK citizens are not 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

At the EU’s external borders, there are separate border controls for EU citizens and third-country nationals. As of 2021, 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, citizens of states within the European Economic Area 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, travellers are advised to check the validity of their travel documents and to ensure that they meet the conditions for entry. Failure to comply with any 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 will 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, 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.