Residence rights of UK citizens
The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. The British government has negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the EU that will maintain the rights of UK citizens in other EU countries (and of EU citizens in the UK) until the end of 2020, and this came into effect on 1 February 2020.
The period from 1 February 2020 to 31 December 2020 is known as the transition period.
The withdrawal agreement gives UK citizens and their families the same right to live, work, claim benefits, and access healthcare in the EU during the transition period as before.
British citizens have the additional protection of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK. The British and Irish governments have agreed that the provisions of this agreement will continue after the UK leaves the EU.
Rights of UK citizens in Ireland after 31 January 2020
If you are a UK citizen living in Ireland, you have many of the same rights and entitlements as an Irish citizen. UK citizens can:
- Enter Ireland without a visa
- Travel between the UK and Ireland
- Work without an employment permit
- Access the public healthcare system
- Vote in general elections
These rights are based on a series of bilateral agreements between Ireland and the UK that started in 1922. You can read more about the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
In May 2019, the Irish and British governments re-affirmed their commitment to maintaining the Common Travel Area.
The Common Travel Area is separate from EU law, and continues to apply since the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.
What about my non-EEA family?
During the transition period, non-EEA family members of UK citizens have the same right to live and work in Ireland as before 31 January 2020.
If your residence in Ireland is based on the EU Treaty Rights of a UK citizen (this means you have a Stamp 4 EU FAM), or you have an application pending, Immigration Services Delivery has confirmed that the UK will continue to be treated the same as an EU country until the end of the transition period (end of 2020).
Under the Withdrawal Agreement UK citizens and their families, who are living legally in an EU country (including Ireland) before the end of the transition period, will be able to continue to live in that country after 31 December 2020.
Non-EEA family members of UK nationals who want to come to live in Ireland after the transition period ends will have to apply for permission to do so. Immigration Services Delivery will publish details of a separate pre-clearance scheme in the near future that should be used for this purpose.
Status of non-EEA family after 31 December 2020
As a family member of a UK national, from 31 December 2020 when the UK leaves the EU after the end of the transition period, you retain your residence rights in Ireland. This means that you can continue to live, work or study in Ireland.
However, you must exchange your current valid Irish Resident Permit (IRP) Card for a new one stating that these residence rights derive from EU Free Movement under the Withdrawal Agreement.
The card exchange programme will apply from 1 January 2021. You apply through the online renewal system. When making your online application:
- You will be asked to confirm that you have been exercising EU Treaty Rights to reside in Ireland on or before 31 December 2020 and continue to do so
- You will be asked to submit your current valid Irish Residence Permit card and you will be issued a new one
- You have until 31 December 2021 to apply
The Department of Justice will continue to process applications from non-EEA family members of UK nationals resident in Ireland even if a decision is not made until after the end of the transition period.
Separate arrangements are being put in place for UK nationals who come to Ireland after 31 December 2020 and wish to bring their non-EEA family members.
UK citizens and health services in Ireland
UK citizens who are resident in Ireland are entitled to health services in the same way as Irish citizens who are resident. This means that they may avail of public health services if they are “ordinarily resident”. This is an agreement between Ireland and the UK, and will not change with the UK’s departure from the European Union.
The Department of Health has confirmed that visitors to Ireland from the UK will also be covered for healthcare during and after the transition period.
Social welfare payments in Ireland
UK citizens living in Ireland are eligible to apply for social welfare payments in the same way as Irish citizens living in Ireland.
With all social welfare payments in Ireland, you must satisfy the rules for each scheme to qualify. For example, you must be habitually resident in Ireland to qualify for most means-tested social welfare payments.
Residence in the Common Travel Area is treated the same way as residence in Ireland for the purposes of the habitual residence condition (HRC). However, UK citizens who have recently moved to Ireland may find it more difficult to establish that their main centre of interest is in Ireland.
If you are currently getting a social welfare payment in Ireland, it will continue to be paid after the UK leaves the EU, as long as you continue to fulfil the qualifying criteria for the payment. The Department of Social Protection has published guidance on social welfare payments and Brexit.
If you are receiving a payment from the UK (for example, a British pension) you will continue to receive it after the UK leaves the EU.
Social contributions (PRSI in Ireland, and National Insurance in the UK) paid in the UK will continue to be assessed towards Irish pensions and other social welfare benefits.
Can I use my UK driving licence?
You can continue to use your UK driving licence to drive in Ireland during the transition period, which ends on 31 December 2020.
After this time, the status of UK licences in Ireland will depend on future agreements. The National Driver Licencing Service (NDLS) recommends that you exchange your UK licence before the end of 2020.
You can read more about exchanging your licence.
Can I vote in Ireland?
UK Citizens continue to be entitled to vote in national, and local elections if you meet the general requirements for voting (for example, you are over 18 years old). You are not entitled to vote in Presidential elections or referendums.
Since the UK has lef the European Union, you will no longer be eligible to vote in European Parliament elections.