Brexit: British Nationals Have to Leave EU Countries by 31 March

Brexit: British Nationals Have to Leave EU Countries by 31 March

March 31st marks 90 days since the end of the transition period, the date when the UK effectively left the EU and therefore the last day that UK nationals who were in the EU before 1st January can stay in the EU without taking up residency or having a visa.

UK nationals who don’t have permanent residence in an EU country and don’t intend to become residents have to leave the EU nation by 31 March 2021.

All British nationals who live full time in the EU need to gain residency status via their country’s national system if they have not already done so.

If you are a permanent resident of an EU country and covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, you can travel (COVID rules permitting), but will need to show your residency card at the border. Residents of countries like France or Italy where many people have not yet been issued with cards can show an acknowledgement of their application for residency or, if they do not have that, proof of their residency, such as utility bills or a work contract.

This also doesn’t apply to dual nationals who don’t live in the EU but do have an EU passport, so if you’ve been lucky enough to secure an Irish/French/Italian etc passport then you can stop reading.

90 Days Rule

The 90-day rule has been applied to British nationals since 1 January 2021, which limits stays in EU countries.

In outline, the rule says that non-EU citizens can only stay in the EU for 90 days out of every 180. If non-EU nationals want to stay longer, they need to either apply for residency or get a visa.

The 90-day limit is a rolling one and the 90 days can encompass one long trip or multiple short ones, so long as the total number of days doesn’t exceed 90 in each 180-day period. 

It’s important to point out that this limit is for the whole EU and Schengen zone, so you need to calculate your total time spent in any EU/Schengen countries.

So for any British nationals who have been in the EU since the New Year, it’s now time to head home if you don’t want to risk overstaying the 90-day allocation.

Anyone who has been in the EU for less than 90 days since 1 January can stay until they reach their own 90-day limit.

Rights Advocates

Citizens’ right groups across the EU are concerned that some British nationals who have been living off the radar have still not caught on to the post-Brexit residency requirements and may be caught out by this date.

There may be others who want to stay longer in EU countries but not become official residents and intend to ignore the date, but are not aware of the implications this may have.

Kalba Meadows from citizens’ rights group France Rights and British in Europe said:

March 31st marks an important date for some of you.

If you’ve been in France since January 1st but you’re not legally resident here – maybe you prefer to keep your country of residence as the UK, or you don’t meet the conditions to apply for a residence card under the Withdrawal Agreement – that date marks the end of the 90 day period that you’re allowed to stay in the Schengen area as a British citizen.

You’ll need to make plans to leave France on or before that day, either returning to the UK or moving on to a country that isn’t part of Schengen. If you don’t do this, you will be clocked as an over-stayer when you do leave, which comes with penalties and may make it difficult for you to return or involves fines.

This is a big change for many of you, especially those with second homes here who are used to spending longer than three months at a time in France – but thanks to Brexit, it’s the new reality for Brits, as we’re now third country nationals with no special treatment at borders.

Resident of Another EU Country

Officially the 90 day rule also applies to British nationals who are resident in one EU country but who have been living in another. So, for example, if you are a resident of France, but have been living at your second home in Spain, or with family in Italy since January 1st, you are, in theory, supposed to return home before 90 days.

While it seems unlikely people would be caught they should be aware that, while residents of EU countries won’t be subject to the same passport checks and stamping as people entering the Bloc, that doesn’t mean there are no passport checks.

Controls can still be carried out at Schengen borders if, for example, there is a security alert or border restrictions are tightened due to the pandemic.

Extension Due to COVID 

Each EU country has its own immigration rules, most national authorities have said there will not be extensions given purely because of the overall health situation or travel restrictions – you may be able to appeal any penalties if you can show that you had COVID at the time your 90 days expired and so you were unable to travel.

No EU countries currently have completely closed borders so it is possible for UK nationals who have their main residence in the UK to return there.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Spain added:

There is no hard deadline to register for residency, however, UK nationals in Spain have always had to apply for residency in Spain if they intended to live here beyond three months. This applies equally to nationals of other countries, including EU countries.


If you spend more than 90 days in the EU or Schengen zone without a visa or residency permit, then you are officially an over-stayer. And, unlike the pre-EU days when passport control consisted of a man in a booth with a rubber stamp, scanning of all passports on entry/exit of the EU makes it pretty easy to spot overstayers.

Anyone who overstays in the EU can be subject to penalties. Check our blog post to see the consequences.

There are several campaigns running to relax these rules for UK nationals including a push to change the rules to 180 days in total in a year which don’t have to be broken up into blocks of 90 as is the case in the UK for EU citizens. However, nothing has been agreed yet, and with the many other post-Brexit problems.

How are you affected by Brexit? Have you registered your residence in the EU? Talk to us in the comment section below.

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