The Post-Brexit Guide For British Families Considering Moving To The European Union

The Brexit process is done and we have officially not been a part of the European Union since the 31st of January 2020, and this has clipped the wings of many Brits, especially young people who have missed out of the ease of going to the continent for work experience, education or just to learn a foreign language more easily. While some people would never consider moving abroad for a while, many others are missing the opportunity of being able to work on the continent or send our kids to be educated there.  

Whichever way you voted in the Brexit referendum there’s no doubt about it, life has become far less “globally mobile” for those of us who carry a British Passport.

So what about those families who still want to live and work in the European Union, how hard is it now to become a resident of an E.U. country?  We’ve unpacked a few of the top issues that surround this topic for the British family that has continental ambitions.

Palaces of Westminster with a Brexit Eu sign in the foreground. Free stock image from Pixabay
Image By Tumisu

Why Might You Want To Leave The Shores Of Britain Behind And Start Anew On The Continent? 

The reasons why British families make moves out of the UK are varied and diverse. From making career moves to simply wanting to expose their children to a different culture, language and way of life the European Union has long seduced British citizens to its border-free living and if you thought that Brexit would change that, you’re wrong.  In fact, British migration to the European Union is up 30% since the big split.  Many British families now have one or more members who are not British and haven’t been living in the UK for long enough to qualify for residency here or some families want their children to have EU passports so that they’ll have more opportunities later on in life.  

So there is no “one answer works for all” and if you’re considering making the move, then you need to examine your motives properly and carefully because it’s no longer just a matter of getting onto a plane and off you go.  The European Union does offer many attractive benefits though and British emigrants often cite better weather and overall climate, border free travel, the single currency and in some cases a lower cost of living and a much better work life balance than what we currently have in the UK. In some EU countries university education is less expensive than in the UK or even free.

Healthcare in many EU nations is on par with the NHS and although it may be chargeable the access to it is good. 

All of these factors and many more besides offer very attractive reasons for living on the continent.

What Are The Top 5 Countries For Brits To Move To?

Starting at #5 - SPAIN

Around 270 000 Brits live in Spain full time but at times there could be as many as 1 million British citizens living in Spain for periods of at least 6 months out of a year.  Spain has been a long favoured destination for British tourists and retirees but it is also becoming increasingly attractive to younger families looking for a fresh start.

Just ahead in 4th place - FRANCE

Currently, around 300 000 Brits live in France full time, many choose Paris but the most popular locations are the Dordogne or near Nice. 

In 3rd place - PORTUGAL

While there are not nearly as many Brits living in Portugal as there are in Spain or France, Portugal beats those two countries in terms of affordability, ease of immigration, cost of living, the standard of living and an arguably more laid back lifestyle.

Our second favourite European “spot” - GERMANY

This may come as a surprise to many Brits, but Germany has been a favoured migration destination for Brits for many years, however post-Brexit this popularity is soaring.  With record unemployment rates and many job opportunities, the chance to live in major cities without having to fork out an arm and a leg for the privilege and with cities like Frankfurt that has already done a marvellous job in attracting British companies that have left the U.K, this trend looks set to continue.  Factor in outstanding education (free the vast majority of instances, certainly at public schools) and excellent healthcare and it’s easy to see why Deutschland very nearly took the top spot.

But our #1 migration destination in Europe, is - THE NETHERLANDS

Also a bit of a shocker, but this country ranks incredibly highly in just about every category that this article studied.  They beat all the other EU countries because they took top spots in education, healthcare, career opportunities, well-paying jobs along with vibrant and pulsating urban centres and just in case you thought you would get homesick, at least as much rain as what we get here at home.  Sometimes even more.

Buying Property In Europe

The really good news for British families wanting to migrate across the Channel, is that your bank here in the UK may happily provide you with a mortgage to buy a home in Europe, provided of course that you meet their lending criteria.  You find out how much you would qualify for using MortgageCalculator.UK.  If you do qualify for a mortgage and you already have a job lined up in Europe, it could work in your favour to get your loan from a British bank and arrive in the EU with a property that’s already yours.  You can always rent out your current home in Britain. The home buying process can be more complicated abroad though so you might need expert help.

The EU "Golden VISA" scheme

An option for many British citizens who want to move to the EU who perhaps don’t have a job offer lined up immediately or who are ready to retire and have some cash to invest is to consider one of the many EU “golden visas”.  Requirements differ from country to country but the gist of the offer is this:  invest in property with a minimum value, make a donation to a government fund (either refundable or not) or commit to investing in start-up businesses or government earmarked development projects and you’ll qualify for residency in that country with the possibility of gaining citizenship after some time, or in some cases, you’ll get citizenship outright but this usually comes at a hefty fee, upwards of EUR 1 Million.  Greece offers the most affordable program of its kind and to inspire you a little bit, have a look at these gorgeous villas.

What About Getting Work Permits And The Migration Process? 

British citizens in the European Union migration are now considered “3rd country nationals”.  That means that we are subject to the same migration rules that anyone from outside the European Union would be and each country in the EU sets their own rules when it comes to this so you will have to do some thorough research but to save you time, you might want to consider where the best opportunities for employment in your line of work are, narrow it down to the top 3 destinations and take it from there.  Mercifully, the overall migration process in most of the EU isn't too complicated and it's more straight forward if you have a job offer (plus your new employers may help) . 

You may also want to apply for the “EU blue card”.  Similar in status to its green American counterpart, you can apply for this card and once granted (based on skill, experience and education), you could live and work in any of the EU member states and your spouse and immediate family can come with you.  Find out more here.

And Then There's Always Ireland

If the idea of moving to a country with a brand new language, entirely new systems and a way of life that is at times vastly different to what you’re used to is too much, but you still want to leave the UK what about the Republic of Ireland? The “common travel area” is still very much alive and British and Irish citizens are free to live, work and study in each other’s countries without the need for any visas or permits.

So there you have it, for the upwardly mobile Brit there is still much opportunity to spread your wings in the European Union it’s not all doom and gloom as some would have you believe.  With a little effort you can still offer your family a fabulous life abroad that’s still close enough to home to allow regular visits.  

...But if you fancy going a little further afield 

If you have the travel bug and Europe still feels too close to home, then the “old 4” commonwealth countries of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are still very much hot spots for migrating Brits with the power of the British Pound a significant factor for migration to South Africa.

This is a collaborative post by another author.

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