This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

5th December 2018 Vienna, Austria

Citizens’ Rights: my speech in Vienna

Update: for the UK Government’s guidance on Living in Austria as a UK national, see Living in Austria. Please sign up for email updates on that page to get the latest information as and when anything changes. 

As many of you know, The British Embassy in Vienna has been conducting a series of outreach events across Austria over the last two months.

The purpose of these events has been to inform British nationals living in Austria about how Brexit will affect them; what steps they need to take; and how they can stay informed. We have also been keen to hear people’s questions, comments and concerns.

Our first event was in Bregenz on October 19, followed by Innsbruck on 20 October, Klagenfurt on 11 November, Graz on 12 November, Salzburg on 26 November, and Vienna on 3 December. We have two further events in the pipeline, in Linz (14 January) and Vienna (10 January). You can find out more and register here.

My speech in Vienna on 3 December was live-streamed on Facebook, and you can find a recording of it here:

The text of the speech is here:

Speech on Citizens’ Rights, Vienna, 3 December 2018

Thank you for coming today. For those who haven’t met me, my name is Leigh Turner, and I have been the British ambassador to Austria since August 2016. I am also the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN and other international organisations in Vienna.

Firstly, welcome to this event. Vienna is home to 4,186 UK nationals. That is 40% of the total number of Brits living in Austria. So it’s important to us to give you an opportunity to hear from us, and even more importantly so that we can hear your thoughts and concerns.

Before I launch into the main speech, I want to flag three things,

  • We’d encourage you to sign up to receive up-to-date information from the embassy. We have little cards here with all the information you need on that which I’ll flag to you later.
  • Our main message is to make sure your documentation is in order. I’ll expand on that later on.
  • As you can see from looking around, there are lots of Brits here in a similar situation to you. We’d encourage you to network with one another. You might be particularly interested to know that here in Vienna there is a group called ‘UK Citizens in Austria’, led by Mr Colin Munro, who I’m sure would be happy to connect you with his group afterwards. There’s a lot of expertise  in the room, so let’s make use of it.

I know that the EU referendum decision has caused considerable uncertainty, and in many cases disappointment, for you. These are difficult times but we have worked hard with our EU partners to reach agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement and a Political Declaration, in order to build an ambitious, deep and special future partnership with the EU.

From the very beginning of this process, the Prime Minister has said that safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU was her first priority. It was the first topic the UK and EU discussed and the UK reached a good agreement on citizens’ rights with the EU in December 2017.

Today, I would like to give you an update on that agreement reached on citizens’ rights. I will also speak about your situation should we not be able to reach an overall agreement with the EU, which is neither our, nor the EU’s intention. This is quite a detailed account. Partly because details are important. Partly because I am seeking to answer your questions in advance.

Withdrawal Agreement

I will begin by talking about what has been agreed between the UK and EU on citizens’ rights. You will have seen from recent reporting that a final Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration have been agreed. The Withdrawal Agreement will ensure our smooth and orderly exit from the UK, including securing the rights of the one million UK nationals in the EU and 3 million+ EU citizens in the UK.

The European Council endorsed this Withdrawal Agreement last month. There will also be a vote in the UK Parliament before Christmas, probably on the 11th of December. The UK and the EU have worked intensively together to get the best deal for businesses and citizens.

Implementation Period

The Withdrawal Agreement  establishes a time-limited implementation period, lasting from when we exit the EU until 31 December 2020. During the implementation period, EU law will continue to apply to the UK. As such, during that period UK nationals will continue to be able to travel, work and live freely in any member state, as is currently the case. Any UK national who moves to Austria before December 31 2020 will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, as will any EU citizen who moves to the UK before then. In addition, UK nationals currently living in the EU who want to move to a different Member State during the implementation period will be able to do so.


So what is covered in the citizens’ rights chapter of the Withdrawal Agreement? Firstly, let me talk about residence. The deal we reached agreed that UK nationals in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, will be able to keep residing in their host country after the UK leaves the EU. That means if a UK national is legally residing in Austria by 31 December 2020, they will be able to continue doing so afterwards. And not only to reside, but to continue working, studying, being retired, or whatever they were doing before. They will also be able to move between those statuses – to move from being a student to having a job, for example, or vice versa.

Family Reunification

The right to bring your family members to Austria is really important to many of you. Family members of any citizen falling within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement retain the right to move to the citizen’s place of residence. So if you are resident in Austria, you will be able to bring your family members to Austria even after our exit from the EU. This applies to children, including those born after exit day, dependant parents and dependant grandparents. It also covers partners, including spouses, registered partners, and partners in a proven long-term relationship, where the relationship existed before 31 December 2020. Family reunification of all those not mentioned will be governed by national law after the end of the Implementation Period.

Social Security

The UK and the EU will continue to aggregate social security contributions made both before and after the end of the implementation period. Therefore, those who have paid into a system, and may pay in in the future, will have their contributions protected. So if you have contributed to the public pension schemes in Austria and the UK, you will continue to receive both pensions according to the same application process as you do now. In addition, we will continue to pay an uprated UK State Pension to individuals resident in EU Member States, and, in accordance with EU rules, provide associated healthcare cover in the EU.

The UK and EU will also protect the right to export relevant benefits to both EU Member States and the UK, as under the current EU rules.


Current healthcare arrangements will continue for those citizens who are resident in Austria by 31 December 2020. This applies to all types of reciprocal healthcare, including the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), planned treatments and health care reimbursement arrangements for pensioners (the S1 route).

Frontier Workers

Frontier workers are people who live in one EU country but work in another one, for example people living in Vienna but working in Bratislava. Their rights will also be protected, if they were working across borders on 31 December 2020, for as long as they retain the status of a frontier worker.

Running a Business

You will also keep your right to run or establish a business in Austria.

Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications

The UK and EU have agreed the ongoing mutual recognition of professional qualifications for cases where recognition decisions have been received or where recognition procedures are ongoing on 31 December 2020. This will cover the European Professional Card, qualifications recognised under the MRPQ directive for the purpose of establishment (but not for the temporary & occasional provision of services), lawyers practising under host state title, approved statutory auditors, and persons engaged in the trade and distribution of toxic products.

In addition to this, as set out in the Political Declaration published last week, the UK and EU have agreed to develop appropriate arrangements on those professional qualifications which are necessary to the pursuit of regulated professions where in the Parties’ mutual interest. The UK looks forward to discussing these with the EU negotiators in more detail as part of discussions about the future relationship.

Rights / Equal Treatment

So we’ve considered a long list of rights covered under the Withdrawal Agreement. You will keep all the rights mentioned, including the right to equal treatment, for the duration of your lives.

University Education

We received a couple of questions about university fees, including whether your children will be eligible for home fees status at British universities in the future. The Department for Education has confirmed that UK nationals resident in the EU and EU students who return to study at an English university for the academic year 2019/2020 will be entitled to home fees and student support on a similar basis to domestic students for the duration of their course. Future eligibility for home fee status for UK nationals who are currently residing in the EU is being considered by the Government as part of the arrangements for EU exit.

There might also be some people who are considering studying in Austria, or whose children may study here in the future. The UK and EU have agreed that equal treatment principles will continue to apply, meaning that UK nationals resident in the EU by the end of the implementation period will be eligible for support on a similar basis to domestic students in the relevant Member State.


I’ve already mentioned some limits to what was agreed in this round on mutual recognition of professional qualifications, which we hope to agree on in the next round.  We also know that the right to continue to live and work in all EU27 countries after the end of the implementation period is of great importance to many of you. We want UK nationals in the EU to continue living their lives as they do now – this includes the right to onward movement. Our Future Relationship White Paper clearly sets out our desire to preserve these rights for UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and confirms that will seek to discuss this in the context of our future partnership.


And how will all of this be implemented? Firstly, the Withdrawal Agreement that has now been agreed between EU and UK negotiators, and agreed by European leaders last week at the special European Council summit, will need to be ratified. This  includes the settlement on citizens’ rights, financial matters and the Northern Irish / Irish border, as well as the terms of the Implementation Period. It needs now to be to be ratified by both the UK and European Parliaments.

Accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement is the Political Declaration  on the future partnership, setting out a framework for our future economic and security relationship has also been agreed. After ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement, we will commence negotiations to turn this declaration into a series of agreements between the UK and the EU.

The British Government is confident that a future partnership between the UK and EU is in the interests of both sides, and we will progress the next phase of these negotiations with determination.

Residence Documentation

So what should you do now? Firstly, we would encourage you to make sure all of your Austrian Residency documentation is in order. This applies whether we have a Withdrawal Agreement or in a no-deal scenario.

At the beginning of your residence in Austria, if you intend to stay here for longer than three months, you need within your first four months to apply for an Anmeldebescheinigung. If you’ve been here for fewer than five years and don’t have one, you should go and get it. You may be liable to pay an administrative fine if you didn’t get it within your first four months. If you have been legally resident in Austria for five years or more, you are entitled to apply for permanent residence. The title of the permanent residence document is ‘Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts.’

If you are resident in Vienna you can apply for these documents through the unit of the Viennese government called MA35. The Austrian government website ‘’ has the details of what the two processes involve.  I should add that we have had varying reports on how this is being implemented around Austria: some people say that have got their Bescheinigung in 15 minutes, others say they have been told they don’t need it. I would be interested to hear your experience – this is a good example of the benefits of exchanging information.

Once the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified, if you have been resident in Austria for fewer than five years by the end of the Implementation Period on 31st December 2020, you will be able to continue your residence and apply for permanent residence once you have reached five years. Once you have permanent residence status under the Withdrawal Agreement you would only lose that status if you left Austria for more than 5 years.

We have had a few questions about whether you will need to get additional documentation after Brexit to show that you’re covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. It will be up to Austria to decide what administrative process they’ll introduce to ensure UK nationals in Austria can confirm their legal residence status. We are working hard with Austria to understand what these processes may be and our conversations with them indicate that anything they introduce will be simple, streamlined and transparent.

In our discussions on residence documentation, the Austrian Government has made three points to us, which with their agreement we published earlier this year:

  • First, EU law continues to apply for UK citizens in Austria until the UK leaves the Union and furthermore until 31 December 2020, provided the Withdrawal Agreement enters into force.
  • Second, any administrative procedures introduced by the Government of Austria to facilitate the continuation of lawful residence by UK nationals in Austria will be based on what is agreed in negotiations between the EU and UK.
  • Third, the Government of Austria will put further information into the public sphere as soon as possible.

So it isn’t possible for us to say more than that about residency documentation at the moment, except to assure you again that we will keep encouraging the Austrian government to put information into the public sphere as soon as they are able. We will also publish this information through our own channels, including the ‘Living in Austria Guide’ on, as soon as it becomes available.


Up to now we have been talking about the situation in the event of a deal. I am however conscious that many of you will be worried that there may not be a deal at all. Firstly, I want to reiterate that we do not want or expect a no deal, and now with the Withdrawal Agreement finalised, we look forward to its ratification ahead of the UK’s exit.

It is however the duty of a responsible Government to continue to prepare for a range of potential outcomes including the unlikely event of no deal. The British Government has now published 106 technical notices to help businesses, citizens and consumers to prepare for March 2019 in the event of a no-deal scenario. These are available on the government website.Those dealing with passports and driving licences might be of particular interest to people here.

The objective in a no-deal scenario is to minimise disruption by taking unilateral action to prioritise continuity and stability. Stability in a no-deal scenario partly depends on the EU taking a similar, non-disruptive approach to planning.

You may be aware that on 21 September, the Prime Minister confirmed that in the event of a no-deal, all EU citizens resident in the UK before 29 March 2019 would be able to stay. She said, “You are our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues. We want you to stay.”

However, the UK cannot act unilaterally to protect the rights of UK nationals in the EU in a no deal scenario. This is why we are calling upon Member States to respond to the guarantees we have given  EU citizens and confirm that UK nationals can stay, even in a ‘no deal’ scenario. I have raised this with Austrian officials, parliamentarians and ministers at the highest level, as well as on national media. They have responded positively, implying they will look after British citizens in Austria. Although nothing official has been said publicly yet, we believe the main question is how they would regulate residency and other rights, not whether they will do it at all.

The British Government remains confident that the UK will agree a positive and ambitious deal with the EU – an outcome that is in the interests of both the EU and the UK. And we continue to engage with the Austrian authorities on the implementation of the citizens’ rights deal agreed last December.


I wanted also to comment on some topics that aren’t directly to do with Brexit. Firstly, lots of you have asked questions about citizenship. On questions regarding Austrian citizenship, we’d advise you in the first instance to ask the Austrian authorities. What we can say is that Austria has a principle of mono-nationality. That means that for most people, if you wanted to become an Austrian citizen you would need to renounce your British citizenship. There are exceptions for people who had a parent of each nationality. I’d refer you to the helpful pages for chapter and verse on eligibility for that. I know lots of people would like it if the Austrian Government expanded their offer on dual citizenship. We have asked for their view on this, but it seems unlikely that there will be any change to their position.

We’ve also had various questions about passing on British citizenship to children. I can’t summarise all of that here, as there are a number of elements which depend on personal circumstances which need to be considered. I’d advise you to consult the relevant pages on, which include comprehensive information.


A number of you asked questions on the possible tax implications of Brexit. The UK’s exit from the European Union will not change existing double taxation arrangements.

Voting Rights

 We’ve also had questions about eligibility to vote in British elections if you live overseas. The current rule is that people who have been outside the country for more than 15 years are not eligible to vote. However, the Government was elected with a commitment to legislate for votes for life, and is supporting a Private Members’ Bill currently before Parliament that does so. The Bill passed Committee Stage in the House of Commons on the 14 November, if this Bill becomes law it will implement votes for life.

Closing Remarks

 I appreciate that this is a period of uncertainty and many of you want more information and advice. We want to help you prepare for all scenarios and are committed to ensuring relevant information is available in a timely, transparent and accessible way. Further information will continue to be made available on over the coming weeks.

You can easily subscribe to all Austria-related updates via: We will also email the link to all participants who have registered to this event. If you haven’t done so, please make sure to leave your email address so that we can contact you with that information.

I’d encourage you to follow our embassy Facebook and Twitter pages as well. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts are called ‘UK in Austria’, and should be easy to find. Details of all of these are on small cards we’ve made which are available at the back.

We’re constantly working to improve these events. Therefore, we would really appreciate your feedback. The link to the feedback form has been emailed to you.

Before we move on to Q&A, I wanted to sum up again. We’d encourage all of you: to sign up to receive up-to-date information; to ensure your documentation is in order; to network and exchange information with one another. We understand that this is a difficult time for many people, but we are working hard to ensure that you are able to continue to live your lives as you have done to date, and that you have the best information possible.

Thank you very much for your attention.

5 comments on “Citizens’ Rights: my speech in Vienna

  1. Please can you provide the correct link to the Austrian page where it advises about dual citizenship. The link provided in the blog above comes up with no results. Thanks in advance for your help

  2. Your Vienna events are fully booked.
    Please organize more. The situation with Brexit is becoming more and more concerning and you need to do more to provide information and help for British citizens in Austria.

  3. Thanks Leigh for a very open meeting .. and the opportunity for us to put relevent questions I was especially intrigued by the answer from Dexu on the contradiction and paradox of status if given residence in Austria as third country nationals with certain rights within Schengen ie 180 days within a year .. and how that would be policed .. we await developements with interest .. crazy times…

Comments are closed.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.