Brexit Town Hall meeting report Budapest – 20th March 2019

The British Embassy hosted a second Brexit Town Hall meeting last Wednesday, 20th March at the Budapest Marriott Hotel. Again, more than 200 UK citizens and other interested parties attended what this time was a more understated meeting. Significantly, the panel included senior figures from all the relevant ministries of the Hungarian government, while the United Kingdom government was represented by Her Majesty’s Ambassador, Iain Lindsay and Tom Whitehead.

Her Majesty’s Ambassador commenced the meeting by re-stating that it is critical all UK citizens register for legal residence before 29th March. Ambassador Lindsay also stated that the UK government’s aim remains to depart the EU with a deal.

The UK government continues to work with the Hungarian government to ensure that UK citizens can continue to live their lives exactly as they have done as EU members.

Pál Péter Schmidt, deputy secretary of state at the Hungarian Prime Minister’s office stated that the Hungarian government welcomes the vote of the UK parliament on 14th March stating that a no-deal Brexit should not take place under any circumstances. The Hungarian government has already passed a law covering many issues, intended to protect the rights of UK citizens in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

One key statement was to confirm that there would be no visa requirements for UK citizens within the EU, regardless of whether there is a Brexit with a deal or not. However there is likely to be a requirement in the future and certainly under a no-deal Brexit, for UK citizens travelling as tourists or on business to the EU, to pay the planned ETIAS electronic visa waiver fee.

Registration Card and Address Card

The critical information for UK citizens who are existing legal residents in Hungary, is that anyone holding a Registration Card and Address Card on Brexit Day (whenever that might occur), will be allowed to continue to hold those documents and use them as proof of legal residence for up to 3 years. Any UK citizen that has held legal residence 3 years or more, they will be allowed to transfer to a national permanent residence permit immediately after Brexit, with preferential terms. This provides lifelong equal treatment for work, residence, social security etc. If a UK citizen that has held legal residence 5 years or more, they will be allowed to transfer to an EU permanent residence permit, which also affords some rights to work in other EU member states.

Permanent residence

The preferential terms under which UK citizens would be able to apply for permanent residence are as follows: The normal requirement for non-EU/EEA citizens to prove that they have held significant savings for at least a year would not be imposed on UK citizens, neither would the requirement to prove that their being awarded permanent residence would be in the best interests of the Hungarian state.

Finally, if a UK citizen can only prove that they have applied for Hungarian residence or started the process of applying but has not yet got the required cards, they will still be allowed to continue to reside as if they had applied before the deadline. The indication here was that flexibility would be given to UK citizens in the event of any issue in the short-term after Brexit day.

Questions & Answers from the participants

Q: How would this offer of permanent residence work in a no-deal scenario?

A: It’s important to hold a registration card or residence card at the time of Brexit. The cards UK citizens hold can be retained for up to 3 years, by which time they should apply for a national settlement permit.

Q: What documentation would a person need if they travel from London to Budapest on 30th March and then return to London on 2nd April [this question was asked before the Brexit extension to 11th April was granted by the EU].

A: There are two scenarios that must be addressed here, if you hold a registration card and re-enter the EU via any border and you will be recognised as an EU resident. If you don’t hold a residence card you can travel to and from Hungary with a passport, as a non-EU tourist.

Q: I hold a valid residence card and address card, do I need to do anything now?:

A: You do not need to do anything, just wait to see what happens with Brexit

Q: My registration card shows a different address to where I currently live. I have changed my address card, do I need to change my registration card too?

A: No, so long as your address card is updated you do not need to modify your registration card.

Q: If Brexit day is delayed, can a UK citizen apply for registration as an EU citizen between 29th March and, for example, the end of June?

A: If Brexit is delayed then UK citizens would continue to be EU citizens and would retain their existing rights to apply for residence as EU citizens.

Q: I have only been resident for 1.5 years. Until I have the 3 years needed, post-Brexit, for permanent residence, what are my intra EU travel rights, post Brexit?

A: The registration card will be registered with all EU borders, so you will be allowed to prove your residence in Hungary with that card.

Q: If the UK finally does not leave the EU, is the deal on permanent residence still on offer?

A: The EU registration card is of itself valid permanently, so EU citizens do not qualify for the national permanent residence permit.

Q: I hold a green ID card, can I travel freely?

A: You will need your passport to travel within the EU but the green ID card combined with passport will allow you to travel, post-Brexit.

Q: EIHC – will this card continue to be valid in the event of a no deal Brexit?

A: According to the law passed by the Hungarian government, these cards will remain in force until 31st Dec 2020. Whether the UK government will then accept the EIHC for a UK citizen resident in Hungary, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, is not yet clear.

Q: I am a UK pensioner and I have a Hungarian social security card, funded by the UK government. Will this status remain in the event of a deal or no-deal Brexit?

A: Either way you will continue to have full access to the Hungarian state healthcare system in the same way that Hungarian pensioners have this right.

More information:

The Hungarian government published a new website about Brexit in English:

Information for British nationals and their family members

UK in Hungary (British Embassy Facebook page)