At midnight on 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom left the European Union. In order to make the withdrawal as smooth as possible, a withdrawal agreement was adopted on both sides of the Channel.
The purpose of the withdrawal agreement is to safeguard, after the transition period (from 1 February 2020 to 31 December 2020), the acquired rights of British citizens and their family members who were residing in Belgium or working as British cross-border workers in the European Union before the end of the transition period.
All British citizens and their family members who wanted to benefit from the withdrawal agreement had to apply for the status of beneficiary of the withdrawal agreement within the application period foreseen for that purpose (from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021). Until then, their (residence) rights were automatically protected.
As of 1 January 2022, only British citizens and their family members who hold a valid Annex 56/57 or an M/N card benefit from the withdrawal agreement.
It is still possible to submit an application after the application period, i.e. after 31 December 2021, but in this case the applicant must prove that there are reasonable grounds for not meeting the deadline of the application period. These reasons must be provided when the application is submitted.
In addition, certain family members may join the UK beneficiary of the withdrawal agreement after the application period. They do not have to provide reasonable grounds for not submitting their application during the application period as long as they submit their application within 3 months following their arrival in Belgium. You can find more information HERE.
All British citizens and their family members who are not protected by the withdrawal agreement must follow the same rules as other third country nationals. More information can be found HERE.