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Immigrants blocked from getting Swedish ID

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17:35 CET+01:00
New rules introduced in January mean immigrants with the right to live and work in Sweden are being barred from receiving Swedish ID cards. A Swedish ID is required to exercise many daily activities in Swedish society, including collecting packages from the post office, opening a bank account, seeing a doctor, or even hiring a DVD and buying alcohol or cigarettes.

The new rules have been introduced by Svensk Kassaservice, an agency formerly part of Posten, the Swedish post office. The agency, along with some banks, is responsible for issuing ID cards in Sweden.

According to Svensk Kassaservice's new rules, anyone who is not a Swedish citizen or married to a Swedish citizen will be refused ID – despite being legal Swedish residents with the papers to prove it.

The rules were introduced with little warning at the start of January. Since then, thousands of unmarried immigrants and legal residents of Sweden are effectively locked out and denied many basic rights and privileges.

Mariana Martins, a newly arrived immigrant with Brazilian citizenship, has a story that resembles a growing number of immigrants arriving in Sweden. She explains, “I waited a long time for my visa and my personal identification number. When I thought my problems were over I got this ID problem.”

Mariana discovered she was frozen out of the system when she applied for a Svensk Kassaservice ID. “I took my Swedish partner, both our passports, the required photos, the personbevis (document issued by the tax authority), money, everything. I only heard ‘No's'.”

No Swedish state authority currently issues IDs to newly welcomed immigrants. The state has traditionally relied on a variety of issuers, primarily Svensk Kassaservice, once a part of Posten, to provide this service.

Svensk Kassaservice asserts that the increasing number of fraudulent applications requires a stricter policy when issuing ID cards. That means that only people with the new Swedish passports, other forms of recognized Swedish ID or applicants vouched for by a close family member will be issued ID cards.

'Family member' includes spouses but not 'sambos' (cohabiting partners). That family member must have an approved Swedish ID.

Banks, the only other issuers of officially recognized Swedish ID, now have adopted similar polices. The police also issue ID, but only to Swedish citizens.

Mariana added. “The thing that frustrates me the most is that they make this sambo thing sound very practical and reasonable in the beginning, you can get a residency and work permit just by declaring that you live together in a serious relationship with a Swede. However, you can't get an ID card.”

Mariana's story has reached a dead end. “I've basically given up on trying to get a Swedish ID card. It's very sad but I feel that my efforts are useless.”

She is hoping to function in Swedish society despite not having the right to a Swedish ID. “I will have to carry on showing my Brazilian passport and praying for them to accept it as a form of ID in places like Systembolaget, bars, clubs, doctors or when I'm picking up packages.”

The inability to get a Swedish ID also affects EU nationals here to work. They are in a similar catch-22: they have been issued a personal number and are granted the right to work. However, they cannot provide a bank account for the new employer to pay their salary. Most banks require a Swedish ID to open an account.

Lucie Komarkova, a citizen of the Czech Republic, discovered this first hand. “I really needed an account it because I wanted to be paid officially. But even though I had my personal number there was no chance to open bank account in most banks without a Swedish ID card.”

She followed the bank's recommendation to get an ID from Svensk Kassaservice. “The officer gave me all the application forms and explained me that I had to take a person with me to confirm my identity. When I said, I was alone because I had come to work here – I was informed that I could not ask for ID in Kassaservice and I had to go to the bank.”

The Local understands that the problem is also affecting thousands of long-standing residents of Sweden who have failed to renew existing ID cards. While Svensk Kassaservice accepts ID cards up to six months out of date from those trying to renew, people who have left it longer will end up in the same predicament as new arrivals.

Svensk Kassaservice asserts on its website that it has voluntarily been filling the gap left by the government not providing identification cards. It points out that in most other countries an official government agency would be responsible for issuing IDs.

Charlotta Malm, Head of Information at Svensk Kassaservice told The Local, “We would like the government to issue identification cards.” She pointed out that Svensk Kassaservice doesn't have the ability to properly assess the validity of a great number of forms of international identification. “We don't have access to the system to determine if an ID is legitimate.”

The newly issued regulation for granting a Svensk Kassaservice ID is rattling the bars of a number of Swedish institutions, agencies and the Integration Ministry.

The Minister of Integration, Nyamko Sabuni, was unable to talk to The Local about the issue. She would only give The Local the following statement:

“The ombudsman for discrimination (DO) has recently noticed the problem and has started an inquiry. The government will follow this case closely.”

The offices of the Ombudsman for Discrimination are indeed aware of the Catch-22 problem. “We're looking into the matter.” Linus Kyrklund, a lawyer at DO told The Local. “We have a handful of cases since the new year that center around [getting an ID.]”

Mariana Martins sums up the Catch-22 scenario for Swedish immigrants. “It sounds like a small thing, not being able to get an ID, but in practice it has serious implications.”

Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius

See also: Paul O'Mahony talks of his ID troubles on The Local's blog.

Have you faced problems getting Swedish ID? We want to hear from you! Email us at news@thelocal.se

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