Immigrant ID cards set for June launch

Immigrants living in Sweden will be able to receive national identification cards from the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) from June 1st, it was announced on Friday.

All those above the age of 13-years-old and able to prove their identity will then be able to apply for an identification card at 23 locations across the country.

“We have noticed from the large number of people applying at banks in Sweden that there is a large pent-up demand for ID cards which are a necessity in today’s society,” spokesperson Anna-Lena Österborg told The Local on Friday.

When asked whether the tax agency would be able to meet the demand, Österborg replied:

“We hope so. We have had a short time to put this together and have all our focus on the start date of June 1st to ensure that this important job is executed smoothly.”

The tax agency will now work to develop clear guidelines for what is required by applicants to obtain an identification card. These guidelines will be published in May.

Anna-Lena Österborg confirmed that the tax agency would initially offer ID cards at 23 main locations across Sweden.

“We want to first see how the system develops and get a measure of the demand. We will then later review the situation and see if there is a need to expand the service,” Österborg said to The Local.

When Svensk Kassaservice closed in April 2008, no other government authority took over the task of issuing identification cards.

After months of silence the government confirmed in September 2008 that Sweden’s Tax Agency would take over responsibility.

The delay has caused widespread problems for foreign citizens living in Sweden who have been in need of a legitimate identification that is accepted in Sweden.

The new identification cards will cost 400 kronor ($50) and will be valid for five years.

Applicants must personally visit the tax agency to be photographed, prove their identity, and that they hold a Swedish personal identity number (personnummer).


British man stuck in Swedish ID nightmare

A British man's attempt to gain Swedish citizenship has been marred by a bureaucratic black hole that has left him stranded in the country without a valid ID.

British man stuck in Swedish ID nightmare

“It’s a total Catch-22. I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” UK-native Marcus Bush told The Local.

Earlier this year, Bush, who has lived in Sweden for the past seven years, finally decided to apply for Swedish citizenship.

“I wanted to take advantage of the ease of travelling within the Schengen Area,” he explained, referring to the name used to refer to the 26 European countries that have abolished passport and immigration controls and that includes Sweden, but not the UK.

“I also wanted to be able to be fully involved in the democratic processes of my adopted country.”

Bush submitted his online citizenship application at the website of the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) without any trouble, later sending the agency his UK passport and Swedish national ID card via post.

“I made sure to mark the box requesting that they return my British passport, as I am due to travel quite soon,” he said.

A few days later, Bush received a note in the mail that he could pick up his UK passport at an outlet of Swedish postal service Posten near his home on Södermalm in Stockholm.

But when he presented his British driver’s licence to pick up the package, Bush was shocked to learn that the ID wasn’t acceptable.

“They told me that, as of April 15th, Posten didn’t consider foreign driver’s licences as a valid form of ID to pick up a package,” he said.

With his Swedish national identity card still in the hands of officials at the Migration Board and his UK passport resting in the envelope on the counter at the post office, Bush found himself without the valid ID he needed.

“The guy set the envelope on the counter and I have to admit there was a moment when I asked myself, ‘Do I just grab this and run?’,” he recalled.

With an upcoming trip to Prague fast approaching, Bush has been stymied in how to rectify the situation.

“I can’t expect the guy behind the counter to break the rules. And every time I call the Migration Board I just get put in a phone queue,” he said.

“As the Czech Republic is in Schengen, I may be able to get there without my passport. But now I’m really not sure if my UK licence is valid for air travel either.”

A spokeswoman with Posten confirmed the recent policy change for The Local, explaining that a foreign driver’s licence is no longer considered a valid ID for picking up a package, even if it’s from another EU country.

“I can understand his frustration. It’s a complicated situation,” she told The Local.

However, she was hesitant to suggest any proposed solution as to how Bush would be able to claim the package that contained the very document he needed to claim the package.

A spokeswoman at the Migration Board was also sympathetic, saying she wasn’t immediately aware of similar cases, but couldn’t be sure as to how many other would-be Swedish citizens had found themselves with the same problem as Bush, who at this point can only think of one possible way out of the dilemma.

“I guess I could apply for a whole new Swedish ID card, but that’s 400 kronor ($60) I don’t feel I should have to spend and it wouldn’t arrive in time for my trip anyway,” he said.

“I’m all for protecting against fraud, but I’ve become collateral damage in all this.”

David Landes

Follow David Landes on Twitter