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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


‘Hero’ postal worker ends UK man’s ID nightmare

A British man who was stymied in his attempts to retrieve his passport from a Stockholm postal outlet finally has the document in hand thanks to the service-minded efforts of a "heroic" postal employee.

'Hero' postal worker ends UK man's ID nightmare

“It’s as if the human face of Swedish bureaucracy was somehow able to shine through and solve my problem,” UK-native Marcus Bush told The Local on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago, Bush had mailed his valid British passport and Swedish identity card to the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) as part of his application for Swedish citizenship.

But when the agency sent back his British passport via registered mail, Bush was shocked to learn he couldn’t use his UK driver’s licence to verify his identity when he picked up the envelope.

As of April 15th, Swedish postal operator Posten no longer considers foreign driver’s licences as a valid form of ID to pick up a package, even if the licence was issued by another EU member state.

The situation became all the more urgent as Bush is scheduled to travel to Prague next week and he was uncertain he’d be allowed to board the plane without his passport.

“I really didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said.

In a last ditch attempt to solve the matter, Bush walked across town to a post office actually managed by Posten, rather than the local, independently-managed outlet to which he had been directed to pick up the envelope containing his passport.

“I figured, what do I have to lose? Maybe an actual Posten employee had more discretion than an agent who risks losing his contract if he doesn’t do everything by the book,” said Bush.

To help his case, Bush took with him an expired passport, a recent utility bill, as well as proof of homeowners insurance and “basically anything I could find” that could help prove he was indeed the person to whom the envelope was addressed.

Much to his surprise, the ploy worked.

“The woman at Posten quickly realized my predicament and even offered to run back to my neighbourhood postal agent to pick up the envelope and bring it back to her office,” Bush explained.

“She told me that if I came back in an hour, I’d be able to pick up my package.”

And sure enough, when Bush strode into the post office on Tuesday, the Posten employee with whom he had spoken duly presented him with the envelope containing his passport.

“But now you have to open it before I let you leave,” she said as The Local looked on.

Bush ripped into the envelope to find his UK passport, prompting a wide grin.

“It feels like Christmas,” he said with delight.

The Posten employee, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that cases like Bush’s occur “all the time”.

“The difference is that since I work for Posten, I have the authority to make a decision about someone’s identity,” she explained as she promptly borrowed Bush’s passport to verify once and for all that he was who he claimed to be and update records to show he had in fact received the envelope.

In an effort to show his appreciation for the woman’s efforts, Bush handed over a bouquet of flowers to the startled Posten employee, who blushed as she accepted them.

“Oh no, you shouldn’t have,” she said.

“It’s the least I could do,” Bush replied.

Passport in hand, Bush can now travel to Prague worry-free.

“I’m thrilled that this all got sorted out. But I think the Migration Board should think about how the deal with situations like this so that others like me don’t end up with the same problem,” he said.

David Landes

Follow David Landes on Twitter