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Here’s what Brits in Sweden will need to do if there’s a no-deal Brexit

UPDATED: If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, Brits already resident in Sweden will need to apply for a passport stamp to ensure their right to travel within the EU area for the following year.

Here's what Brits in Sweden will need to do if there's a no-deal Brexit
The Local looks at what Brits in Sweden need to know and do ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit. File photo: AP Photo/Alastair Grant/TT

In early March, the Swedish government formally adopted a regulation which would, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, grant British citizens and their family members resident in Sweden a one-year exemption from the need to have work and residence permits.

This one-year 'grace period', as The Local has previously reported, means Brits and their family members would retain many of their current rights for 12 months. After this year, they would be expected to have permits to remain in the country. It's not yet clear if Brits would be subject to existing permit regulations – something which both the Migration Agency and Sweden's largest major business federation have warned would be problematic – or if special legislation would be introduced.

“The regulation decided by the Swedish government today aims to counter the most serious consequences of a no-deal Brexit for UK nationals currently living and working in Sweden,” Anna Westling, a legal advisor at the Department of Justice, told The Local when the regulation was adopted, directing Brits to the government's website for the latest updates on Brexit preparations.

“It's about, among other things, creating a framework for the approximately 20,000 Brits who are in Sweden, so that they don't lose their right of residence immediately and overnight,” the TT newswire quoted Justice Minister Morgan Johansson as saying in reference to the regulation.

“That's why the government has decided on a change to the regulation, where we create an exception for this group so that for one year they have the possibility to apply for an exception. So, there will be unchanged conditions for them during this year.”

The regulation also covers children, so that children born to a British parent in Sweden after a no-deal Brexit but during the grace period, or who move to Sweden to join a British parent during the grace period, would receive the same rights during that year as their parent.

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The exemption will apply automatically, so Brits and their family members do not need to make special applications in order to continue living and working as normal after any no-deal Brexit.

However, Brits who plan to travel outside Sweden during the one-year period after Brexit have been advised to apply for a 'proof' of their rights, in the form of a passport stamp issued by the Migration Agency.

“If you want to travel for business or pleasure, it's recommended that you apply for proof that you have the right to legally reside in the country,” Åsa Hemingway from the Migration Agency said at a townhall meeting held by the British Embassy in Stockholm. She recommended that anyone who knew they would travel during the year should apply for the stamp “as soon as possible” once it was possible to do so, rather than waiting until shortly before the busy summer period, for example.

The agency initially said that it would be possible to apply via their website from March 22nd, with applications processed from March 30th. But after EU leaders agreed to an extension of Article 50, postponing the date of Brexit, the agency said the stamp applications would also be delayed and would become available on their website only if a no-deal Brexit was confirmed.

To apply for the stamp, Brits would need to send in this form and a copy of their passport, and the agency has said it hopes to process decisions within one week. Once a decision is made, Brits would be able to get the passport stamp at various Migration Agency offices around the country.

READ ALSO: What would a no-deal Brexit mean for Brits studying in Sweden (or hoping to)?

How the Swedish Migration Agency is preparing for a no-deal Brexit
A Migration Agency office in Småland, southern Sweden. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

The regulation only applies if the UK leaves the EU without any deal, an outcome which currently does not look likely but depends on what happens during the extension of Article 50.

Under the deal previously agreed between the UK and the EU, a two-year transition period would begin once the UK formally leaves the bloc. 

During those two years, Brits already legally resident in Sweden, as well as those who move there before the end of the transition period, would retain many of their current rights for the rest of their lives, including to live, work and study in Sweden. Those with five years' residence in Sweden would be granted permanent residence, and others would be granted temporary residence to allow them to reach the five-year period required for permanent residency or citizenship applications.

READ ALSO: All the Brexit news on The Local

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WORK PERMITS

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Many foreigners living in Sweden need to have a residence permit to live in the country legally. Permits are issued for two years at a time and can be renewed 30 days before expiry, at the earliest. But with waiting times exceeding 8 months for many applicants, just what are your rights while you wait to hear back?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Can I keep working in Sweden?

It depends. If you have a residence permit which allows you to work in Sweden, have held that residence permit for at least six months and apply for an extension before your old permit expires, you still have the right to work in Sweden while you wait for the Migration Agency to make a decision on your permit application.

You can apply for a new residence permit 30 days before your old permit expires, at the earliest, and you can’t get a new residence permit before your old one has run out.

Can I leave Sweden?

Technically you can, but it might not be a good idea. This is due to the fact that if you leave Sweden after your residence permit has expired, it can be difficult to enter Sweden again before your new permit is granted, even if you can prove that you’ve applied for a new one.

In the worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to Sweden at the border and forced to wait in another country until your new residence permit is granted. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in some cases, apply for a national visa allowing you to re-enter Sweden. These are only granted under exceptional circumstances, and must be applied for at a Swedish embassy or general consulate in the country you are staying in. If you are not granted a national visa to re-enter Sweden, you can’t appeal the decision, meaning you’ll have to wait until your residence permit is approved before you can re-enter Sweden.

The Migration Agency writes on its website that you should only leave Sweden while your application is being processed “in exceptional cases, and if you really have to”.

It lists some examples of exceptional cases as “sudden illness, death in the family or important work-related assignments”, adding that you may need to provide proof of your reason for travelling to the embassy when you apply for a national visa to re-enter Sweden.

What if I come from a visa-free country?

If you come from a visa-free country, you are able to re-enter Sweden without needing a visa, but you may run into issues anyway, as visa-free non-EU citizens entering Schengen are only allowed to stay in the bloc for 90 days in every 180 before a visa is required.

If you are a member of this group and you stay in Schengen for longer than 90 days without a visa, you could be labelled an “overstayer”, which can cause issues entering other countries, as well as applying for a visa or residence permit in the future.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “a visa-free person waiting for a decision in their extension application can leave Sweden and return, as long as they have visa-free days left to use”.

“However, an extension application usually requires the individual to be located in Sweden,” the Agency wrote. “Travelling abroad can, in some cases, have an effect on the decision whether to extend a residence permit or not, in a way which is negative for the applicant, but this decision is made on an individual case basis (it’s not possible to say a general rule).”

“The right to travel into the Schengen area for short visits is not affected, as long as the person still has visa-free days left.”

The Local has contacted the Migration Agency to clarify whether days spent in Sweden count towards the 90-day limit, and will update this article accordingly once we receive a response.

Does this apply to me if I have a permanent residence permit?

No. This only applies to people in Sweden holding temporary residence permits. If you have a permanent residence permit and your residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort or UT-kort) expires, you just need to book an appointment at the Migration Agency to have your picture and fingerprints taken for a new card.

How long is the processing time for residence permit renewals?

It varies. For people renewing a residence permit to live with someone in Sweden, for example, the Migration Agency states that 75 percent of recent cases received an answer within eight months.

For work permit extensions, it varies. In some branches, 75 percent of applicants received a response after 17 months, others only had to wait five.

This means that some people waiting to extend their residence permits could be discouraged from leaving Sweden for almost a year and a half, unless they are facing “exceptional circumstances”.

You can see how long it is likely to take in your case here.

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