No-deal Brexit: Travelling in and out of Sweden without a passport stamp

Brits in Sweden who wish to travel abroad in a no-deal Brexit scenario but have not been able to apply for a Migration Agency passport stamp, are advised to bring proof that they live in Sweden.

No-deal Brexit: Travelling in and out of Sweden without a passport stamp
The passport checks at Arlanda Airport. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Sweden has previously said that Brits and their family members will retain many of their current rights during a one-year grace period even if the UK crashes out of the EU without a Brexit deal.

This will happen automatically, but Brits who plan to travel outside of Sweden during this year have been advised to apply for a proof of their rights, in the form of a passport stamp issued by the Migration Agency. This is to ensure that Brits are not delayed at the border, because border police will easily be able to identify them as residents of Sweden.

But with the Brexit deadline fast approaching and applications for the stamp not yet open, many of The Local's readers – who often have to travel abroad for work or to visit family – have asked us what happens if you have to leave Sweden before you can get a stamp but return only after a potential no-deal Brexit.

The Swedish Migration Agency directed us to the country's border police, who said that the passport stamp would make the border check procedure smoother but that they would use other ways of confirming that a British national had the right to reside in Sweden even if the person did not have such a stamp.

READ ALSO: Sweden fast-tracks citizenship applications for Brits

“It is in the nature of the matter that it is the most convenient for the individual to have such a proof (…) but as you say, not everyone will have time to get it and perhaps not everyone wants it either,” Jonas Beltrame-Linné, a spokesperson for the Swedish national police, told The Local, adding that more information would be released via the website when the future of Britain's relationship with the EU becomes clear.

He said that much remained unclear for now, but said: “For anyone who is still allowed to stay in Sweden without a residence permit, but does not have proof of it in their passport, the Swedish border control will use available records to try to confirm that this person has this right. To facilitate this procedure it would of course be helpful if the person in question has some kind of documentation, for example a previously issued residence card or a certificate from their employer that shows that he or she is resident in Sweden.”

READ ALSO: Here's what Brits in Sweden will need to do if there's a no-deal Brexit

The Local has asked the Danish Migration Agency to confirm how this applies to Brits living in southern Sweden, who would normally fly in and out of Denmark's Copenhagen Airport when travelling abroad. But according to the EU's official guide to residence rights of UK nationals living in the 27 EU member states, information about Sweden's official passport stamp “has been communicated to the Schengen secretariat”.

Applications for the passport stamp will only be available via the Migration Agency website if it becomes clear that there will be a no-deal Brexit, the agency confirmed to The Local last week. If applications do open, the agency expects a turnaround time of approximately one week. 

It is only needed if the UK leaves the EU without any deal, an outcome which depends on what happens during the extension of Article 50, with April 12th being the new cliff-edge Brexit date.

READ ALSO: All the Brexit news on The Local

Meanwhile, the European Commission confirmed this week that Brits who are not covered by separate rights offered by member states (for example British nationals who live outside of the EU) would be allowed visa-free travel to EU countries for a period of 90 days in any 180-day period if the UK also grants reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel to all EU citizens.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the commission released an information notice on Monday saying: “Your passport will be stamped both when you enter the EU and when you leave it, so that this period of 90 days, which is visa-free, can be calculated.”


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OPINION: Sweden should follow Denmark and reconsider Brexit deportations

Hundreds of Brits who failed to secure post-Brexit residency in Denmark will be given a second chance. Sweden should offer the same kind of amnesty, writes The Local’s editor Emma Löfgren.

OPINION: Sweden should follow Denmark and reconsider Brexit deportations

The Danish government this week announced that British nationals who missed the deadline for post-Brexit residency will be allowed to apply or reapply.

At least 350 British nationals who lived in Denmark at the time of Brexit failed to apply to remain in the country before the deadline of the end of December 2021, and many were subsequently given orders to leave.

But after criticism from rights groups, who accused Danish immigration authorities of not correctly applying the rules of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the government on Monday announced that the initial deadline will now be extended until the end of 2023.

It is time for Sweden to follow Denmark’s lead.

Sweden has ordered more Brits to leave since Brexit than any other EU state. Eurostat data reveals that about 2,205 UK citizens were ordered to leave EU countries between 2020 and September 2022 – with around half of this number from Sweden alone.

It’s hard to get clarity into the facts behind these figures, with authorities conceding there could be some degree of inaccuracy, including people being counted twice. They also include people turned away on the border, so they could also include Brits who never lived in Sweden nor had the right to stay post-Brexit.

At The Local, our reporters have repeatedly contacted both the Migration Agency and the border police for more information, which each authority directing us to the other.

But other figures such as rejected applications support the claim that Sweden has turned away an unusually high number of Brits compared to other EU states.

What we know for sure is that Swedish migration authorities rejected a total of 2,155 applications for post-Brexit residence status between November 2020 and December 2022. It’s not clear how many of these were denied because they arrived after the deadline, but data suggests these were a few hundred at most.

Several readers of The Local have told us they wrongly believed they already had the right to stay in Sweden and did not need to apply for residence status, due to confusion over similar-sounding terms such as residence permit, residence card and residence status.

Late applications are however not Sweden’s only problem.

Other reasons for a rejected application, according to a Migration Agency spokesperson, include “incomplete applications, applications where the applicant did not fulfil the requirement for residence status, and applications listed as ‘reason unknown’”.

They also include people such as Gregory – who had lived in Sweden for 21 years but was in between jobs at the time of the deadline, which meant he did not qualify for residence status. Or Kathleen Poole, a bedbound grandmother with Alzheimer’s.

When The Local in early February asked Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard to explain the high figures, she said they came as “complete news” to her.

“We want them here,” she told us.

She said she could not explain the figures and promised to look into them, but after chasing her office for nearly two months, our reporters have yet to receive a reply.

It’s not as if the risk of deportations should have come as a surprise to anyone.

In the run-up to the Brexit deadline for residency, The Local carried a warning by a leading Facebook group for Brits in Sweden that authorities in the country were not doing enough to reach UK citizens to make them aware of the date.

Malmer Stenergard’s party wasn’t in government at the time, but she chaired the Swedish parliament’s social security committee, which processed the government’s bill on post-Brexit residence status for Brits – a bill the group Brits in Sweden had warned put a concerningly large number at risk of losing their right to stay.

Decision-makers in Sweden have less freedom than their Danish counterparts to influence decisions by government agencies such as the Migration Agency, with so-called “minister rule” being frowned upon – an issue that was brought to its head during the Covid pandemic.

But it should be possible to at least do what Denmark has done and allow those who missed the deadline a chance to reapply and be tried on the same terms as everyone else.

In any case, Brits affected by Brexit deportations deserve an answer, not just silence.

Denmark has found a (half) solution. Sweden, we’re waiting.