Sweden has already issued a one-year grace period for Brits in the event that the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal on October 31st. But it has long been unclear exactly which rules would apply after that.
“If there would be a hard Brexit without a deal, the 20,000-25,000 Brits living in Sweden would lose their residence permit in Sweden overnight. So if we don't do anything they would no longer have the right to stay and the police would in practice come and send them out of the country. And we don't want to do that,” Morgan Johansson, minister for justice and migration, told The Local in a telephone interview.
A new proposal put forward by the government on Thursday states that new regulations, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, would give Brits who already have a permanent right of residence (permanent uppehållsrätt) in Sweden a permanent residence permit (permanent uppehållstillstånd). EU citizens automatically enjoy permanent right of residence if they have been living in another EU country for five years.
Brits who have lived here a shorter period of time but meet the requirements for right of residence would receive a five-year residence permit, which Johansson told The Local they would have to apply for.
“It requires you to for example have a job, run a business, be a student or having enough means to support yourself. If you are retired you need to be able to support yourself on your pension, and so on. Those are the same rules, really, that today apply to British citizens living in Sweden,” he said. “And then after those five years on a temporary permit you can apply for a permanent residence permit in Sweden.”
Anti-Brexit protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein
EU citizens are according to the rules of freedom of movement able to stay in Sweden for up to three months. After that they in theory need to be able to support themselves, but this is rarely enforced.
“The difference here is that we don't carry out an assessment of EU citizens [and their ability to support themselves], but we are going to do that in the case of Brits,” said Johansson.
The new rules would also apply to the family members of Brits living here at the time of Brexit.
Many of The Local's readers had previously raised concerns that they would not meet the requirements to stay if they were treated by the same rules as third-country nationals, for example some entrepreneurs or employees whose jobs could make them ineligible for work permits due to not meeting the conditions.
When we reached out to readers and the Facebook group Brits in Sweden just before the interview with the justice minister, many of the questions were linked to this crunch issue regarding specific requirements.
But Johansson confirmed that while Brits moving to Sweden after October 31st (assuming Britain leaves the EU on that date) would be considered third-country nationals, Brits already living here at that point would not have to meet the same, often quite strict, requirements that apply to non-EU citizens working in Sweden.
The proposed new rules only apply in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Photo: The Local
In the past year, The Local has repeatedly asked the Swedish government for more information on exactly what rules will apply to Brits after the one-year grace period. A document sent out in August by the Brits in Sweden Facebook group said that “the message from politicians is also far from satisfactory. Hans Dahlgren, Sweden's EU Minister, said in March 2019 that Sweden at the time could not guarantee Brits' future [in Sweden] in the event of a no-deal Brexit”, citing The Local's interview with the minister.
When The Local spoke to EU Minister Dahlgren for a brief update in August, he said “it is serious that the risk of a hard Brexit has increased” but at the time did not have any more information on how Sweden planned to treat British citizens living in Sweden once the one-year grace period was over.
Asked why it had taken until now to offer clarity and announce the proposed law changes, Johansson said: “These are changes that we have been working on this whole period so that we will be able to ensure the security of Brits in Sweden. We have spent the summer working on which rules in detail would apply to residence permit. And the idea is that they will be able to come into force on January 1st.”
The proposals have been sent out to various Swedish government agencies for consultation and are expected to come into force on January 1st. Brits must then apply for their permit by October 31st 2020. There will not be an application fee, according to the proposal, which can be read in Swedish here.
The Local only received 10 minutes with the minister, but we also managed to ask a few more questions on behalf of our readers. Here are his answers to some of those questions:
What happens if you perhaps previously had a job in Sweden, but are now too ill to work?
“It depends if you have worked up sickness benefits so that you have some disposable money, then you'll be able to stay like all the others. Otherwise it would obviously have to be tried on a case to case basis.”
What happens if you are currently able to support yourself but have previously been unemployed for a longer period of time in Sweden, does that risk affecting your application negatively?
“No, it's the circumstances of your situation when you apply that will count.”
Were there any issues that were particularly hard to resolve when you worked out this proposal?
“No, I wouldn't say that. Of course there are many details involved, but it is not complicated politically speaking.”
What happens to British pensioners?
“If you have enough means to support yourself, then you will be able to stay.”
There have been several stories in recent years about so-called 'talent deportation' of third-country nationals. What do you say to people affected by that who are now seeing Brits get special permits?
“When it comes to those deportations it's people who have not lived up to the requirements, for example that you have not worked for contractual wages, that you have not received the correct holiday payment, that you quite simply have not met those requirements that you said you would meet when you applied. Those are the same rules that will apply to Brits too in the future if they come to Sweden to work.”
“The separate new permits only apply to those 20,000-25,000 Brits who are here in Sweden today, and that's because they in many cases have lived here for a very long time. But in general, if you say you're going to work here according to particular conditions and then don't, then you risk losing your work permit.”
Editor's note: Did you find this article useful? Do you still have more questions about your situation after Brexit? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]. I would love to have your feedback and your ideas for what story we should cover next.