Here’s how Brits in Sweden can get permanent residency after a no-deal Brexit

Sweden's justice and migration minister has told The Local more about the special residence permits expected to be issued to Brits in Sweden after a no-deal Brexit.

Here's how Brits in Sweden can get permanent residency after a no-deal Brexit
Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

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.

READ ALSO: Here's how many people were granted work permits in Sweden last month

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.

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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”