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Brexit Q&A: What do Brits in Sweden need to know – and do?

Brexit Q&A: What do Brits in Sweden need to know – and do?
A no-deal Brexit could affect everything from Brits' pensions to their right to travel and work in Sweden. File photo: Tove Freiij/imagebank.sweden.se
How would a no-deal Brexit affect the rights of British citizens in Sweden regarding healthcare, pensions, travel, and work? And how will the application process for post-Brexit residence permits work? The Local attended a townhall event hosted by Stockholm's British Embassy, and spoke to experts, in an effort to get the facts and work out which questions remain unanswered.

A panel made up of representatives from Swedish government agencies, the British embassy, and campaign group Brits in Sweden hosted a townhall event on Monday aimed at explaining the newly announced permits for Brits, and answering questions from British citizens in Sweden.

If Brits fail to apply for the permit during the grace period, they were warned they will become third country nationals at the end of the grace period, and in the absence of further legislation they would need to apply for residence permits on the same conditions as currently apply to third country nationals. This means, for example, a requirement to apply for the permit from one's home country.

READ ALSO: Eight key scenarios: What Brexit means for you depending on your situation 

One of the biggest questions that remains, and was noted by Brits in Sweden representative Mally McLane in the panel, is what will happen to people who fall into grey areas regarding right of residence. This category could include some jobseekers, pensioners, very recent arrivals still waiting for personal ID numbers (personnummer), long-term unemployed people, and others. 


Swedish EU Minister Hans Dahlgren. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The panel stressed that those who were eligible to be in Sweden under EU freedom of movement would be eligible to remain during the grace period, and that all those who had right of residence would be eligible for temporary or permanent residence permits afterwards.

People in situations such as long-term unemployment or having been fired or laid off from a job have the possibility to retain their right of residence in Sweden in some situations, and were advised to confirm their residency status as soon as possible.

“If you under the current system fulfil the [right of residence under EU] freedom of movement, you would also do so both in accordance with the grace period and the long-term proposals,” said the Justice Ministry's Jens Ölander.

Another question is whether the burden of proof for meeting the criteria for residence permits will be on Sweden or on the individual applicants. This was not directly addressed by the panel, who did however advise Brits to include “as much information as possible” with their applications, and when The Local asked British ambassador Judith Gough, she told us: “That's a question for the Swedish authorities because at the end of the day that is their process.”

A Migration Agency press officer told The Local: “In applications for residence permits, it is up to the applicant to prove they have the right to attain a permit. This means that if the applicant can prove that they lived in Sweden with a right of residency from a particular date, that is the date that will be counted.”

Here's a look at some of the other key questions raised during the event. 

When will Sweden start putting its no-deal Brexit preparations into action?

“There is no 'hit go',” was the answer from Jan Olson, who is working on Brexit coordination at the Prime Minister's office in Stockholm. 

“We'd have to get ready for being ready when it actually happens, and we don't know whether we'll know that a week before [proposed Brexit date October 31st]. It's up to the UK Prime Minister and his EU counterparts. But we won't say that [a no-deal] is going to happen before we're absolutely sure that it will,” Olson said.


Flags fly during a pro-EU demonstration in the UK. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein/TT

What happens to Brits' right to healthcare during the grace period and afterwards?

“In Sweden it's the regions who are responsible for healthcare, and if you have residency in Sweden – and by residency I mean if you are folkbokförd [in Sweden's population register] – then you have the right to healthcare, whether you have the S1 form or not,” said Niklas Friden from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan). 

“The S1 form means that the British will pay for your healthcare, and for other residents, Sweden pays. If you have residency in Sweden, then you have the right to healthcare and this applies no matter what happens [with Brexit].”

When applying for the residence permits, is time spent living in Sweden counted from the date of arrival or the date on which a personnummer was received, and is the time calculated based on the date the application is submitted or the date on which it is assessed by Migration Agency officials?

The panel said that the default would be to judge applications based on using the date the applicant was entered into the population register (folkbokförd) as a starting point. However, Brits who had the right of residence before this date were advised to submit proof of this (such as an employment certificate or address registration) so that the application could be judged based on the time the applicant attained right of residence.

The length of time would be calculated based on the date the application is assessed, and not the date on which it is submitted. 

When contacted by The Local for clarification, a press officer for the Migration Agency confirmed this. 

“The folkbokföring indicates when someone formally moved to Sweden, and the right of residency might occur before or after that date, depending on what the person claims and can show to their case. It is always the right of residency that the Swedish Migration Agency looks for in our case assessment. The length of time is calculated based on the time of the assessment of the application,” she said.


A Migration Agency office in Småland, southern Sweden. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

If you have a citizenship application in progress, but have not received a decision by the time of a no-deal Brexit, do you still need a residence permit?

People in this situation were advised to apply for the residence permit as well, since an in-progress citizenship application would not automatically grant them residency. However, anyone who has fulfilled the requirements for Swedish citizenship would also meet the requirements for permanent residency.

“Citizenship and residence are two different things, and you should apply for both [if you have not received Swedish citizenship by the date of a no-deal Brexit],” said Migration Agency representative Jonas Colling.

He added that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, citizenship applications from Brits would be prioritized by the agency.

Would a no-deal Brexit affect Brits' eligibility for citizenship, or the time needed to be resident in Sweden before being able to apply? 

Those Brits who are not yet eligible for citizenship but plan to stay in Sweden long-term may be keen to become citizens once they have fulfilled the requirements, in order to have increased stability in Sweden and to secure their rights as EU citizens long-term. 

A Migration Agency press officer told The Local by email: “In order to be eligible for a citizenship, a person must have a permanent residency or a status of a so called long-term resident. This means that if a British citizen has a temporary 'Brexit residence permit', that person can apply for the status of long-term resident after having lived five years in Sweden legally (including years under EU freedom of movement). Once the status of long-term resident is granted, the person can then apply for citizenship.”


Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

What happens if you receive the permanent residence permit, but want to temporarily work or study abroad and later return to Sweden?

The panelists warned that it is possible to retract the permanent residence permits if the holder leaves Sweden long-term. If you plan to leave Sweden for up to two years, you can do this and retain your permanent residence permit if you inform the Migration Agency of your plans before you leave.

If you want to live abroad for longer than this – or if you fail to inform the Migration Agency of your move, even if it's two years or less – your right of residence may be withdrawn.

READ ALSO: What's the difference between being a resident and a citizen in Sweden?

Will British students and prospective students be able to continue their studies in Sweden?

British students already enrolled in a course by the date of a no-deal Brexit, or who start a course to which they had applied before the date of a no-deal Brexit, would be exempt from third-country tuition fees until 2022.

How will job-seeking and recruitment change for Brits during the grace period?

During the grace period, Brits already in Sweden will be exempt from the need for a work or residence permit, so they would be able to apply for jobs even if they didn't meet the usual criteria for third-country work permits, the panel said.


There should be no impact on the job-hunt during the grace period, for Brits already in Sweden. Photo. Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Where will the tax liability be on pension payments in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

Tax liability is regulated by bilateral agreements and not EU agreements, so Brexit will have no effect on where people pay tax on their pensions, Skatteverket representative Anna Ljungberg confirmed.

What happens to UK pensions in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

According to Gough, there is no risk of Brits losing money they paid into British pension schemes. The question of what would happen to uprating she described as “trickier” and committed to look into it and follow up.

How possible will it be for Brits to travel straight after a no-deal Brexit?

Brits without Swedish citizenship were advised to get a passport stamp from the Migration Agency as soon as possible after any no-deal Brexit. Getting the stamp requires going in person to a Migration Agency, but Colling said that it would only be necessary to hand in one's passport “for about five minutes”.

He also reassured the audience that the stamp would be accepted and recognized by other EU member states, so that Brits returning from overseas travel could return to Copenhagen and travel over the Öresund Bridge without problems, or travel on overseas ferries.

READ MORE: Travelling in and out of Sweden without a Brexit passport stamp

Border police have previously told The Local 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.

Ambassador Gough recommended taking proof of residence if overseas travel was necessary before receiving the stamp. This might include a personbevis (available on the Skatteverket website to anyone who has a personnummer), employment contract, or Swedish ID card stating a personnummer.


Passport checks at Arlanda Airport. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

How will people who need to cross the Sweden-Denmark border be affected?

The panelists said that Sweden's stamp was approved throughout Europe, meaning that cross-border travel should be possible for those with the stamp.

What is the situation for non-EU spouses of British citizens during the grace period?

People in this category will automatically be covered by the same exemption from the need for a residence permit as Brits. However, the passport stamp to facilitate overseas travel will not be issued to third country family members of British citizens, and several Brits said they were concerned about complications in the ability of their family members to travel before receiving a residence permit.

The embassy said it would look further into the situation of third-country family members.

Will EHIC cards be valid in the EU after Brexit?

EHIC cards issued by the UK will cease to be valid after a no-deal Brexit, while EHIC cards issued by Swedish authorities will be valid in every EU country, but not in the UK.

How long will British drivers' licences be valid in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

Many Brits have already taken the step of exchanging their British licences for Swedish ones, something which is possible as an EU citizen.

If there is a no-deal Brexit, Brits will lose this right, and those with in-progress applications won't have the right to complete the process. The Local contacted Sweden's Transport Administration who confirmed this.

“A decision to approve the exchange must be made before October 31st. Applications that are not approved by this date will be rejected,” a press spokesperson told The Local by email.

Asked if British citizens still had time to make an application and have it completed in time, she said: “If the application is complete, it is usually possible to make a decision within one or two weeks. In other words, it is high time to apply for an exchange for those who want to exchange their driving license before October 31st.”

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