Brits in Sweden: It may be your last chance to exchange your driving licence for a Swedish one

UPDATED: But Sweden is trying to work out a long-term policy for British drivers if a no-deal Brexit takes place, the infrastructure ministry has told The Local.

Brits in Sweden: It may be your last chance to exchange your driving licence for a Swedish one
Getting a Swedish driving licence as a third-country national is a more complicated process. File photo: Fredrik Sandberg / SCANPIX

With the scheduled date of Brexit fast approaching, Sweden's British residents have been advised to get paperwork in order to avoid problems if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

One task which needs to be finalized before any no-deal Brexit occurs is the transfer of UK driving licences to Swedish ones.

Brits who currently meet the criteria for residence under EU freedom of movement will be able to remain in Sweden for 12 months following any no-deal Brexit due to the so-called 'grace period' offered by the Swedish government. During this period, they will retain many of their current rights and in most respects will be able to continue their lives as they do today, including most importantly the right to live and work in Sweden without requiring residence or work permits, and the right to access healthcare on the same conditions as Swedish citizens.

But for those British citizens who want a Swedish driving licence and don't yet have them, the process for applying will become more complex as soon as the UK leaves the EU. As EU citizens, Brits have the right to have their UK licences exchanged for Swedish ones without taking any test, as long as they are resident in Sweden and have a UK driving licence. They will lose this right if there is a no-deal Brexit.

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

This means that not only do Brits need to submit their application before October 31st if they want to exchange their licence, but the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) needs to have approved the exchange by this date. That process is typically completed within two weeks.

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

“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,” she warned.

So what about Brits who miss this deadline?

Third-country citizens can usually use their home country licence for one year after arriving in Sweden before they are required to have a Swedish licence.

“A no-deal Brexit can lead to problems for those who have a British driving licence and have been registered (folkbokförd) in Sweden for more than a year already, because the driving licence will then be invalid upon the day of the British withdrawal. Those who have not exchanged their British driving licence before the withdrawal will then have an unrealistic short time to take a new Swedish driving licence if they have the need to drive in Sweden,” a Transport Agency representative from the Road User Regulations department told The Local by email.

The Swedish govenrment has passed a regulation making an exception to its Driving Licence Act. This means that Brits who have been registered in Sweden for more than one year at the date of a no-deal Brexit may still use their British licence, but only up to March 31st, 2020.

“This date has not been postponed due to the change in deadline,” the Transport Agency representative said. 

Sweden's Infrastructure Ministry does however plan to postpone the date and work out a long-term policy for Brits if a no-deal Brexit takes place, the press secretary to Infrastructure Minister Tomas Eneroth told The Local.

“We are planning to suggest a more permanent solution after Brexit and we are currently looking at both mutual acceptance rules and exchange rules. We hope to solve this issue well before March in order to minimize the inconveniences for driving licence holders concerned,” said press secretary Karin Boman Röding.

As for those who have moved or move to Sweden after March 31st, 2019, under the current rules their UK licences will be valid for one year from the date of their registration in Sweden. 

Once the UK licence becomes invalid, motorists would need a Swedish licence in order to continue driving in Sweden, and this application process is more complicated than the exchange EU citizens can make.

Find full details on how to get a Swedish driving licence, whether you're an EU citizen or not, in the article below:

Editorial note: An earlier version of this article quoted advice from the British Embassy stating that all Brits would be able to use their UK licences for one year after a no-deal Brexit. This information is outdated, and the current deadline is March 31st 2020. Thanks to Garry Jones and the Brits in Sweden Facebook group.

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The difficulties of moving to Sweden as a non-EU spouse… even if you marry a Swedish princess

Sweden's Princess Madeleine and her British-American husband, Chris O'Neill, are returning to Sweden after living in Florida since 2018. But how can Chris move to Sweden as a non-EU citizen?

The difficulties of moving to Sweden as a non-EU spouse... even if you marry a Swedish princess

Princess Madeleine and Chris O’Neill are moving back to Sweden with their three children in August. We hope they like it here.

Unfortunately for O’Neill, some things have changed since he left Sweden in 2015. Brits are no longer EU citizens, which means he’ll have to apply for a residence permit like all the other non-EU citizens planning a move to Sweden.

Unlike before, when O’Neill could live in Sweden as a self-sufficient EU citizen with comprehensive health insurance, there’s no such option for non-EU citizens, meaning he’ll have to fulfil the criteria for a non-EU residence permit (uppehållstillstånd), apply from abroad, and potentially wait for his permit to be processed before he can enter Sweden.

With waiting times well over a year for both family reunification permits and work permits, planning a move to Sweden in just a few months might be a bit… optimistic.

What options does Chris O’Neill have?

The most obvious route for O’Neill to take is a residence permit for moving to someone in Sweden, sometimes also referred to as a sambo permit.

O’Neill qualifies for this, as he is married to a Swedish citizen. His wife must also be able to support him and his three children. According to the Migration Agency, this maintenance requirement is fulfilled if the family member in Sweden has enough money to pay for their home, as well as living costs for the family.

The Migration Agency states more specifically that the Swedish family member must earn 9,445 kronor per month to support a couple living together, plus 3,055 kronor per month for each child under the age of six and 3,667 kronor for each child aged between 7 and 10 years old.

The couple’s children are aged 5, 7 and 9, meaning that Madeleine will need earnings of at least 19,834 kronor a month (after tax) on top of housing costs in order to fulfil this requirement. She can also fulfil this requirement by having enough savings to support the entire family for at least two years – so a mere 476,016 kronor, plus whatever their housing costs will be for the two-year period.

Let’s assume that she can cover the family’s living costs – she’s a member of the Swedish royal family, after all. 

Next, Madeleine needs to have a home “of a suitable size and standard” for the family to live in together.

The Swedish Migration Agency states that a family consisting of two adults needs to have an apartment with a minimum of one room and a kitchen or kitchenette, with more rooms necessary if the family has children. Two children can share one room, it states, meaning that O’Neill and Madeleine need a room with at least three rooms, one kitchen and one bathroom for them and their three children.

The family’s seven-room apartment by Nybroplan in Stockholm is definitely “of a suitable size”, and after a six million kronor renovation a few years ago we can assume that the standard is up to scratch.

O’Neill will also have to provide proof of identity with a valid passport. He’s a citizen of the US and the UK, so here he can choose whichever passport he prefers.

Great, so Madeleine and Chris O’Neill easily fulfil the requirements. 

What are the next steps? 

Firstly, as Madeleine is a Swedish citizen planning on moving to Sweden with a family member who does not hold EU citizenship, the couple will need to prove that they are planning on moving to Sweden “within the near future”. They can do this by providing a housing contract or a job offer, or presumably a press statement from the Swedish royal family stating their plans to move over in August.

O’Neill can’t move to Sweden until his application has been processed, but he is allowed to visit Sweden for up to 90 days at a time, and, as a citizen of a visa-free country, he doesn’t need a visa to do so.

He may also need to visit a Swedish embassy abroad in order to undertake an interview before his application can be processed.

With the family planning on enrolling their children in Swedish schools this autumn, it looks like Chris and Madeleine – like many couples consisting of a Swede and a non-EU citizen – will have to live apart, with Chris separated from his children for months at a time.

In that time, he won’t be eligible for a Swedish personal number, Swedish healthcare, or any other benefits such as sick leave or VAB.

He’ll also have trouble getting BankID or opening a Swedish bank account (unless he already has one from last time they lived in Sweden), and may struggle to get a gym membership, phone contract, or even a membership card at the local ICA (do husbands of princesses do their own food shopping?)

As a British citizen applying for a residence permit for the first time to move to someone in Sweden for the first time who he has been living together with outside Sweden for at least two years, O’Neill can expect to wait around 15 months. Now, that figure isn’t a guide – technically, only 75 percent of recently closed cases matching those criteria were concluded within 15 months – so he could have a much longer or much shorter wait before he’s reunited with his family.

You may be thinking ‘but he’s a successful businessman, can’t he just apply as a self-employed person’? Well, yes, if he wants, but then he’ll be waiting even longer – 75 percent of recently closed cases for permits as a self-employed person got an answer within 29 months.