“The Migration Agency is positive about the possibilities for British citizens resident in Sweden and their families to continue to easily live and work in Sweden even in the event of a no-deal Brexit,” the report opened.
The Migration Agency predicted it would be able to process applications “in good time before December 31st, 2020”. And it anticipated receiving a total of around 19,000 permit applications from Brits and their family members.
The agency made the comments in a memorandum which also highlighted some potential problems with the proposed legislation, and suggested changes. The memorandum was written before the deadline for Brexit was delayed until January 31st, 2020.
In October this year, almost three and a half years after the UK voted to leave the EU, Sweden outlined plans for residence permits for British citizens living in Sweden and their family measures.
These measures were necessary since EU citizens benefit from freedom of movement within the bloc, meaning that Brits who moved to Sweden on this basis would not necessarily be eligible for the residence permits available to third-country citizens.
The eligibility requirements for the proposed Brexit permits are very similar to those that apply to EU residents today, something which the agency said would make processing simpler.
It said guidance would be needed on how to prioritize Brexit permit applications, because international residents often make applications simultaneously on several different grounds. In such cases, legislation states that the application that gives the most advantageous result for the individual should be the one assessed first. In other words, an application for permanent residence would be assessed before one for temporary residence.
But for someone who applied for both a 'Brexit permit' and, for example, a permit as a family member – which a Brit could do if they had a Swedish or EU partner and fulfilled the requirements – the usual practice would be that the Brexit permit should be assessed first since it is lex specialis (a law governing something specific) which usually takes priority over general laws. This could be less advantageous for individuals who fulfill the criteria for permanent residence as a partner.
The Migration Agency noted that people would need to meet the requirements for permanent residence as an EU citizen even during the period between a potential no-deal Brexit and the time when their permit application is assessed if applying for a permanent residence permit.
And it asked for the possibility to grant shorter residence permits, or to be able to recall residence permits. These would apply in cases where the applicant was not expected to fulfill the residency requirements for the full time of the permit.
For example, an EU job-seeker can today live in Sweden for up to six months, after which they lose their right to reside in Sweden, but under the current proposals, a Brit who had been in Sweden and job-seeking for less than six months when their permit was processed would be eligible for a five-year residence permit.
However, the agency also noted that it had no expectation of carrying out checks on those granted residence permits and there was no requirement for individuals to inform them, so “the Migration Agency would in most cases not know if the requirements for the residence permit were no longer fulfilled”.
The agency also called for clarity on what the temporary Brexit permit would mean in terms of residency in Sweden. It said that people who received a temporary residence permit under the new proposals would not be able to receive a permanent residence until the temporary permit had expired. This would also pose a problem for those Brits who were granted a temporary residence permit, and later wanted to apply for Swedish citizenship, since a requirement of Swedish citizenship is that the applicant has permanent residence.
Both the EU and the UK have said they want to avoid the uncertainty of a no-deal scenario.
Under the Withdrawal Agreement, which was agreed between the EU and UK but rejected by the British parliament, Brits currently living in Sweden or who moved there before the end of December 2020 would retain many of their current rights, including the right to study in Sweden without paying third country fees, work without a work permit, and receive healthcare subsidized at the same level as for native Swedes.
Read the Migration Agency's full memorandum (in Swedish) here.