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RESIDENCE PERMITS

Brits will have ‘until September 30th 2021’ to apply for post-Brexit residence status

British citizens in Sweden will likely have ten months from December 1st to apply for new residence permits securing their right to stay in the country, and these permits will be free of charge, according to a new government proposal.

Brits will have 'until September 30th 2021' to apply for post-Brexit residence status
People walk past a Migrationsverket office. Photo: Janerik Henriksson / TT

When the UK left the EU at midnight on January 31st, very little immediately changed in practice for the thousands of Brits living in Sweden.

During the transition period, which will last until the end of December this year, British citizens resident in EU countries (and those who make the move by the end of the year) and their family members retain their rights to live, work, study, and access healthcare in these countries.

But at the end of this transition period, that changes, and now a new government proposal addresses citizens' rights after this point beyond the general provisions already covered in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Under this proposal, Brits would be required to apply to the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) for a new residence status (uppehållsstatus), as opposed to simply registering their changed status. 

The government also proposes that the agency issue documents to cross-border workers (for example, those living in Skåne who commute via the Öresund Bridge to Denmark).

In the proposal, which is currently out for consultation, it states “the deadline for applying for residence status will be ten months from when the provisions enter into force”. The provisions will come into force from the start of December, so from the end of the transition period that's nine months.

That's more generous than the six months post-transition period which the EU requested that member states give British residents. The EU required that member states give British residents at least six months from the end of the transition period, or until the end of June 2021, to apply for residence permits or equivalent status.

The EU also left it up to individual member states to decide if a fee would be charged for the permit (although this may not be higher than fees for equivalent documentation such as an ID card or passport), and what the format of the documentation would be.

The proposal noted that a ten-month time period would give the Migration Agency time to reach affected people with relevant information, and for British residents to make informed decisions about whether to apply for these permits.

It also states that “a fee should not be charged for the issuance of proof of residence status”.

EDITOR'S PICKS:

Those who are granted the new residence status would be given proof of this “in the same format as a residence permit card”, which means it will include a photo and fingerprints. This card will state whether the holder has residence or permanent residence, and the residence cards will be valid for five years from the date of issue, while the permanent residence cards will not have an expiry date.

And for those Brits who are approaching eligibility for citizenship, another element of the proposal is relevant.

Most foreigners in Sweden must have a permanent residence permit in order to be granted Swedish citizenship, but there is an exception for Nordic citizens and EU/EEA citizens.

An additional exception will be made for those Brits who moved or will move to Sweden before the end of the transition period, meaning that for the purpose of applying for Swedish citizenship, the residence permit will be considered equivalent to permanent residence.

Do you have any questions about Brexit, or about Swedish residence permit rules and life in Sweden in general? Please email [email protected] and we'll do our best to answer.

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RESIDENCE PERMITS

What rights do the Sweden Democrats want to take away from foreigners?

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are on the cusp of power following the right-wing bloc's victory in Sweden's parliamentary election. What rights and benefits do they want to take away from foreigners in Sweden?

What rights do the Sweden Democrats want to take away from foreigners?

The right to some social security benefits

In a document on the party’s website, titled Gör din plikt, kräv din rätt – en uppvärdering av medborgarskap (Do your duty, demand your rights – an appraisal of citizenship), the Sweden Democrats outline their plans for limiting residence-based social security benefits to Swedish citizens and EU citizens only.

The document is dated April 2021, but appears to have been uploaded to the party’s website in July 2022, and is still listed under the heading “what we want”.

Benefits will still be available to EU citizens, the document states, due to “certain EU legal conditions where special regulation for Swedish citizens could entail a renegotiation of the European Convention”.

The document further states that “the proposals in the report intend to restrict residence-based social security benefits so they are only available to Swedish citizens, as much as possible”.

Residence-based social security benefits which would no longer be available to non-EU citizens if this proposal were to become law include child benefits, adoption benefits, sickness benefits in the form of a guarantee benefit, housing benefits, disability benefits, nursing benefits, cost compensation benefits, rehabilitation allowance, parental leave pay at minimum or basic levels and dental care benefits.

Note that this proposal would not affect the rights of non-EU citizens to employment-based benefits, such as compensation for injuries sustained at work, income-based maternity or paternity pay, pregnancy pay, income-related unemployment or sick pay, or pay for taking care of a sick child (VAB).

The Local reached out to the Sweden Democrats for comment on this document, as well as to ask whether it is still current. A press officer informed us that the party “will not be participating at this time”.

Permanent residence permits

The Sweden Democrats also want to abolish permanent residence permits, arguing in a separate document on their website, titled En bättre framtid för Sverige (A better future for Sweden), that “the institution of permanent residence permits clashes with the idea of increasing the value of citizenship”.

“Under the current rules, the difference between the two institutions is small, and in practice is nothing more than the right to vote,” the document says, arguing that “citizenship has become an upgraded version of a permanent residence permit.”

“In order to preserve the sanctity of citizenship, the right of foreigners to stay in Sweden should never be allowed to approach that of Swedish citizens,” it reads.

Instead of granting permanent residence permits after a certain amount of time in the country (currently at least three years, in most cases four), the Sweden Democrats propose phasing them out completely in favour of “temporary residence permits of varying length”.

The party addresses the high level of resources which would be necessary if the Migration Agency were tasked with renewing temporary residence permits in perpetuity, but do not believe it would cause issues, stating that “the Migration Agency’s experiences with permit extension cases under the temporary law have shown good possibilities of fast and efficient procedures, especially in many similar cases”.

Current waiting times for temporary residence permit renewal at time of writing range from five months to 27 months, depending on the type of permit.

The right to citizenship after five years

Under current rules, immigrants to Sweden can apply for citizenship after living in the country for five years (three years in some cases). 

The Sweden Democrats believe this is too short, stating in a migration policy document that they want instead to introduce a minimum qualifying period of ten years before immigrants are eligible to apply for citizenship in Sweden.

In addition to this, the party wants to introduce “well-regulated requirements for citizenship applications,” such as “mastery of the Swedish language and knowledge of fundamental facts about Sweden, our society and our history, as well as current laws and rules, responsibilities as well as rights”, which “can and should be confirmed via testing before citizenship can be granted”.

The party wants to further require that prospective applicants include an “explanation that they have understood the responsibilities and duties citizenship entails” in their citizenship application.

Further to this, the party states that “respect for and loyalty to Sweden are a natural part of citizenship” and that “citizens of Sweden should also be part of Sweden and see Sweden as their homeland”.

The right to move to Sweden to be with a family member, in some cases

In the document titled En bättre framtid för Sverige, the Sweden Democrats also suggest that they want to limit the right to residence permits based on family reunification, also known as anhöriginvandring or occasionally a ‘sambo visa’.

In this document, the Sweden Democrats state that “the rules for family reunification should be adapted to the minimum levels under European law. It should therefore only be possible for refugees”.

This would mean that it would no longer be possible for immigrants to be granted a residence permit to move to Sweden to be with a spouse or cohabiting partner who is already living in Sweden, unless that spouse or cohabiting partner was in Sweden as a refugee.

In addition to this, the Sweden Democrats state that only the following family members would be eligible for this type of permit:

  • A foreigner who is the spouse or cohabiting partner of the refugee
  • An underaged unmarried foreigner who is the child of the refugee or the refugee’s spouse or cohabiting partner
  • An underaged unmarried foreigner who is the child of the refugee if the refugee has sole custody of the foreigner, and if the foreigner is financially dependent on the refugee
  • An underaged unmarried foreigner who is the child of the refugee’s spouse or cohabiting partner if the refugee’s spouse or cohabiting partner has sole custody of the foreigner, and if the foreigner is financially dependent on the refugee’s spouse or cohabiting partner

Finally, the Sweden Democrats propose that the relationship between the refugee and the family member must have been established before the refugee entered Sweden, and that the refugee must have been living in Sweden legally for two years to be able to bring their family member to Sweden under this permit.

In the document, the Sweden Democrats state that “Swedish citizens living abroad must have special opportunities to return home with their foreign family members, chiefly regarding to priority in processing and the possibility of applying within Sweden,” although it is not clear whether foreign family members would be able to apply to move to Sweden to live with a Swedish citizen already living in the country.

In addition to this, the Sweden Democrats state in the document that “a residence permit should be rejected for:

  • foreigners who are the spouse or partner of someone who lives in or has been granted a residence permit in Sweden, or
  • foreign children who are unmarried and have a parent who is married to or the partner of someone who is living in or has been granted a residence permit in Sweden, if one of the spouses or partners is under 21 years old”.

The document also states that “residence permits should also be rejected for foreigners who are applying to move to Sweden to live with a relative who is living in Sweden or has been granted a residence permit, for reasons of public order, safety and health”, and finally that “residence permits shall also be denied if the foreigner or person they are applying to move to refuses to follow integration measures”.

The Local has reached out to the Sweden Democrats’ migration spokesperson for comment and clarification on this topic.

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