For members


How can Brits prove they’re resident in Sweden post-Brexit?

The UK has left the European Union but most changes don't come into effect until December 31st this year. The Local has looked into where British citizens will stand after that date, the documents you'll need, and what we still don't know.

How can Brits prove they're resident in Sweden post-Brexit?
What documents do you need to prepare by the end of the year? File photo: Marcus Ericsson / TT

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, British citizens must be legally resident in the EU by December 31st, 2020, in order to be covered by the terms of this deal.

In Sweden, it hasn't been clear whether this meant Brits needed to physically make the move to Sweden by the deadline, or be officially registered as resident (called folkbokföring – the process which gives you a Swedish social security number or personnummer). 

If you have a personnummer, it is relatively easy to prove your Swedish residence in any situation where you need to. You can either apply for a Swedish ID card through the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) or just log on to the agency's website and print out a personbevis (“extract of the population register”) which confirms your Swedish residence. 

But the Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) has now confirmed to The Local that for the purposes of retaining Swedish residence after Brexit, you do not need a personnummer by the December 31st deadline.

That should come as a relief to many, since the personnummer application can take several weeks. What's more, applying for a personnummer as an EU citizen also generally requires a family connection to Sweden (such as a Swedish cohabiting partner) or a job contract in Sweden. 

EU citizens – and Brits, up until the end of this year – have the right to move within the EU as a job-seeker for up to six months, and they have right of residence during that time, but in that case they are not eligible for a personnummer until they get a job. Instead, people in this category can register with the Public Employment Agency and get a coordination number (samordningsnummer), which acts as a stand-in for the personnummer on official documents but means you're not officially registered as resident.

“Brits who want to benefit from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Sweden should have physically moved to the country before December 31st 2020. Being folkbokförd will help the decision process at the Swedish Migration Agency, but it is also possible to prove your residency with other documents,” Migration Agency communications officer Johanna Måhlén told The Local in late August.

Residence permit application

It's still not exactly clear how Brits will apply for post-Brexit residence permits in Sweden. The government has proposed a ten-month application period, starting from December 1st 2020, which parliament is set to vote on this coming Wednesday (it is expected to go through without a hitch).

During this period, Brits would need to apply to the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) for a new residence status (uppehållsstatus). 

We asked how Brits who had moved to Sweden by December 31st but had not received a personnummer by that date should prove they were legally resident in order to get their new residence status. EU citizens have right of residence in Sweden if they are working, studying, the family member of an EU citizen with right of residence, or have sufficient means to support themselves. You also have right of residence for six months if you move as a jobseeker. 

“An applicant is free to use any type of documentation to prove his or her case. However, examples that could be used are rental or tenancy agreements as well as 'invoices' for the rent (hyresavier),” Måhlén said.

This means you can use documents like rental agreements, utility bills, an employment contract, a samordningsnummer or so on, in situations where you need to prove your residence. 

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 you have residence or permanent residence, which is based on how long you were resident in Sweden before your application.

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For members


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.”