EXPLAINED: How can Brits in Sweden retain all their rights post-Brexit?

If you’re a British citizen who was living in Sweden before December 31st 2020, you might need to take steps to continue living in your adopted country, and retain your rights and access to services.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits in Sweden retain all their rights post-Brexit?

This guide, presented in partnership with the UK Government, tells you what you need to do in four crucial areas: residency, healthcare, travel and using your driving licence in Sweden.

Get the official UK government advice on living in Sweden now that the transition period has ended


In November 2020, Sweden’s parliament voted in favour of a key post-Brexit rights bill which would see British citizens and their families granted a new residence status. Those with permanent residency under Swedish national law (i.e. a PUT) do not need to apply, but may do so.

The bill said that if you were legally resident in Sweden before 1 January 2021, your rights will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. However, If you were here under EU law you must apply for the new residency permit (uppehållsstatus) by 30 September 2021 to secure your rights and access to services.

The UK Ambassador in Sweden, Judith Gough, states, “I urge all British citizens in Sweden to check their residence status now, and apply for a new permit, if needed. The new status introduced by the Swedish Government will allow British citizens living in Sweden under EU rules to protect and maintain their rights”.

Before you apply, ensure you carefully read the guidance on supporting documents.

You should also read the Swedish Migration Agency’s guidance on residency for UK nationals in Sweden, as well as its guidance on the rights of third country national family members.

You do not need to be physically present in Sweden at the time of application, as long as you can prove you had right of residence before December 31st 2020, and continue to live here

One advantage of applying for Swedish residency earlier rather than later is that once your application is submitted, you will receive a letter of confirmation, which can be used to prove your right to live in Sweden – for example if returning to the country after travelling overseas.

During the period that British applicants are waiting on a residency decision, they have the same rights as EU citizens and can continue to live and work in Sweden, as long as they moved here before December 31st.

Once an application has been approved, it is necessary to visit one of the Migration Agency’s Service Centres to have fingerprints and a photo taken before the residence card can be issued.

Check out the UK Government’s website to find out how you can stay in Sweden as a UK National

Dramatic sky over old town of Stockholm, Sweden.


You have to be registered as a Swedish resident to access Swedish state healthcare. Even then, you may still have to pay for some medical care.

There are three ways UK nationals usually access the Swedish healthcare system:

  • register as a resident and then register for healthcare
  • use a European health insurance card (EHIC) or a UK global health insurance card (GHIC) for temporary stays
  • register a UK-issued S1 form with one of the insurance funds

Anyone registered as a resident in Sweden can register for state healthcare. This applies if you’re employed, self-employed or not working.

You can also register your dependants for healthcare at the same time as you.

You may be entitled to a Swedish EHIC for travel, including visits to the UK, and you might have the right to apply for a UK S1 if you start drawing a UK state pension.

If you’ve been sent to work temporarily in Sweden by a UK company as a “posted” or “detached” worker, and you’re not a registered resident, you can access healthcare in Sweden using an EHIC, GHIC or S1 form.

First, however, your employer must register you at the Swedish Work Environment Authority.

You must then register your S1 form with the Swedish tax authority (Skatteverket) and the social insurance agency (Försäkringskassan)


You live in an EU country, so crossing borders is no big deal, right? Now that the UK has left the EU and free movement no longer applies, you’ll face some new rules on travel within Europe in 2021. Doing your homework now could save you a lot of trouble later.

From this year on, you need six months left on your passport to travel within Europe (be aware that any extra months you had added to your passport’s validity when renewing it early last time won’t count towards this).

You can check your passport’s validity here to know for sure if you need to renew it before booking a trip. This new rule applies to children’s passports, as well as adults, and applies for travel to most European countries.

Driving licence validity

You can drive in Sweden on your UK driving licence. If you’re living in Sweden, check the government website for information on driving license exchange.

Keeping Informed

You can find out more information by visiting the Living in Sweden guide on GOV.UK, sign up for emails with the latest official UK government updates about these topics in Sweden. The Embassy in Sweden regularly engages with British community groups, and shares information on their social media pages.

You can find regular updates, answers to frequently asked questions and more information on the British Embassy Facebook page.

Get all the latest official guidance for UK nationals in Sweden on these topics and more by visiting the UK government’s Living in Sweden web page.

Member comments

  1. People following this advice are likely to be pleased with the award of a residency card from Migrationsverket. They seem to do a great job and the process goes smoothly. After a while you then learn that being resident does not put you on the “Population Register”. It is the job of Skatteverket to do that under a different process. Obtaining healthcare as described in this article is not so simple. The S1 form issued by NHS in the UK is only given to those already drawing a state pension. EHIC/GHIC are correctly described for a travelling visit less than 90 days or for students. That leaves the rest of us who have to sign up to Private Comprehensive Health Insurance. Swedish insurance companies do not provide such insurance so you end up with one of the Global companies who will give you the level of coverage required for upwards of £3000/year. Only when you have that cover can you hope that Skatteverket will put you on the register so you can get healthcare, although that is not a given either. Not being on the Population Register may also affect your ability to get a bank account (Bank ID), other local services and so on. In short, Residency is only part of the steps needed to live normally in Sweden and the rules of Migrationsverket and Skatteverket are not the same, nor do they seemingly work in a connected manner.

    1. What is your source for stating the S-1 is only available to those already drawing a state pension? Thank you

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For members


What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Many foreigners living in Sweden need to have a residence permit to live in the country legally. Permits are issued for two years at a time and can be renewed 30 days before expiry, at the earliest. But with waiting times exceeding 8 months for many applicants, just what are your rights while you wait to hear back?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Can I keep working in Sweden?

It depends. If you have a residence permit which allows you to work in Sweden, have held that residence permit for at least six months and apply for an extension before your old permit expires, you still have the right to work in Sweden while you wait for the Migration Agency to make a decision on your permit application.

You can apply for a new residence permit 30 days before your old permit expires, at the earliest, and you can’t get a new residence permit before your old one has run out.

Can I leave Sweden?

Technically you can, but it might not be a good idea. This is due to the fact that if you leave Sweden after your residence permit has expired, it can be difficult to enter Sweden again before your new permit is granted, even if you can prove that you’ve applied for a new one.

In the worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to Sweden at the border and forced to wait in another country until your new residence permit is granted. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in some cases, apply for a national visa allowing you to re-enter Sweden. These are only granted under exceptional circumstances, and must be applied for at a Swedish embassy or general consulate in the country you are staying in. If you are not granted a national visa to re-enter Sweden, you can’t appeal the decision, meaning you’ll have to wait until your residence permit is approved before you can re-enter Sweden.

The Migration Agency writes on its website that you should only leave Sweden while your application is being processed “in exceptional cases, and if you really have to”.

It lists some examples of exceptional cases as “sudden illness, death in the family or important work-related assignments”, adding that you may need to provide proof of your reason for travelling to the embassy when you apply for a national visa to re-enter Sweden.

What if I come from a visa-free country?

If you come from a visa-free country, you are able to re-enter Sweden without needing a visa if you have a valid residence permit or are waiting for your residence permit to be extended.

According to the Migration Agency, “if an individual has submitted their extension application in time (before the earlier permit ran out), they also have the right to live and work in Sweden until a decision is made on the application”.

It is important that you are able document this in some way, as visa-free non-EU citizens entering Schengen are only allowed to stay in the bloc for 90 days out of every 180 before they require a visa, unless they can document that they have the right to live in a Schengen country, for example via a residence permit or proof that they have applied for an extension to their residence permit.

If you are a member of this group and you stay in Schengen for longer than 90 days without a visa, a valid residence permit, or proof that you are waiting for an extension on your residence permit, you could be labelled an “overstayer”, which can cause issues entering other countries, as well as applying for a visa or residence permit in the future.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “a visa-free person’s allowance of visa-free days is not used up during the period in which the extension permit is being processed”.

“However, an extension application usually requires the individual to be located in Sweden,” the Agency wrote. “Travelling abroad can, in some cases, have an effect on the decision whether to extend a residence permit or not, in a way which is negative for the applicant, but this decision is made on an individual case basis (it’s not possible to say a general rule).”

“The right to travel into the Schengen area for short visits is not affected, as long as the person still has visa-free days left.”

Does this apply to me if I have a permanent residence permit?

No. This only applies to people in Sweden holding temporary residence permits. If you have a permanent residence permit and your residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort or UT-kort) expires, you just need to book an appointment at the Migration Agency to have your picture and fingerprints taken for a new card.

How long is the processing time for residence permit renewals?

It varies. For people renewing a residence permit to live with someone in Sweden, for example, the Migration Agency states that 75 percent of recent cases received an answer within eight months.

For work permit extensions, it varies. In some branches, 75 percent of applicants received a response after 17 months, others only had to wait five.

This means that some people waiting to extend their residence permits could be discouraged from leaving Sweden for almost a year and a half, unless they are facing “exceptional circumstances”.

You can see how long it is likely to take in your case here.