What problems have Brits in Sweden been facing as a result of Brexit?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
What problems have Brits in Sweden been facing as a result of Brexit?
Passengers in the EU queue at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, Brits living in Sweden have been turned away at the border, barred from their professions, and made to shoulder a long list of new costs, from insurance to import taxes. Here are some of the problems our readers have highlighted.


Denied entry to Sweden at the airport 

Stuart Philpott, a chef who lives in Stockholm, flew to his mother's house in Scotland in October to catch a football march and celebrate their joint birthdays, only to find that when he tried to return, he was barred from entering Sweden, and then frogmarched by police onto a plane back to Scotland. 

Philpott has been living in Sweden for 12 years, had just started a new job, and has two children with his Swedish ex.

But he was so integrated in Swedish life, that he simply hadn't informed himself that his permanent residence -- despite the name -- was no longer permanent, and that he should have applied for post-Brexit residence status before December 31st in 2021. 

"I don't really hang around with British people or anything. My friends are all Swedish. And I just screwed up," he told The Local. 

He's now back in Sweden waiting for a decision on a residency application.

He is far from alone. 

Stuart Philpott tries to research his situation at Arlanda while Swedish police wait to put him back on the plane to Stockholm. Photo: private

Medical and veterinary qualifications no longer valid 

Brits working as doctors in Sweden, together with many other professionals, have discovered that Britain leaving the EU means they are no longer covered by the EU's Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualification Directive, meaning that they suddenly need to do a series of additional exams to remain in practice. 

"Licensed doctors from the UK now need to do three extra exams and six months of supervised practice after proving they have the required level of Swedish," Sam Fielding, a doctor living in Stockholm, told The Local. "Before it was just needing to learn Swedish."

This is the case even if the qualifications were obtained while the UK was in the EU - the relevant point here is the date at which the individual applied for their UK qualifications to be recognised in Sweden.

Most medical professionals working in Sweden prior to Brexit are not affected by this, as their qualifications were approved when the UK was still in the EU, but it can affect recent arrivals or British-trained professionals who did not work in Sweden before Brexit, even if they completed their medical training while the UK was still an EU member.

People working in other roles such as speech therapists have also found their UK registration is no longer recognised. 

And according to Rachel Thomas, the Swedish Board of Agriculture also stopped recognising UK veterinary degrees for a period, causing enormous problems for vets already working in Sweden who did not already have permanent legitimation from the Swedish authorities. 


British vets working in Sweden for a period found that their UK qualifications were no longer seen as valid. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist / TT

Complications working in other EU countries 

Brexit means an end to freedom of movement within the EU, and this means that while Brits who have received post-Brexit residence status can continue to live and work in Sweden, this is not the case for working in other EU countries. Of course, this simply means they are in the same (or actually a slightly better) situation as Brits back home in the UK. 

Third country passport conditions 

One British photographer recently had problems because although he has post-Brexit residency in Sweden, being a 'third-country passport holder' still requires him to have at least three months left on his passport before returning to Sweden from work trips in the EU. 

"My work involves a lot of travel within the EU which was a key reason to relocate to Sweden prior to Brexit to begin with," he said. "I have a job in Spain and my passport has just ticked under 3 months left before expiry, this has created an issue as there is no way I can get a new one in Sweden or a new one in time through the standard procedure."

The only way he could solve the problem is to fly to the UK for an emergency passport appointment, and then fly on to Spain to do the job. 

"This also creates issues with customs in that I have had to fix a carnet for my equipment as it is leaving the EU. Albeit for a very short period of time, again this is at a cost to myself," he said.

"Prior to Brexit, this would not have been an issue as there was no need for any customs documents to take my equipment between the UK and Sweden, also I would be able to travel up until the day my passport expired." 


Not being able to use the EU passport line at airports 

This is normally a minor headache. Brits now need to spend slightly longer in the queue to enter Sweden. But for Brits who are the only member in their families without EU or Swedish citizenship, it can be more serious. 

One woman said that her 18-year-old daughter, who is the only member of the family without Swedish citizenship, is now expected to queue alone. This causes problems every time they travel as the woman insists on queueing with her child, due to her ADHD.  

Airport staff not informed about position of Brits 

In the immediate aftermath of Brexit, many Brits complained of having their passports stamped on entry to Sweden. This seems to now be happening less frequently, but Brits still often face difficulties because airport staff are not fully informed of their position post-Brexit. 

Having to apply for work permit despite years of living in Sweden 

Anyone who was not living in Sweden before December 2020 does not qualify for post-Brexit residence for UK citizens, meaning they need to fulfil the same criteria for moving to Sweden as any other non-EU citizen: moving to be with their partner, or a close relative, working, studying, or seeking asylum. 

In some ways, this is nothing to complain about. Britain is, after all, a non-EU country. But some people in this position have long histories living in Sweden, but were caught out by poor timing. 

One Scottish tech worker had lived in Sweden for four and half years, but left the country for a job abroad just one month before December 2020. To return to Sweden 21 months later he needed to apply for a work permit, which was only valid for six months due to the probation period. He is now unsure whether the four and a half years he lived in Sweden previously will count towards a permanent residency or citizenship application.  


Fears and uncertainty about what will happen when renewing post-Brexit residence certificate 

According to the section on the website of the Migration Agency, post-Brexit residence status "applies indefinitely". The certificate which was issued to those who applied before the deadline of December 31st 2021, however, is only valid for five years. 

This has left many of those holding the certificate concerned (wrongly, we think) that laws might change to prevent them from renewing their certificate when that period ends. 

"I don't trust the UK government not to act in a way that would compromise my right to residency within Sweden," says Kelsey, who lives in Skåne. "There is also little advice at this stage as to what would happen once the current residency runs out. Will we be able to renew under the same terms as the withdrawal agreement or be treated as non-EU migrants from that point onwards?"

You can read about why post-Brexit residence status is for life in the article below: 

Reader Question: Will my Swedish post-Brexit residence status expire?

A Postnord counter at an Ica supermarket in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT


High import fees on parcels and other deliveries from the UK 

Many Brits living in Sweden have been shaken after by being presented with a hefty customs bill after receiving a present or delivery from the UK. 

"I left my mobile phone at my mum's house in the UK, and when they sent back they wanted to charge import tax of about 1,500 kronor plus moms," complains one British reader living in West Sweden. It took him two weeks to get his phone back.

Other respondents said they no longer brought goods online in the UK as a result of the charges, and had been forced to give up some British treats, such as Marmite, Walkers' Crisps, or Jaffa Cakes as a result. 

Importing from UK for small businesses now very difficult 

For Brits with small businesses based around importing goods from the UK, the new import taxes and customs checks threaten their ability to turn a profit. Tim, who co-owns a British gastropub in Stockholm, imports a large amount of the beer and snacks he sells from the UK. 

"I import from the UK to Sweden for my business here and that has now become a nightmare in terms of cost and time lost in customs checks," he says. 


Problems getting exemption from tuition fees and student loans

In the months after the Brexit transition period came to an end many Brits studying at Swedish universities found that their university wanted them to pay tuition fees just like students from other non-EU countries. It has since become clear that anyone who holds post-Brexit residence status is exempt from paying tuition fees. 

A lot of Brits studying in Sweden are also no longer eligible for Sweden's CSN study loans. The section about UK citizens on CSN's website is quite unclear.

Applications for loans from UK citizens, it says, will be assessed under the rules for non-EU citizens, but will also take into account the rules in the EU's exit agreement, and whether this entitles UK citizens for the support available to EU citizens.


Worries over what criteria are needed to change post-Brexit residency to permanent residency or citizenship 

Several respondents were worried about what criteria they will have to fulfill in the years between being awarded post-Brexit residency and applying for permanent residency or citizenship in Sweden if they are to be successful in their applications. 

"If a Brit applies for citizenship after the five-year residence rule then a judgement is made if that Brit was legally resident for five years," one reader wrote about what he believes will be the case when a Brit applies for citizenship.

"The same judgement from the same rules is made if they apply for proof of permanent residence. The Migration Agency will check if the rules were adhered to. If they weren't then the Brit is in trouble."

When The Local asked the Migration Agency, about this, the confirmed that to receive permanent residency requires "a continuous legal stay of five years". 

"The person can count towards this time with a right of residence both before and after Brexit, so both residence that the person held as an EU citizen and the time the person has had with a [post-Brexit] residency status," the agency wrote. "It also doesn't matter which grounds for residency the person has had or if the applicant has had several different grounds over the period. What matters is that the requirements for residency have been met at all time." 

The person pointed out that when it comes to citizenship, people living in Sweden with a post-Brexit residency are treated in exactly the same way as EU citizens. 

"There has therefore been no change in the possibility of getting citizenship compared to how the rules looked before Brexit."

Uncertainty among 'self-supporting' Brits over whether they need to pay health insurance

Several readers have complained to The Local that the UK leaving the European Union means that they are being forced to keep paying for health insurance longer than they would have under EU rules. Sweden's Migration Agency told The Local this was unnecessary.

“As a sixty-one year old person categorised as self-supporting in Sweden, I must pay almost 50,000 kronor per annum for health insurance,” wrote Simon, a 61-year-old Briton living in Värmland. “A yearly increase of 10 percent for the years until I’m eligible for citizenship is unsustainable. If the proposal for an eight-year wait until one can apply for citizenship is implemented, it’s even more so. If Britain remained in the EU such insurance wouldn’t be required.” 

But the Migration Agency told The Local that one someone with post-Brexit residence was registered or folkbokförd and had a personal number, they were then covered by their local regional healthcare system and did not need to pay for additional insurance. 

“People who are registered as living in Sweden (folkbokförd) are covered by the Swedish social insurance system and so as a result do not need to have their own comprehensive health insurance.” 

When Brits categorised as “self-supporting” and living in Sweden with post-Brexit residence status apply for certificates of permanent uppehållsrätt or citizenship in the coming years, the agency continued, they would not need to have had comprehensive health insurance over this period to qualify. 

“The requirement for comprehensive health insurance is fulfilled because the British citizen is registered as living in Sweden,” the agency wrote. 

We have also contacted the Swedish Tax Agency to ask them for their understanding of the requirements, and will update this article when we receive a response. 


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bbenoistlucy 2022/11/11 20:19
One has to be kidding…….Brexit was all about keeping people away from the UK and keep gallivanting around Europe ??? And this …..surprise …..comes 6 years after the Brexit vote ? Brits chose…..are least those who got out of bed that Sunday……live with it and it’s consequences.

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