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BREXIT

Brits warned not to miss deadline for Swedish residence status

The Swedish Migration Agency warns that Brits who still need the new post-Brexit residence status have just over two weeks left to apply, or they risk losing their right to stay in Sweden.

Brits warned not to miss deadline for Swedish residence status
The deadline is fast approaching for Brits who still need to secure their right to stay in Sweden. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

British nationals and their family members who were living in Sweden under EU rules before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st 2020 may continue to live in Sweden as before – but they must apply for their post-Brexit residence status.

And they must do so before December 31st 2021, when the application period ends.

“We recommend that anyone who has not submitted their application for residence status do so as soon as possible,” the Migration Agency’s Brexit coordinator, Jonas Colling, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The agency warned that the only groups who will continue to have the right to apply for residence status after the deadline are children born or adopted after 2021 (if the parent is a British citizen with residence status) and other family members of British residence status-holders.

But note that the Migration Agency must receive the application within three months of the applicant’s arrival in Sweden, or within three months after the child’s date of birth.

In the case of all other Brits who still need residence status, they must apply before the turn of the year or have a very good reason as to why they missed the deadline.

Colling said that late applications “can only be accepted under the Withdrawal Agreement if there are ‘reasonable grounds’ for the application being submitted late. What constitutes reasonable grounds is always assessed individually.”

Once a residence status application has been submitted, you will receive a letter of confirmation which can be used to prove your right to live in Sweden, for example if returning after travel. Brits will retain this right while their application is being processed. Note that if you are waiting for a decision on a citizenship application, you also need to apply for residence status if you have not received an answer.

Some Brits do not have to apply for the new residence status (but it could give them extra benefits). These include Swedish citizens or Brits with a residence permit (which is different from residence status as it’s based on Swedish, not EU, rules – click here to read more).

But if you don’t have citizenship or a permanent residence permit, you must apply for residence status to secure your right to live in Sweden. This applies regardless of how long you’ve lived in Sweden, and regardless of whether or not you have a permanent residence card or certificate of permanent right of residence (the terminology may be confusing, but note that these are not the same as a permanent residence permit – anyone who is unclear about their current status in Sweden is strongly advised to contact the Migration Agency).

The Swedish government has estimated that around 17,000 people are entitled to apply for the new post-Brexit residence status, although it’s impossible to get an exact number since under EU rules many Brits could previously move to Sweden without registering as residents. It is not known exactly how many of these still need to apply for residence status or have secured their right to stay in Sweden in other ways.

“Of these [17,000 people], 12,026 had applied for residence status by December 14th. At the same time, approximately 7,000 British citizens have been granted Swedish citizenship or a permanent residence permit in Sweden after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU,” said Colling.

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired if the person has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge. 

The EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment and self-employment or education. In addition, EU long-term residence grants the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

READ ALSO: Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

Around 3.1 million third-country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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