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RESIDENCY PERMITS

The difficulties of moving to Sweden as a non-EU spouse… even if you marry a Swedish princess

Sweden's Princess Madeleine and her British-American husband, Chris O'Neill, are returning to Sweden after living in Florida since 2018. But how can Chris move to Sweden as a non-EU citizen?

The difficulties of moving to Sweden as a non-EU spouse... even if you marry a Swedish princess
Chris O'Neill and Princess Madeleine at Crown Princess Victoria's 40th birthday party in 2017. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Princess Madeleine and Chris O’Neill are moving back to Sweden with their three children in August. We hope they like it here.

Unfortunately for O’Neill, some things have changed since he left Sweden in 2015. Brits are no longer EU citizens, which means he’ll have to apply for a residence permit like all the other non-EU citizens planning a move to Sweden.

Unlike before, when O’Neill could live in Sweden as a self-sufficient EU citizen with comprehensive health insurance, there’s no such option for non-EU citizens, meaning he’ll have to fulfil the criteria for a non-EU residence permit (uppehållstillstånd), apply from abroad, and potentially wait for his permit to be processed before he can enter Sweden.

With waiting times well over a year for both family reunification permits and work permits, planning a move to Sweden in just a few months might be a bit… optimistic.

What options does Chris O’Neill have?

The most obvious route for O’Neill to take is a residence permit for moving to someone in Sweden, sometimes also referred to as a sambo permit.

O’Neill qualifies for this, as he is married to a Swedish citizen. His wife must also be able to support him and his three children. According to the Migration Agency, this maintenance requirement is fulfilled if the family member in Sweden has enough money to pay for their home, as well as living costs for the family.

The Migration Agency states more specifically that the Swedish family member must earn 9,445 kronor per month to support a couple living together, plus 3,055 kronor per month for each child under the age of six and 3,667 kronor for each child aged between 7 and 10 years old.

The couple’s children are aged 5, 7 and 9, meaning that Madeleine will need earnings of at least 19,834 kronor a month (after tax) on top of housing costs in order to fulfil this requirement. She can also fulfil this requirement by having enough savings to support the entire family for at least two years – so a mere 476,016 kronor, plus whatever their housing costs will be for the two-year period.

Let’s assume that she can cover the family’s living costs – she’s a member of the Swedish royal family, after all. 

Next, Madeleine needs to have a home “of a suitable size and standard” for the family to live in together.

The Swedish Migration Agency states that a family consisting of two adults needs to have an apartment with a minimum of one room and a kitchen or kitchenette, with more rooms necessary if the family has children. Two children can share one room, it states, meaning that O’Neill and Madeleine need a room with at least three rooms, one kitchen and one bathroom for them and their three children.

The family’s seven-room apartment by Nybroplan in Stockholm is definitely “of a suitable size”, and after a six million kronor renovation a few years ago we can assume that the standard is up to scratch.

O’Neill will also have to provide proof of identity with a valid passport. He’s a citizen of the US and the UK, so here he can choose whichever passport he prefers.

Great, so Madeleine and Chris O’Neill easily fulfil the requirements. 

What are the next steps? 

Firstly, as Madeleine is a Swedish citizen planning on moving to Sweden with a family member who does not hold EU citizenship, the couple will need to prove that they are planning on moving to Sweden “within the near future”. They can do this by providing a housing contract or a job offer, or presumably a press statement from the Swedish royal family stating their plans to move over in August.

O’Neill can’t move to Sweden until his application has been processed, but he is allowed to visit Sweden for up to 90 days at a time, and, as a citizen of a visa-free country, he doesn’t need a visa to do so.

He may also need to visit a Swedish embassy abroad in order to undertake an interview before his application can be processed.

With the family planning on enrolling their children in Swedish schools this autumn, it looks like Chris and Madeleine – like many couples consisting of a Swede and a non-EU citizen – will have to live apart, with Chris separated from his children for months at a time.

In that time, he won’t be eligible for a Swedish personal number, Swedish healthcare, or any other benefits such as sick leave or VAB.

He’ll also have trouble getting BankID or opening a Swedish bank account (unless he already has one from last time they lived in Sweden), and may struggle to get a gym membership, phone contract, or even a membership card at the local ICA (do husbands of princesses do their own food shopping?)

As a British citizen applying for a residence permit for the first time to move to someone in Sweden for the first time who he has been living together with outside Sweden for at least two years, O’Neill can expect to wait around 15 months. Now, that figure isn’t a guide – technically, only 75 percent of recently closed cases matching those criteria were concluded within 15 months – so he could have a much longer or much shorter wait before he’s reunited with his family.

You may be thinking ‘but he’s a successful businessman, can’t he just apply as a self-employed person’? Well, yes, if he wants, but then he’ll be waiting even longer – 75 percent of recently closed cases for permits as a self-employed person got an answer within 29 months.

Member comments

  1. A very well written article as well as a good chuckle Becky.
    So sad and all so true.
    What a stressful time this is after Brexit.

  2. Call me cynical, but I can’t imagine he won’t be granted a permit before he’s even applied for one.

  3. Cute article, but I’m assuming much like here in Chicago, being a member of a power broker family (such as the King of Sweden might be considered), that they’ll be able to jump the line and be settled relatively quickly. My son was a foreign exchange student and there was some snafu with his student visa and we had to cancel his initial flight to Sweden, but they had it figured out within 2 days so he didn’t miss the entire week of classes (but did miss any of the ‘get to know people’ events the days before classes started.

  4. I’m in a similar situation, (damn you brexit!) we want to retire to Sweden, I’m a Brit my wife is Swedish, we have an elderly Mum (in law in my case) needing our support and an adult daughter in Sweden already yet I’m still waiting and constantly checking my 90 day limit on the Schengen app! why do these applications take so long? I would have thought O’Neil would qualify on the golden ticket section where wealthy people can get residency based on their rich status anyway?

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BREXIT

British actor married to Swedish pop star gives up post-Brexit fight to stay in Sweden

Former Bollywood actor Kenny Solomons' imminent return to the UK after failing to get post-Brexit residency has made national news in Sweden thanks to his marriage to the singer from the band Alcazar. He tells The Local why he's leaving.

British actor married to Swedish pop star gives up post-Brexit fight to stay in Sweden

The QX gala – Sweden’s glitzy, televised celebration of gay culture – is not the first place a man in his 20s would go to find a future wife. 

But that’s what happened to British actor Kenny Solomons.

Solomons, now 37, was already a well-known face in Sweden after playing the superhero in adverts for the internet provider Bredbandsbolaget. He was there to give out an award. Tess Merkel, singer for the nu-disco band Alcazar – one of Sweden’s most successful ever groups – was there to receive one.

“It was utterly insane,” Solomons remembers. “I had had a few drinks and then I woke up the next day in this typical Swedish apartment with kids’ toys everywhere. I was like, ‘what the fuck is going on?'”

“The kids were away with their dad, and Tess went off to work the next day and she left a note – as a joke – on the kitchen table that said ‘sorry I left you, but I took off to plan our wedding’. I thought it was a one-night stand. I was 25 years old and she was 17 years older. I didn’t expect to be married.”

The actor Kenny Solomons (right) arrives at the QX Gala in 2016. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

But in 2015 they got engaged and then in 2017, they married in the Indian holiday paradise of Goa, making it legal for Sweden with a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall the next year. 

By then, Solomons was so deeply embedded in Stockholm’s celebrity whirl that everything from the Brexit referendum to the deadline for post-Brexit residency had more or less passed him by. It was only when he took a trip to Greece in the summer of 2022, his first international trip since the pandemic broke out, that he realised the mistake he had made. 

“We flew back through Serbia, which is outside the European Union, so as we were coming in through the Swedish border, they said ‘hey, you do realise that you’re going to need to send in a whole load of information’, and I was completely shocked. I had no idea. I mean, to some people, I might sound like an absolute moron, but I just wasn’t aware of it.” 

In some ways his ignorance was unsurprising, given the Swedish authorities’ decision not to contact British citizens directly, even digitally, to inform them of the need to apply for post-Brexit residency by the end of 2021, although there was information published online.

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Unlike many Brits in Sweden, Solomons was at that point completely integrated, living in the upmarket Stockholm district of Hammarby Sjöstad, and speaking almost exclusively Swedish.   

“It wasn’t originally the plan to do everything in Swedish. It was after I started working and running a business here, that it just sort of kicked in,” he remembers. “After three or four years, I suddenly was like, ‘ah, OK, I’m speaking Swedish. My mother would be very proud, that me, a dyslexic boy from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, could speak even one word in another language!”

Because he only hung out with Swedes and rarely met other Brits, he had simply not heard about the Brexit deadline. 

“All of my friends are in the industry. I socialise among those who also work as artists here in Sweden,” he explains. “When you work as an entrepreneur or an artist, there is nobody to give you that little nudge and say, ‘hey, there is a thing going on called Brexit and it’s going to affect your status here in Sweden’. I had absolutely no idea that it would affect me in this way, and would still be affecting me four years on.”

Looking back, he remembers spending much of 2020 and 2021 desperately trying and eventually failing to save his chain of barbershops and hair-replacement therapy centres from bankruptcy due to the pandemic.

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When he did apply for post-Brexit residency – nearly a year late – he was rejected as the Migration Agency does not treat ignorance as “reasonable grounds” for missing the deadline. He appealed the decision to the Migration Court, but this month decided he had had enough of waiting, given that rejection was “inevitable”. 

“It’s now 19 months since I sent in my appeal to the Migration Court, and the pressure of not knowing, every day, and the pressure of having to say ‘no’ to career opportunities outside of Europe, and the pressure of not knowing with 100 percent certainty that I can live and work in Sweden in the long run was just affecting my health, and my mental health as well,” he says.

“I hit the wall, was suffering with anxiety, and was incredibly unhappy. So I made the decision.” 

He’s now going to return to the UK and apply for spousal reunion with Merkel. As he has no young children of his own, there is little chance of getting granted the right to do this from within Sweden.

Since he left the UK as a young man, his mother has died, and his 60-year-old father has left their childhood home in Essex and moved to Chester on the other side of England, somewhere he has never been. 

“I guess I’ll go and sleep on his couch,” he says. “I can moan and be upset and say all these awful things. But I have my health and I have a place to go. There are people in a similar situation that don’t have any connections or ties left in the UK any longer, so I’m very grateful to at least have a couch to crash on while I figure out this next step.” 

His father got married in the middle of June, and Solomon’s plan is to return for the wedding party on August 24th, handing in his application for spousal reunion in Sweden within days of arrival. He has no idea if he will then have to wait six months, or two years, before he is granted the right to live again in Sweden.  

“My wife and I, we really always try to make the best out of a bad situation, whatever it is, so when I leave Sweden and start my process from my dad’s I want to continue to be able to give back to this country.” 

READ ALSO:

His next plan is to return to India, where he spent several years before coming to Sweden working as an actor in Bollywood films. 

“You’re gonna think I’m completely nuts. I want to fly to the most northern part of India and run from North India to South India, the whole way, and raise money for Läkare Utan Gränser [the Swedish arm of the global medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)].” 

He says that one of the silver linings to his situation is that as someone involved in Swedish showbusiness, his case has received media coverage, unlike hundreds of other British citizens who have been victims of Sweden’s strict application of the EU Withdrawal Agreement. 

“It’s a very, very great luxury and something I don’t take for granted that I have a platform that can be used for to spread my thoughts and my opinions,” he said, adding that he has also enjoyed sharing information with and trying to help other British people in the same situation. 

Tess Merkel’s band Alcazar performed at the Eurovision Grand Final in Malmö in 2024. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Now he’s looking forward to returning back to the UK, where family and friends were in May blown away by the surprise appearance of Merkel and the rest of Alcazar at the Eurovision Grand Final. 

“I had to keep it a secret from my family in England. I couldn’t tell anybody because Alcazar had written a contract with Eurovision,” he remembers. “So my family didn’t know, and they were just shocked when they came on. They Facetimed me just afterwards and said, ‘they really made fun of Alcazar. I felt really sorry for them’.”

But Alcazar, he said, had no issues with being made the butt of a joke about their ‘reunion’ not quite being the hoped-for Abba appearance. The are, he says, “a playful band”. 

“She is that person in real life. She’s absolutely fantastic. She’s an absolute gem. She’s my best friend,” he said of Merkel. “She might say to you, ‘it will be quite nice to have a bit of a break from Kenny. He’s a pain in the ass’. But taking this step is like losing my right hand, because we are so co-dependent on each other – in all the best ways.” 

Membership+ subscribers can listen to the full interview with Kenny Solomons in the Sweden in Focus Extra podcast, which will be available from Wednesday, June 26th.   

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