No second chance for Brits in Sweden who missed post-Brexit status deadline

Sweden is not planning to follow Denmark’s lead and let Brits who missed the deadline reapply for post-Brexit residence status, a government spokesperson has told The Local.

No second chance for Brits in Sweden who missed post-Brexit status deadline
A total of 2,630 UK citizens were ordered to leave countries in the EU and EEA in 2021 and 2022, with Sweden responsible for 41 percent of these. Photo: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

The Danish government in March announced that hundreds of British nationals who missed the deadline for post-Brexit residency would be allowed to apply or reapply.

But a spokesperson for Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard confirmed to The Local on Tuesday that a similar reprieve was not being planned in Sweden “at the moment”.

Sweden has ordered 1,100 British citizens to leave the country since the end of the Brexit transition period, according to data from the EU’s statistical office Eurostat – 41 percent of the EU’s total deportation orders for Brits.

When The Local in February asked the migration minister to explain the high figures, she said they came as “complete news” to her.

“We want them here,” she told us at the time.

We have, despite repeated contact with the Swedish border police, Migration Agency and government, not been able to confirm how many of the Swedish deportation orders are due to late applications, but data suggests they are, as in Denmark, only a few hundred.

Reasons for rejected applications for post-Brexit residency, according to the Migration Agency, include “incomplete applications, applications where the applicant did not fulfil the requirement for residence status, and applications listed as ‘reason unknown’”.

The deportation figures include Brits whose residency application was rejected, but also other reasons for deportation, such as recently released prisoners or people turned away on the border because they did not have the right to enter Sweden. There could be some degree of inaccuracy, including people being counted twice, and reported data may to some extent vary between EU countries.

OPINION: Sweden should follow Denmark and reconsider Brexit deportations

In Denmark, at least 350 British nationals who lived in Denmark at the time of Brexit failed to apply to remain in the country before the deadline of the end of 2021, after letters to remind them were not sent out. Many of them were subsequently given orders to leave.

But after criticism from rights groups, who accused Danish immigration authorities of not correctly applying the rules of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the Danish government announced that the deadline would be extended until the end of 2023.

“It’s hard to see how Sweden has fulfilled its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement concerning publicity and the admissibility of late applications from UK nationals,” David Milstead of the Facebook group Brits in Sweden, which in the run-up to the deadline warned that Sweden was not doing enough to reach Brits affected by Brexit.

Sweden ran information campaigns but generally did not contact Brits directly to inform them that they needed to secure their right to stay.

“Sweden mainly targeted those British citizens in the care of the state. This is important but ultimately these are people who could have applied late with a well motivated reason to have a late application accepted. The authorities essentially ignored the bulk of UK nationals. As a strategy to ultimately get as many Brits in Sweden as possible to acquire the new residence status and avoid deportation it was ill-thought-out,” said Milstead.

Several readers of The Local told us they wrongly believed they already had the right to stay in Sweden and did not need to apply for residence status, due to confusion over similar-sounding terms such as residence permit, residence card and residence status.

“Late applicants typically encountered confusing information from the Swedish state. For example, many looked at the Migration Agency web pages after Brexit and were assured that they had acquired permanent residency. They discovered much later that permanent didn’t mean permanent in their case,” said Milstead.

Late applications are not the only reasons why so many British nationals in Sweden have had their residence status rejected.

One British citizen, Gregory, had lived in Sweden for 21 years but was between jobs at the time of the deadline, which he told The Local meant he did not qualify.

Stockholm chef Stuart Philpott only learned that he should have applied for post-Brexit status shortly before he was frogmarched onto a return flight by Swedish border police.

James, a British citizen working in the building industry, only found out he no longer had residency in Sweden after calling the Migration Agency about an unrelated issue.

The Swedish Migration Agency last week put the deportation of Kathleen Poole, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s, “on hold” pending an assessment of her health. The expulsion order, which has sparked outrage in the UK, has however not been repealed.

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What Brits in Sweden need to know if they move back to the UK post-Brexit

Most people accept that moving to Sweden is tricky and involves a lot of paperwork, but for Brits deciding to go back to the UK it's easy, right? After all, you're just going home? Wrong.

What Brits in Sweden need to know if they move back to the UK post-Brexit

Moving countries is a time-consuming process – but if you’re British and living in Sweden you might think that moving back to the UK would be simpler? Well, there won’t be a language barrier and as a UK citizen you won’t need any immigration paperwork (although if you’re bringing a Swedish partner you with then that gets complicated) – but you will still face administrative hurdles around pensions, healthcare, driving and taxes. 

Some of these issues existed before Brexit, while others are as a direct result of the UK leaving the EU. Here are the most common questions from Brits thinking of moving back to the UK.

Do I still qualify for NHS treatment?

You are entitled to NHS treatment if you are “ordinarily resident” in the UK – there is no minimum time limit so as soon as you are back in the UK on a permanent basis, you can use the NHS. You will need to register for a GP in your local area in order to access non-emergency treatment, and to get an NHS number if you do not already have one.

You may need to provide proof of a UK address in order to use NHS services – although in reality UK citizens are rarely asked for this, apart from when registering with a GP. 

If you have been an S1 holder while living in the EU you should cancel that, just so there is no confusion over where you are getting your healthcare.

If you go back to Sweden for a visit, remember that you are now a tourist and will need a GHIC card to get European healthcare, while travel insurance is also advised in case of accident or illness while visiting an EU country. 

Can I drive on my EU licence?

If you have been living in Sweden for a while, you may have changed your UK licence for a Swedish one, although this isn’t strictly necessary.

READ ALSO: How to change your driving licence to a Swedish one

Once you’re back living in the UK you will have to swap your licence back to a UK one – and you have 12 months to do that. You don’t need to take a new driving test, it’s just a matter of swapping the licence – here are details on the swap process for UK licences and for Northern Ireland.

You can continue to drive while the exchange process is happening. 

Can I bring my Swedish partner with me?

If you’re returning alone you won’t need to do any kind of immigration paperwork, your UK passport is enough. However if you are bringing a partner with you who is not a UK citizen, it becomes complicated.

After the end of the Brexit transition process there was an “amnesty” period in which Brits with EU partners could move back to the UK under the old immigration rules. This is now ended and EU partners face the same immigration process as all other foreign spouses.

Essentially either your partner will need to have already secured a relatively high-paying job in the UK, or you will need to prove that you have a large amount of money to support them. They will need to go through the process of getting a UK visa (which is expensive – between £1,000 and £1,500 just for the visa fee) and there is no guarantee that their application will be successful simply because they are married/in a civil partnership with a Brit. They will also need to take an English-language exam. 

Here are full details.

What about my pension contributions from the EU? 

If you have been working in Sweden, you will probably have been contributing to the Swedish pension system. Pre-Brexit, UK and EU pension contributions could be blended into a single pension – but this is no longer the case.

Brits still living in the EU who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement are theoretically covered by blended pensions if they had made pension contributions in the UK before moving to the EU, but the same does not apply if you move back to the UK. 

The good news is that EU countries still practise this – so if for example you have paid into pensions in France, Germany and Italy, your contributions will be totted up and paid out as a single pension – you apply in the last country you worked in. Bear in mind, however, that different countries have different pension ages. 

The country that is paying your pension may require you to have an EU bank account to pay into – and you should check with the country paying your pension whether there are any other conditions to observe.

When it comes to a pension from the UK, it depends on how long you worked there – the basic rule is that you need 10 years of National Insurance contributions in order to get a state pension.

However the UK government states that periods of work done in the EU or EEA “may” count towards your qualifying period. That said, even if they do, they don’t count towards the total pension amount – so for example if you worked for seven years in the UK and the remaining 35 years of your career in the EU, you can qualify for a UK state pension, but it will only be based on the seven years of work in the UK (in other words, the payment per month will be tiny).

Here are further details on UK pension entitlement.

Do I need to hand back my residency card, health card etc before I leave the EU? 

Most countries require that you hand back residency cards before you leave, but in truth this is rarely strictly enforced. Check with the Swedish Migration Agency about what you should do with your residence permit (be it an uppehållstillstånd or a card proving your uppehållsstatus), as they may want you to post it back. 

If you do end up keeping residency or healthcare cards – don’t use them on trips back to the EU. Tempting as it might be to avoid border queues or healthcare fees, you will create a confusing official record if you are claiming to be resident of two countries at once.

If you have taken Swedish citizenship, that is a different matter and of course you are entitled to keep and use your Swedish passport when visiting the EU.

READ ALSO: What do dual-nationals need to know about post-Brexit border controls

Do I still have to pay Swedish taxes? 

It’s highly likely that you were paying taxes in the country you lived in. Generally, tax declarations concern the previous year, so you will have to do at least one tax declaration and payment after moving back to the UK.

In Sweden, you usually get your tax declaration at the beginning of March, with the deadline for declaring in May, and it concerns the previous calendar year. So if for example you move back to the UK in April 2023, you will have to complete a tax declaration in May 2024, covering the time you spent in Sweden in 2023.

READ ALSO: Explained: How does income tax work in Sweden?

If you still own property in Sweden you will pay property taxes there, and if you have any earnings in your former home you will likely still have to pay taxes there – check with the Tax Agency. 

When you left the UK, you will likely have informed HMRC that you were leaving the country, so you will now have to tell them that you’re back. Whether you have to fill out a UK self-assessment form depends on whether you are a salaried employee or self-employed/retired. 

Can I keep my Swedish bank account? Do I need a new UK account? 

This one depends on the policy of your bank, but most banks in Sweden require you to have a Swedish address.

It’s possible that your UK bank may have closed your account while you were living outside the UK, in which case you will need to open a new one.

A practical option while you are moving and still have interests in both countries is to open an internet bank account with a company like Wise or Revolut – these offer accounts in pounds, euros, and a range of other currencies including the Swedish krona and give you a European IBAN and a UK sort code, so you can use it in both countries.

Will my EU qualifications be recognised?

If you were studying or gaining professional qualifications while living in the EU, don’t assume that these will be recognised in the UK. Brexit ended the mutual recognition of qualifications – check with the professional or academic body that issued them whether these are recognised in the UK, you may need to acquire a certificate of recognition.

It’s a good idea to check this point before you start job-hunting in the UK. 

Be prepared for hassles

The advantage of moving back to the UK is that you’re not starting from scratch and at least you know how things like council tax, electricity billing and healthcare work.

However, don’t assume that it will all be plain sailing – if you don’t have a recent UK address, you might be an anomaly in many companies’ systems and you’re likely to be forced to have several long and annoying conversations with call centres while you explain that while you are a UK citizen, you have not recently been living in the UK.

There are likely to be other niggles too – many UK car insurance companies won’t recognise a no-claims bonus built up abroad, so you’ll be back to paying full premiums on your car insurance, while banks might request extra money laundering checks due to your foreign associations.

A lot of people in the UK also seem to be confused about the difference between citizenship and residency, so be prepared to have the following conversation a lot: “I’ve recently been living in Sweden. No, I’m not Swedish, I’m British, I was just living in Sweden. Yes, I am a UK citizen.”