Practical measures for UK citizens in Sweden in case of a no-deal Brexit

In mid-January the Ministry of Justice in Sweden released a proposal outlining a number of measures to be introduced to help alleviate some of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for UK citizens and their family members. The proposal includes an exemption from the need to obtain a work and residence permit.

EY has previously released an alert outlining the main points of the proposal (see here), which includes a transitional period of one year from the date the UK leaves the EU on the March 30th, 2019 through to March 29th, 2020. During this time UK citizens and their family members who have exercised their right of residence (registered in the Swedish Population register with the Tax Agency) or hold permanent right of residence in Sweden will be exempt from any work and residence permit requirement.

In this brief we detail some of the practical measures UK citizens and their family members can take in regards to securing their continued right to reside in Sweden, to ensure a smoother transition in the post-Brexit era.


What can be done before Brexit day?

Even before the UK leaves the EU, UK citizens can apply for a work and residence permit with the Swedish Migration Agency, if they choose to. Generally, all work and residence permits need to be applied for before the individual enters Sweden. However, UK citizens are today exempt from these requirements as EEA-citizens, in line with the Aliens Ordinance Act, Chapter 4 § 17. UK citizens can thus apply for a work and residence permit from within Sweden even today. The application would be similar to that of a non-EU national.


What can be done during the transitional period?

Long-term resident status

If a UK citizen has had a right of residence in Sweden during a minimum period of 5 years, they can be granted a long-term resident status in Sweden (subject to meeting the criteria). The proposal outlines that these changes will come into effect from July 1st, 2019, therefore applications before this date will not be possible. Those who are granted long-term resident status will receive a special EC/EU residence permit. This gives them certain rights, similar to those of an EU citizen, granting them certain privileges and therefore facilitating moves to other EU countries for work, study, self-employment or self-sufficiency purposes.

Work and residence permit

Before the transitional period of one year expires, all UK citizens will have to apply for a work and residence permit in Sweden to continue to remain legally beyond March 30, 2020. There are several grounds to qualify for a work and residence permit in Sweden, including employment, family ties to a Swedish or EU (excluding UK) national or someone who holds permanent residence in Sweden as well as the individual themselves qualifying for permanent residence after 5 years of continuous residence. UK citizens will need to fulfil these conditions and more to qualify for a work and residence permit in Sweden.

Proof of right of residence and re-entry to Sweden

As the exemption from a work and residence permit requirement is temporary, there will be no specific proof to evidence this on a general basis. As such, it might prove difficult for UK citizens to show their right to reside in Sweden and the EU if they’re re-entering Sweden from outside the Schengen Area. However, according to the EU commissions proposal (COM [2018] 745 final) UK citizens will be exempt from requiring a visa to enter the Schengen Area. Thus, both UK citizens coming to Sweden as a tourist as well as for work and residence, would have the right to enter Sweden without waiting for a decision for a residence permit.

During the one-year transition period it is possible to issue a certificate proving their right to reside in Sweden. This would only be applicable if they’re covered by the work and residence permit exemption (as outlined above) during this period. However, this would not apply to family members of UK citizens who in turn are visa required nationals.

The Migration Agency will be responsible for the issuance of these certificates upon the request of the individual. As set out in the proposal from the Ministry of Justice, a request should be supported by a copy of the passport, an extract from the Swedish Population Registry, a certificate for permanent right of residence or an employment certificate. From this the Migration Agency will assess whether the individual has held a right of residence prior to the UK’s departure from the EU and if they still fulfill these requirements. The certificate will be issued as soon as possible, placed in the individual’s passport, and remain valid until March 29th, 2020. If a residence permit is issued before that date, the residence permit card can be used to prove their right to live in Sweden.

What are the current risks?

The risks center around the time it will take for the Migration Agency to process these applications along with a disjointed no guarantee that they can issue any such documentation. Owing to the uncertain circumstances of Brexit it is most likely difficult for the Migration Agency to prepare fully for all different possible scenarios.

As such, please be aware that the issuance of a proof of exemption from work and residence permit requirements could take some time in the event that there is a surge in demand from the date the UK leaves the EU.

Processing times will most likely be extended given the influx of applications nearer the March 29th deadline or a later postponed date (if applicable).

One possible solution to avoid any delays is to apply for a work and residence permit now, since it is theoretically possible to do so even before Brexit becomes a reality. From March 30th (or whichever date following the UK’s abrupt exit from the EU) it should also be possible to request a proof of exemption from the work and residence permit requirements.


What is applicable for those without right of residence in Sweden?

Such individuals will have to apply for a work and residence permit in order to take up employment and residence in Sweden, in the same way as non-EU nationals do today. Such permits generally need to be applied for and approved before entering Sweden.


What if something changes?

The UK government recently proposed the opportunity to postpone Brexit in the event that the withdrawal agreement is rejected again in parliament on March 12th.

In the event Brexit is postponed, the above regulation proposals regarding long-term resident status will still come into force. The same will apply for the remainder of the proposal, with the start date aligning to any new Brexit date.

Should there be an agreement on the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU, the above proposals will be replaced by the details around citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement.

For information relating to the rights of UK and EU citizen’s in the Withdrawal Agreement, please consult the following Questions and Answers page on the EU Commission Website here.

EY is closely following the events of Brexit and will update clients when there are any new major developments.


EY recommendations

Companies seeking to employ UK nationals between now and March 29th, should ensure that UK nationals register with the Swedish Tax Agency (to be included in the Population register) before this date to exercise their right to free movement.

UK nationals already in Sweden (registered in the Swedish Population register) who do not yet qualify for permanent residence (5 years of continuous residence) should apply for a work and residence permit with the Migration Agency. This can be done now before the UK leaves the EU or post the leave date with the EU. In the event of a no deal, the application should be filed as soon as the UK leaves to avoid delays nearer the end of the one-year transition period.

For more information on Brexit and the impact on UK citizens’ rights in Sweden please reach out to us.

José Vaz


José Vaz
+46 70 148 13 25