The protection of UK citizens in Sweden post Brexit

On 11 November 2020, the Swedish Parliament (riksdagen) approved the proposal on the provisions supplementing the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and UK, protecting British citizens and their family members beyond the end of the transition period, 31 December 2020. The provisions include the introduction of a new residence status for British citizens and family members who move to Sweden before the 31 December 2020.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU earlier this year, an 11-month transition period began on 1 February 2020, with little to no practical changes for British citizens living in the EU. Post this transition period, however, the general provisions covered under the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK will be subject to national requirements set out by each respective EU member state.

In Sweden, the provisions approved by the Parliament include the introduction of a new residence status for British citizens and their family members who reside in Sweden in accordance with the terms set out in the Withdrawal Agreement. To obtain this new residence status, British citizens must file an application with the Swedish Migration Agency by no later than 9 months after the transition period has ended (30 September 2021). Upon submission of the application, the Migration Agency will issue a certificate to confirm receipt. Once the residence status is granted, a residence permit card will be issued as proof of this new status.

The new residence status will be valid for an indefinite period, however, the residence card will only be valid for 5 years from the date of issue. An application for permanent right of residence can be submitted once the British Citizen has resided in Sweden for a period of at least 5 years, and before the validity period of the residence card expires.

Cross-border/frontier workers will also be issued with a similar certificate protecting their existing right to work in Sweden.

Those applying for citizenship will not need to apply for a permanent residence permit as the new residence status will qualify them for citizenship (as it is today for EU citizens).

The provisions on the new residence status will come into effect from 1 December 2020 and will be available through to the end of September 2021, giving UK citizens exactly 10 months to apply for the new status. UK citizens moving to Sweden after 31 December 2020 will not be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, nor this provision. Instead they will be considered non-EU nationals requiring a work and residence permit before entering Sweden.

Family members of British citizens

A spouse, cohabitant or dependent children, i.e. unmarried children under 21 years of age, to a British citizen are considered family members (hereafter family member). Such family members can also receive a residence status. Any family member who wish to apply for the residence status must meet the requirements for a right of residence before the end of the transition period and beyond.

Family members who do not live in Sweden before 31 December 2020 (termed late arrivals) can in some cases still apply for the residence status. However, this is only applicable for family members under the age of 21 whose parent/legal guardian is living in Sweden, or, if the family member is financially dependent on the parent/guardian in Sweden, for those over 21. This applies to other family members, not just children, if they are financially dependent on the family member in Sweden. To qualify for the residence status after 31 December 2020, the applicant must have the intention to unite with their family member in Sweden. It is recommended that an application be filed by no later than three months after their arrival in Sweden. Children of British citizens in Sweden born or adopted after the end of the transition period follow the same rules as late arrivals.

To facilitate this provision, the Swedish Government has made an addendum to the current Aliens Act (utlänningslagen) with a clause stipulating that marriages of convenience for the sole purpose of a foreigner gaining right of residence will not be granted such status.

Commuters/cross-border workers

British citizens who, at the end of the transition period, live abroad but work in Sweden (gränsarbetare) either by being employed or by having their own company, cannot receive a residence status since they do not reside in Sweden. Alternatively, cross-border workers can apply for a certificate to prove their status as such in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement. However, contrary to British citizens living in Sweden or their family members, cross-border workers do not have a time frame during which they must file the application. This can be done at any time. The application is submitted to the Swedish Migration Agency and is, if accepted, valid for 5 years as evidence that the individual is a cross-border worker. The certificate can be extended beyond the 5 years.

What do British citizens need to do to secure their status post Brexit?

An application for the new residence status can be filed with the Swedish Migration Agency from 1 December 2020 until 30 September 2021. During this period, it is not necessary to possess a valid permit, however, once an application is filed, the Migration Agency will issue a certificate which will grant the individual the same rights as an EU citizen.

Necessary documentation for British citizens to secure their status will include a copy of a valid passport or a valid national ID card, together with documents showing that the British citizen has had a right of residence before 31 December 2020 and continue to do so thereafter. Such documents can be, for example; a certificate of employment, a letter of admission to an educational programme (for students) or a corporate tax certificate and registration certificate of the company (self-employed).

EY recommendations

EY recommends that British citizens and their associated family members residing in Sweden before 31 December 2020 apply for the new residence status as soon as possible from 1 December 2020. However, it is important that all necessary documents required for the application are gathered and available at the time of application to reduce the processing times for the application.

British citizens who are unsure as to whether they meet the requirement for the right of residence are welcome to contact us to seek advice. An assessment can be carried out to assess this and on how they could potentially qualify for the new residence status.

Employers must ensure that they clearly distinguish between British citizens who have arrived in Sweden before 31 December 2020 and those arriving after this date, to prevent illegal working. Such “Right to Work” checks must be carried out before an employment offer is made but should not involve the requirement to present a valid permit or certificate until after 30 September 2021. British citizens arriving in Sweden from 1 January 2021 will need a work and residence permit before they can take up legal employment and residence in Sweden. It will also be necessary to report all British citizens employed or assigned to Sweden with the Swedish Tax Agency as part of the reporting of a third country hire.

More information

More information is available via the Migration Agency’s website here.

EY will be hosting a webinar on Brexit covering citizens’ rights and social security across the Nordics on 1 December 2020. If you are interested in listening in, you can register here.

If you require support or advice in relation to the employment or residence rights of British citizens in Sweden, feel free to contact a member of our team.

José Vaz, Elsa Tirén and Josef Gyrmai


José Vaz
+46 70 148 13 25


Elsa Tirén
+46 76 853 19 79


Josef Gyrmai
+46 70 845 97 63