Post-Brexit residence status: Sweden rejects more Brits than any other EU country

Figures issued by the European Commission reveal that Sweden rejected over 10 percent of applications for post-Brexit residence status, the highest rejection rate per number of applicants than any other EU country.

Post-Brexit residence status: Sweden rejects more Brits than any other EU country
Over 1 in 10 Brits applying for residence status had their applications rejected. Photo: Virginia Mayo/AP/TT

How many applications has Sweden rejected?

The Swedish Migration Agency received 12,700 applications for post-Brexit residence status before the December 31st deadline. Of these, 9,900 had been concluded by January 24th 2022, when the European Commission’s report was published.

Of the 9,900 concluded applications, 1,100 were rejected (figures are rounded to the nearest 100 except for numbers below 500). This represents a rejection rate of just over 11 percent. This includes 149 applications which were rejected as being incomplete.

It is not clear as to whether this figure includes duplicate applications or rejected applicants who reapplied at a later date and were successful.

“We don’t know anything about whether the figure given includes people who successfully reapplied at a second attempt. I would presume not, as people who were refused would appeal, not apply again, so I’m not sure why there would be a second application,” Jane Golding, chair of British in Europe, an organisation working for the rights of Brits in Europe, told The Local.

“There is a note that says that incomplete applications are included in the total number of refusals, but what that means is not clear. And there is no note saying that the successful applications include second attempts. We only know what it says in the table. Only France mentions duplicates i.e. where people have made the same application twice. There is no note about duplicates in Sweden,” Golding continued.

How does this compare with other countries?

EU countries could choose whether to grant post-Brexit residence status under a constitutive system (applicants had to apply directly to government agencies to be awarded residence status), or a declaratory system (applicants’ rights were not dependent on a government decision).

Sweden chose to grant post-Brexit residence rights under a constitutive system.

Other countries using this system who reported a similar number of concluded applications are Belgium (9,600) and Malta (10,600). These countries rejected 131 and 40 applications respectively, giving them a rejection rate of 1.3 percent (Belgium) and 0.4 percent (Malta). The highest percentage of rejections after Sweden was reported by France, who had concluded 164,900 applications, of which 3,500 were rejected, giving them a rejection rate of 2.1 percent. The majority of countries who chose to use a constitutive system rejected less than one percent of applications.

Among countries who chose to use a declaratory system, the highest rate of rejection was in Ireland, who rejected 117 of 2,000 concluded applications (5.8 percent). The next-highest rate of rejection was in Poland, who rejected 3.1 percent of applications (107 of a total of 3,400) then Spain, who rejected 3,400 of 180,000 applications (1.8 percent), followed by Czechia, who rejected 22 of 1,800 applications (1.2 percent). All other countries in this group rejected less than one percent of applications.

These figures do not include applications withdrawn by the applicant, incomplete applications, or applications which are otherwise void.

READ ALSO: How many Britons in EU acquired post-Brexit residency and how many were refused?

Why were applications rejected?

Rejected applications are described in the report as “outside the personal scope or negative criminality check”.

“Outside the personal scope” in this context refers to those who are not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement – this could, for example, include those who moved to their host country for the first time after December 31st 2020.

Other reasons for rejection could be those who do not fulfil criteria to be classed as legally resident in their host country under the Withdrawal Agreement. This could, for example, cover those who were not employed, self-employed, self-sufficient, students or jobseekers in the first five years of residence in their host country.

“Negative criminality check” refers to clauses in the Withdrawal Agreement allowing member states to restrict right of residence if an individual’s personal conduct “poses a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to public policy or public security”, British in Europe explain.

The Local contacted the Swedish Migration Agency, responsible for processing applications for post-Brexit residence status, for comment on the high proportion of rejected applications, and received this response:

“The agency are aware of the issue. A large amount of cases which were rejected are those where the Migration Agency tried to contact the applicant for more details, without success,” a press officer said.

“If an application has been received and we have requested further details or tried to reach the applicant in another way but not received a response, the Migration Agency must reject the case according to administrative law. Another reason [for the high number of rejections] could be that different member states handle incorrect applications in different ways.”

“The Migration Agency reject incorrect applications and advise the applicant to apply on other grounds in cases where they have potential residence in another way (as a family member, worker etc.)”.

According to European Commission figures, 149 cases out of the 1100 total rejected cases were marked as “incomplete”. The Local has contacted the Migration Agency for clarification on possible reasons behind the 951 cases not included in this figure.

What can I do if my application was rejected?

If your application was rejected and you believe that you should have been granted residence status, you can launch an appeal to the Migration Agency. Your letter from the Migration Agency informing you that your application was rejected should include information on the deadline for launching an appeal, as well as what your appeal letter should include and who you should sent it to.

If you choose to appeal the Migration Agency’s rejection, they will consider whether they should change their decision, and if they do so, their new decision will be sent to the Migration Court. The Migration Court will then decide whether to approve the Migration Agency’s new decision.

Note that you cannot appeal a rejection after you have accepted it and signed a declaration of acceptance, or if the deadline for appeal has passed.

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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.