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‘No change in rules’ for pre-Brexit Brits applying for Swedish citizenship

Brits living in Sweden at the time the UK left the European Union were eligible to apply for post-Brexit residence status to retain their right to live in Sweden. But what requirements do pre-Brexit Brits need to meet to convert this to citizenship?

'No change in rules' for pre-Brexit Brits applying for Swedish citizenship
A Union flag waves behind a European Union flag, outside the Houses of Parliament, in London, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. Photo/Alberto Pezzali/AP

Several of the readers who responded to our survey on the difficulties they had been suffering as a result of Brexit complained of the lack of clarity over what criteria they would have to meet over their five years living with a post-Brexit residence status in order to qualify for permanent residency or citizenship. 

Not sure what the difference is between residence status, residence cards, right of residence and residence permits? See The Local’s guide to the different types of residency in Sweden here.

Permanent residency

When The Local asked the Migration Agency about this, they wrote that “in order to gain permanent right of residence (permanent uppehållsrätt), [Brits living in Sweden with post-Brexit residence status] need to have been living in Sweden legally for five consecutive years.”

“Right of residence both before and after Brexit can be counted towards this, so both residence that the person held as an EU citizen [uppehållsrätt], and time with [post-Brexit] residence status,” the agency wrote.

“It also doesn’t matter which grounds the person had for residency under EU rules or if the applicant had several different grounds for residency [residency as a student and then a worker, for example]. What matters is that the requirements for residency have been met at all times.”

This means that the rules for permanent residency are much the same as they are for EU citizens under the EU’s freedom of movement legislation. See the EU rules here

For example, if a pre-Brexit Brit (or other EU citizen) living in Sweden loses their job in Sweden after being employed for less than 12 months, they can only keep their “worker” category for six months, and then only if they immediately register their unemployment with the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen).

If they either forget to register as unemployed, fail to get a job, or fail to register under another category such as under student or self-sufficiency rules, their stay in Sweden will then not count as “legal” for the purposes of citizenship or residency. 

Note that for the purposes of permanent residency, post-Brexit residence status is seen as equal to EU right of residence. This means, for example, that Brits with post-Brexit residence status do not need to apply for a permanent residence permit (permanent uppehållstillstånd or PUT), but they gain permanent residence status after a period of five years, as long as they have met the EU requirements for residence for that entire period.

Under EU rules, you do not need to apply for permanent right of residency, it is a right you gain automatically after staying in Sweden legally for at least five years. You can, however, apply for a certificate documenting your right of residency, referred to as a certificate or intyg of permanent right of residence.

As far as The Local understands, the same applies for those living in Sweden on post-Brexit residency, although it is not clear how Brits with residence status can apply for permanent residence status after living in Sweden long enough.

It is also important to note that the only truly permanent residence document, which cannot be revoked (all others can be revoked after a period of living outside of Sweden), is Swedish citizenship.

Are there any changes in citizenship rules for pre-Brexit Brits?

The short answer is ‘no’.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “there are no changes in the possibility of gaining citizenship when compared with the rules prior to Brexit.”

Brits with post-Brexit residence status are not required to hold a permanent residence permit (PUT) in order to apply for Swedish citizenship, with post-Brexit residence status seen as equal to EU right of residence for the purpose of citizenship applications.

For example, an EU citizen or Brit with post-Brexit residence status is eligible for citizenship after living in Sweden for just three years if they live with a Swedish citizen and have done so for the past two years or more, whereas non-EU citizens (and post-Brexit Brits) must hold a PUT in order to apply for citizenship, meaning they can usually apply after four years, at the earliest, even if they also live with a Swedish citizen.

You can see the requirements for citizenship here.

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‘The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,’ Migration minister says

Sweden's Migration Minister has responded to criticism of the government's proposal to abolish permanent residency, telling an interviewer that the hope is that holders will gain full citizenship rather than get downgraded to temporary status.

'The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,' Migration minister says

“The main idea behind the [Tidö] agreement is that we should convert permanent residency to citizenship,” Maria Malmer Stenergard, from the right-wing Moderate Party, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.”You should not be here forever on a permanent residence permit. A clear path to citizenship is needed.”

I envision that you will receive individual plans for how to achieve this,” she continued. “Learn the language, earn a living, and have knowledge of Swedish society, so that you can fully become a Swedish citizen.” 

Malmer Stenergard said it was still unclear whether a planned government inquiry into the possibility of “converting…existing permanent residence permits” would also open the way for those who have been given a permanent right to live in the country to be downgraded to a temporary residency permit. 

“We’ll have to look at that,” she said. “There is a problem with positive administrative decisions and changing them, which the Migration Agency’s director general Mikael Ribbenvik has been aware of. We also state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law shall continue to apply.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about Sweden’s plans to withdraw permanent residency?

In the Tidö Agreement, the deal between the far-right Sweden Democrats and the three government parties, it says that “asylum-related residence permits should be temporary and the institution of permanent residence permits should be phased out to be replaced by a new system based on the immigrant’s protection status”.

It further states that “an inquiry will look into the circumstances under which existing permanent residence permits can be converted, for example through giving affected permit holders realistic possibilities to gain citizenship before a specified deadline. These changes should occur within the framework of basic legal principles.”

Malmer Stenergard stressed that the government would only retroactively reverse an administrative decision (over residency) if a way can be found to make such a move compatible with such principles. 

“This is why we state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law must apply,” she said. 

She said the government had not yet come to a conclusion on what should happen to those with permanent residency who either cannot or are unwilling to become Swedish citizens. 

“We’re not there yet, but of course we’re not going to be satisfied with people just having an existing permanent residency, which in many cases has been granted without any particularly clear demands, if they don’t then take the further steps required for citizenship.” 

This did not mean, however, that those with permanent residency permits should be worried, she stressed. 

“If your ambition is to take yourself into Swedish society, learn the language, become self-supporting, and live according to our norms and values, I think that there’s a very good chance that you will be awarded citizenship.” 

She said that even if people couldn’t meet the requirements for citizenship, everyone with permanent residency should at least have “an individual plan for how they are going to become citizens”, if they want to stay in Sweden. 

When it comes to other asylum seekers, however, she said that the government’s aim was for residencies to be recalled more often. 

“We want to find a way to let the Migration Agency regularly reassess whether the grounds for residency remain. The aim is that more residencies should be recalled, for example, if a person who is invoking a need of asylum or other protection then goes back to their home country for a holiday.”