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Brits in Sweden still in limbo years after Brexit deadline

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Brits in Sweden still in limbo years after Brexit deadline
Steven Savile gives a talk at the English Bookshop in Uppsala. Photo: Steven Savile

Hundreds of British citizens are still battling rejected applications to stay in Sweden, nearly two and a half years after the deadline to apply for post-Brexit residency status. The Local spoke to four of them.


One of the four British citizens said they had stayed illegally in the country for nearly a year, and another was not allowed to work or receive benefits while they wait for their decision. At least one Briton is being prosecuted for ignoring an expulsion order, meaning they risk criminal charges. 

"I have 30 in my Facebook group," one of the four Britons told The Local. "It's purely Brexit and Migration Agency rejections. I set the group up so we can share our cases and support each other."

According to an analysis prepared by the Migration Agency for the UK government and the European Commission (obtained by a Freedom of Information request by a member of the the Brits in Sweden Facebook group and shared with The Local) by February 12th this year, 2,286 Britons had had their applications for post-Brexit residency rejected.

Of those only 489 had missed the deadline for applications on December 31st 2021, with a further 623 applying on time but judged not to have fulfilled the requirements for a right of residency under EU law, and the remainder rejected for other reasons, or for "reasons unknown". 

So far, though, only 44 Britons have been ordered to be deported from Sweden after failing to secure post-Brexit residency, with the rest either appealing the rejection, applying for residency on other grounds, or leaving voluntarily.  

As part of the analysis, the agency looked at the current outcome in 114 cases and found that 32 percent had applied for residency and/or a work permit as a third-country national, and 21 percent had not applied for or received any other kind of residency. 

This suggests that more than a third of those rejected – hundreds of Britons – might still be in limbo waiting for a final decision on whether they can stay in Sweden. So far only 18 percent have been granted residency as a third-country national, while 13.6 percent were judged to already have permanent residency, and 5.6 percent were judged to have EU residency rights through a relative. 

The British citizens The Local spoke said their lives had been thrown into turmoil by the way their cases had been handled. 


Steven Savile, a novelist, only discovered that he had lost his right to residency in Sweden a year ago when he travelled back to the UK for a book launch.

He was in the end allowed to travel, but was told he should have a residency card and when he checked with the Migration Agency on his return to Sweden, was told his residency had been cancelled six months earlier. 

Savile said he had received emails from senior officials at the Migration Agency after the deadline informing him that as he had a certificate proving his right of permanent residence under EU rules, he did not need to have applied for post-Brexit residency.    

Last month he had his application for "late consideration of the Brexit residency status" rejected, and has appealed the decision. 

"I appealed it based on them completely misreading detail and misinterpreting it in their judgment," he said. "Even six months after the [Brexit] deadline, multiple paid specialists within the Migration Agency didn’t know the legal facts or process, so how could a layman? They were the people we had to rely on, and they didn’t know, so how could we be expected to?"


Savile said that if he ends up being forced to leave Sweden for the UK, even if only for the 18 months or so it might take to apply for a residency permit based on his spouse, if would have a severe impact on his life. 

"If I'm kicked out of the country for a couple of years to fight my way back, does my marriage survive that? Do I financially survive having to run two households in England and Sweden? With no credit history in England? No work history? Nothing." 

He was risking this, he added, despite having lived in Sweden for 28 years. 


One Malmö-based Briton, who applied within the deadline, believes he had his post-Brexit residency rejected because a divorce meant that for a short period he was not registered as living anywhere, which the Migration Agency said meant he could not prove he had been in Sweden and so did not fulfil the requirements for residency under EU rules.

When he tried to contest the ruling, providing evidence for his continued presence, he said his case officer had abruptly dropped his case. 

"After that I kind of withdrew and just went through the motions while being actually an illegal immigrant for a year," he said. "I couldn't cope with it." 

He has since applied for residency based on his children in Sweden. 

"I can still get money for the children and their living expenses. But there's no money for me and I'm not allowed to work," he said. "I'm literally just waiting for the doom letter to drop through the door saying 'get the hell out'."

He said he dreaded being forced to return to the UK, leaving his children behind. "Oh my God, I'm pivotal to them. They are my world, and I can't be separated from them." 


The woman who runs the Facebook group said her case had been ongoing for 19 months and recently had her application for legal aid to appeal her case rejected, a decision she has now appealed. While she works in a café, she says she is unable to get higher paid professional work, as blue chip employers require her to have a residency card, meaning she lives hand to mouth. 

The fourth Brit, a chef born in Northern Ireland, only learned that he should have applied for the post-Brexit permit when he was stopped on his return to Sweden from a trip back to family, and immediately put on a plane back to the UK.

He applied for a late consideration of Brexit residency status. But when he received a letter warning him his application is likely to be refused and encouraging him to instead apply for residency on the basis of his Swedish children, he did so and is now waiting for a decision on that. 

"I'm in limbo," he said. "I can't leave the country because I'm not going to get back in. I'm stuck here. It's a problem if something happens to somebody at home or something." 

In many cases, Britons are being sent letters from the Migration Agency "inviting" them to leave Sweden, often while their appeal is still proceeding, or being advised to instead apply for residency as a third country national on the grounds of having a spouse, child or a job in Sweden. 

These letters are not deportation orders, do not communicate an agency decision and have no real legal meaning, but several Brits have interpreted them as such, and and either left the country, or decided to settle for residency as a third-country national, meaning they will lose many of the benefits Britons were promised under the EU Withdrawal Agreement.



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