EU Commission: ‘A stamp in a British passport does not put residency rights into question’

After hundreds of British residents of EU countries had passports stamped when returning from the UK in the New Year the EU Commission has responded to The Local's request for information and advice on their behalf. Here's the response in full.

EU Commission: 'A stamp in a British passport does not put residency rights into question'
Photo: AFP/UK Passport Office
In recent days it has emerged that scores of British nationals living in EU countries have wrongly had their passports stamped with a date of entry when returning home. One couple was told to contact a lawyer by consular officials in Germany.

British nationals coming to the EU have previously not needed to have their passports stamped, but Brexit and the end of freedom of movement has changed things somewhat.

While visitors are now subject to the Schengen area's 90-day rule, meaning they can spend a maximum of 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen area, those Britons legally resident in the EU are not, and therefore should not have their passports stamped.

But since January 1st scores of UK residents in the EU have seen immigration officials stamp their passports with an entry date when returning from the EU.

Many British nationals have contacted The Local, while citizens' rights groups have raised concerns that passport stamps may cause problems the next time British citizens leave the Schengen area if they are over the 90-day limit.

The Local asked the EU Commission to explain why passports were being stamped and what advice it had for British nationals.


Passports should not be stamped

Firstly the Commission confirmed that the passports of British residents whose rights are protected by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement should not be stamped. EU officials have tried to get that message across to border police in all member states, they added. 

“We regret the difficulties some UK travellers encountered. We have worked very closely with member states on the implementation of the (Brexit) Withdrawal Agreement to avoid such difficulties. Overall, the changes linked to the end of the transition period and end of application of EU law on free movement of EU citizens to United Kingdom nationals were implemented smoothly.

“Withdrawal Agreement beneficiaries have a right to enter their host member state and their passports should not be stamped when they cross an external Schengen border.

“Withdrawal Agreement beneficiaries are moreover exempted from the Council Recommendation on the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU linked to the coronavirus pandemic. As non-EU nationals legally residing in the EU, they must not be denied boarding for travels into the EU under the Council recommendation.”



What if you have no post-Brexit residency permit? 

The problem for many British travellers resident in the EU is that they are not yet in possession of a new post-Brexit residency permit given that many governments have only recently opened the application processes. 

That has left them relying on trying to convince border guards themselves that there was no need to stamp passports.

The EU commission said it has created guidance for all border guards, but it seems that guidance is not being read.

The Commission said: “We have discussed these specific issues in three expert group meetings (June, September and 1 December) and prepared guidance in all languages.

“The final version has been put at the disposal of the member states on 4th December 2020 (in English) and on 23rd December in all other languages (Annex 42 of the Practical Handbook for Border Guards).

The guidance sets out how to identify beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement before these beneficiaries are in possession of a residence document issued in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement for the purpose of not stamping their passports.”

“We have also prepared a document containing all specimen which will evidence that a person is a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement before being in possession of the document issued in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement (Annex 43 of the Practical Handbook for Border Guards) based on the input received by Member States. This document has been transmitted to the Member States on 15th December (and updated on 21st December).”


Entitled to compensation

The EU Commission said any British traveller who was denied entry to a plane after failing to prove legal residency is entitled to compensation.

“We have also transmitted the information on future rules and provided the specimen to the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s TIMATIC which provides carriers with information about entry procedures and visa requirements in all countries of the world. The onus is on airlines to apply the new rules correctly.

“UK nationals who have been denied boarding by an EU air carrier can seek compensation as well as reimbursement of their ticket or re-routing under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, unless where the air carrier can prove in the specific case at hand that the denied boarding was based on reasonable grounds related to e.g. inadequate travel documentation.

“Please note that Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 would not apply to those denied boarding by UK carriers from January 1st, 2021. In this case, possible rights in case of denied boarding should be assessed on the basis of UK legislation.”

A stamp is no threat residency 

The final message from the Commission is that an erroneous passport stamp will not put residency rights into question.

It also said British nationals can ask border guards to cross out stamps, as some have done, according to reports we have received.

However, once again, it appears British travellers might have to explain themselves if those immigration officials have not read the “Practical Handbook for Border Guards”.

“If the beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement can provide evidence that they have been incorrectly stamped, the stamp can be annulled by the border guard as explained in the Practical Handbook for Border Guards (see p. 68/69 of the Handbook).

“However, depending on national practices, some Member States may still stamp passports of beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement, even if they hold notified documents: Member States may stamp residence permit they issued themselves and if this possibility is provided by national law.

“In any case, a wrong stamp in a passport can never put into question the right to reside in the host Member State.”


Member comments

  1. Of course going the other way, you are on your own. Priti Patel will doubtless deport you if you overstay an erroneous stamp even if you have UK residency established. Wouldn’t be the first time.

  2. While not claiming residency rights, well not yet, we have had a home in Provence for nearly 50 years, have paid taxe d’abitation, and VAT, have a bank account and have,’till now spent 4 or 5 months in France. We have been deprived of our citizenship of Europe and access to our home and assume we must now apply for a visa.

  3. It seems that some people have had the best of both worlds and want their cake and eat it. If you have a home in an EU country besides a home in the UK, you can obviously afford to sort out your residency from the UK before you go back to your EU-country home. Also, you must have known something like the situation you are in would happen, once the referendum vote was announced – that’s four and half years ago. I sorted mine out long ago, even though I was in favour of the UK leaving the EU. I dislike the Schengen Agreement and see it as a way for a (Dis)United States of Europe, which will dilute each countries identity into dust.

    By the way, the two correspondents’ names – Robert Altinger and Raymond Attfield – sound like a psuedonym of each other. A coincidence?

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Danish residence cards promised to ‘no surname’ foreign nationals

A number of foreign residents of Denmark have not been issued residence permit cards despite having legal status in the country, due to a technical issue related to the printing of their names.

Danish residence cards promised to 'no surname' foreign nationals

The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) confirmed to The Local it has been unable to print residence permit cards when the applicants do not have a last name.

The agency also said that it has now found a solution to the problem and was working to clear a backlog of unissued residence cards.

The issue can affect foreign residents including people from regions of south India where naming conventions can mean a last name or family name is not given. As such, a significant number of legal residents of Denmark are currently without the correct documentation.

“I have lived in Denmark for more than six years, obtaining my PhD here too,” Raghavendra Selvan, an assistant professor and Computer Science researcher at the University of Copenhagen, told The Local.

“I am originally from south India, where a large portion of us do not have a last name or family name,” he said.

“We mainly have a given name and in some cases use the first name of our fathers as the last name. For instance, my given name is Raghavendra and my last name is my father’s given name ‘Selvan’. However, in my passport the field for last name is empty,” he explained.

“All my official records in Denmark now explicitly state this. So, my name is ‘Raghavendra Selvan Ej Efternavn’ [“no surname” in Danish, ed.],” he said.

A Statistics Denmark search shows over 500 Danish residents with their last name registered as Ej Efternavn.

A screenshot showing a search for “Ej Efternavn” (‘No Surname’) in Denmark’s national statistics base.

SIRI confirmed to The Local that technical problems had prevented residence cards from being produced in cases in which surnames are not stated on passports.

However, SIRI said a solution had now been found and that residents who remain without cards will be issued with them “as soon as possible”.

“There has been challenges with issuing residence cards to foreigners with no surname,” SIRI said in a written statement.

“SIRI has now in cooperation with our supplier, Thales, found a solution, which is currently being implemented,” the agency said.

No specific timeline was given by the agency for delivery of residence cards to those affected by the issue.

“Due to a backlog, we still expect some further delay before all cards can be ordered, printed and issued,” SIRI said. 

“In cooperation with Thales, we will do our best to ensure that all cards will be issued as soon as possible,” the agency told The Local.

The issue with the residence cards means affected persons are required to apply for a re-entry permit whenever they leave Denmark, which can complicate travel.

READ ALSO: Danish authority warns of delivery delays on residence cards

“I have been waiting for my card since December 2020, that’s close to 18 months since I received my decision and about 20 months since the application itself,” Raghavendra Selvan said.

“I am now having to apply for a re-entry permit every three months to be able to travel outside Denmark,” he added.

“Having to get a re-entry permit every three months is annoying, and traveling outside Denmark when the re-entry permit is about to expire is extremely stressful,” he said.

The computer science researcher said that he had previously been advised to change his name in his passport in order to fix the issue.

“While I understand it is uncommon to not have a last name… asking all of us to change our name is not the best solution to this problem. This also reflects poorly on how Denmark is unable to accommodate diversity in names into its systems,” Raghavendra Selvan said.