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BREXIT

Scores of Britons in Denmark may not have received Brexit residency letter

A large number of British nationals who moved to Denmark under EU rules in 2020 may not have received a reminder from Danish authorities to update their residence status ahead of a Brexit deadline, meaning many missed the deadline and could face having to leave.

Scores of Britons in Denmark may not have received Brexit residency letter
Danish and EU flags in Brussels. UK nationals resident in Denmark have seen applications for continued residence after Brexit rejected for missing an application deadline. File photo: Valeria Mongelli / AFP

Are you a British national in Denmark facing a situation similar to the one described in this article? If so, you can contact us here — we’d like to hear from you.

British nationals who registered as resident in Denmark under EU rules in 2020 – the last year in which EU free movement was available to UK citizens – may not have been officially notified by Danish authorities’ alerts that they needed to apply for updated residence status by the December 31st, 2021 deadline.

That means that people who moved to Denmark from the UK in the year 2020 are more likely to have missed the deadline.

Those who had been living in Denmark before 2020 were much more likely to have received the official notification by Danish authorities.

The issue has potentially serious consequences: the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) is rejecting applications that were submitted late if the reason for late submission was that the applicant did not receive reminder letters in 2021.

As recently reported by The Local, Phil Russell, a 47-year-old financial services administrator who lives in the western part of Zealand, has received notice he must leave Denmark by early December after missing the deadline to apply for a post-Brexit residence permit.

SIRI sent reminders to UK nationals resident in Denmark to update their residence status under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement prior to a December 31st, 2021 deadline. But Russell did not receive the reminders and eventually discovered he had missed the deadline just four days into January 2022.

READ ALSO: Briton living in Denmark urges authorities to reverse his deportation order

Russell’s situation appears to be far from unique. The Local has spoken with several other UK nationals in Denmark who say they did not receive the information letters. All of the UK nationals moved to Denmark in 2019 or 2020 and all of them registered as resident in the country in 2020.

“I am also a British person in Denmark who did not receive any notifications or reminders regarding the need to apply for new paperwork by the deadline,” a reader, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Local via email.

“I tried to stay oriented to post-Brexit issues but have, to date, received no information regarding what is required of me post-Brexit and have never seen any of the ‘extensive ad campaigns’ which were apparently designed to inform people like me. I only became aware that I did not have the correct paperwork when leaving to visit the UK in June,” they said.

“I have called for updates regarding my application and have been told it is still being processed,” they said.

“It does seem unreasonable that a government agency is seemingly putting the responsibility on the resident to know of any changes that need to be made to government records, especially when SIRI has not contacted those who they are now seemingly penalising for applying late,” they said.

“I had not ever moved to a different country before this and I’ve certainly never needed to negotiate the complicated nature of Brexit before. I do not know what is normal or not when it comes to residency documents, so if something is required, I would expect to be contacted directly,” said the person, who was granted residency in Denmark in September 2020 under EU rules.

“I have felt failed by SIRI since I found out I had not been contacted at all, let alone three times. Had I known that I needed to reapply, I would have done so straight away,” they said, adding that they experience “daily anxiety knowing there is the possibility of my application being rejected due to its late submission”.

“If there has been a technical error on SIRI’s part, that they should not penalise residents for this,” they said.

READ ALSO: How do other EU countries’ post-Brexit residence permits compare to Denmark?

Two other people, who both registered as resident in Denmark in 2020 under EU rules, also said they had not received SIRI’s information letters.

“While I received my new permit, I also did not receive the letters about renewing,” Danny Maiorca, who moved to Denmark in September 2020 and registered as a resident the following month, told The Local via email.

Maiorca said the only reason he knew to apply for the updated residence permit was by regularly checking SIRI’s website in 2021.

After initially moving to Denmark in 2019, Alex Stuart registered as a resident under EU rules in 2020. He told The Local he also had not received all of SIRI’s information letters in 2021 and had submitted his post-Brexit residence application after the December 31st, 2021 deadline.

“SIRI hasn’t said anything to me yet, just that they are reviewing my case. But now that I see what they are saying to others I expect my answer won’t be very different,” he said.

The Local has contacted SIRI on repeated occasions to ask whether its information letters failed to reach all persons from the UK who moved to Denmark in 2020. We also asked whether it made sense to revoke the residency status of persons who submitted late applications after not receiving the letters.

The agency has yet to provide an answer but said it intends to respond to our questions. We will update this article or publish a new one once we receive a response.

In an internal record from SIRI which has been seen by The Local, the agency concludes that its information letters were a “supplementary service and part of an information campaign.”

The letters were also available on the agency’s website.

Not receiving the letters was therefore not to be considered an extenuating circumstance in an appeal against a rejected, late application, the agency notes in the internal memo, dated March this year.

SIRI has previously confirmed that as of September 30th, it had received 290 applications for post-Brexit continued residency status after the December 31st, 2021 deadline. Some 17,811 applications were received before the deadline.

Decisions on some applications made after the deadline are still being processed, meaning it is not clear how many UK nationals have already or could yet lose their residency rights.

In a written comment, the British Embassy in Copenhagen said it “is aware that a number of UK nationals residing in Denmark submitted applications for residency after the relevant deadline.”

“The Embassy has been working closely with the Danish authorities on implementation of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and regularising the stay of those UK nationals who have chosen to make Denmark their home,” it said.

British Ambassador to Denmark Emma Hopkins has requested a meeting with the Danish authorities to discuss the application of the rules to UK nationals, the embassy added.

A spokesperson from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said that “anyone who applied before the deadline [December 31st, 2021, ed.] will have their rights protected, even if their application has yet to conclude. The Danish authorities will accept late applications if there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline.”

The Facebook group British in Denmark, which seeks to provide advice and support for UK nationals who live in Denmark, said that of the group’s 1,400 members, only two who moved to Denmark in 2020 have confirmed they received the SIRI information letters.

While some subsequently applied to update their residence status after the deadline, others were able to meet the deadline because they found out about it through the group or via their personal network, a spokesperson from the group said.

“The problem is that if they arrived in 2020, a lot of people didn’t have that network,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s been left up to the specific countries to decide how they’re going to deal with the late applications. So it’s not written in the Withdrawal Agreement,” she noted.

“Each country can interpret it as long as you’re complying with the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement,” she said.

The citizens’ rights section of the Withdrawal Agreement states that “where the deadline for submitting the application… is not respected by the persons concerned, the competent authorities shall assess all the circumstances and reasons for not respecting the deadline and shall allow those persons to submit an application within a reasonable further period of time if there are reasonable grounds for the failure to respect the deadline”.

The text of the agreement states that anyone living in an EU member state before the end of the transition period has the right to remain.

“In the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement, everyone was sent a letter. But the people of 2020 didn’t get a letter,” the British in Denmark spokesperson said.

“We really want as many late applicants as possible to join our group. We’ve got people together to provide support for each other and the late applicants who are in there have found it really, really useful,” she added.

“There are devastating potential consequences for them to be facing this alone with their families,” she said.

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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