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Anger as Danish authority admits Brexit residency reminders were not sent

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Anger as Danish authority admits Brexit residency reminders were not sent
A detail from a Danish residence card. British residents who moved after January 2020 were not directly informed that they needed to apply to update their status in relation to Brexit. Photo: The Local

Danish authorities have admitted that they did not send out notifications to many Britons who moved to Denmark that they needed to apply for a post-Brexit residency status by a certain deadline. Some have been told to leave the country.

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In 2021, the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) sent letters reminding the thousands of British nationals resident in Denmark that they needed to apply for a new residency permit by the end of that year, but many people who moved in 2020 were never sent the letters and some subsequently missed the deadline and have been told to leave the country.

SIRI has confirmed to The Local that it did not send the letters to people who moved to Denmark from the UK after January 2020 — meaning many people were not directly notified that they needed to submit an application to update their residence status before the December 31st, 2021 deadline.

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The issue potentially has serious consequences because SIRI is rejecting late applications for post-Brexit residence if the reason for late submission was that the applicant did not receive reminder letters in 2021.

“For the technical purposes of sending digital and physical information letters, SIRI has a list of the CPR [personal registration, ed.] numbers of resident British nationals and their family members,” the agency stated in a written response.

“SIRI has become aware that the list contains British citizens who had settled residency in Denmark at January 31st 2020 and still had it on October 28th 2020,” it stated.

“This means that British citizens who were CPR-registered after January 31st 2020 are not included on the list and therefore did not get the letters,” it confirmed.

However despite the admission from SIRI that many Brits were not sent the formal reminder the authorities are not accepting it as a valid reason for why some Britons then missed the application deadline.

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

The agency told The Local it stood by decisions to revoke the residence status of those people who missed the deadline after not being sent letters.

“The circumstance that an applicant has not received an orientation letter is not, by our assessment, enough reason in itself for him or her not to comply with the application deadline,” it said.

“The letters are solely a supplementary service related to extensive information about the application deadline that was available to British citizens in Denmark,” it said.

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“SIRI’s primary source of information to British citizens has always been the website nyidanmark.dk [SIRI’s website, ed.],” the agency said.

Phil Russell, a 47-year-old financial services administrator who lives in the western part of Zealand, is one of an increasing number of British nationals who could lose their right to reside in Denmark due to not receiving the information letters.

Russell said SIRI’s failure to send the letters to the 2020 group demonstrated the agency had not adequately provided information to affected individuals.

“SIRI have made a serious error resulting in many UK citizens arriving in 2020 being excluded from the information campaign. This must be deemed a good enough reason for late submission,” Russell told The Local.

The Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration’s guidelines on implementation of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU state that, “given the legal consequences of submitting an application after the application deadline, the authorities cannot automatically reject an application on the grounds that it was submitted late.”

The agency's admission that it had not sent the information letters to some British citizens is "further evidence that their process for judging whether late applications have been submitted for 'a good enough reason' is completely flawed," Russell said.

The Facebook group British in Denmark, which seeks to provide advice and support for UK nationals who live in Denmark, said the decisions could constitute a failure to comply with the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

“The Danish authorities said that they would send letters out to every British citizen residing in Denmark to inform them of their obligation to re-apply for residency under the Withdrawal Agreement,” a spokesperson said.

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“We now have confirmation of what we already suspected: that the vast majority of those who arrived in 2020 did not receive any letters from SIRI,” they said. 

“The British citizens who arrived in 2020 were new to the country and vulnerable because of the Covid situation, which left many of them isolated,” they added.

“Under Article 37 of the Withdrawal Agreement, member states had an obligation to communicate with British residents affected by Brexit. In Denmark, the letters which were sent out were a vital part of the Brexit communication strategy. If the letters were not sent out to the British who arrived in 2020, then we question whether this could therefore constitute a breach of the Withdrawal Agreement,” they said. 

In a written comment, SIRI told The Local that “the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union includes the option to set an application deadline. In Denmark, the deadline was a full year and we tried to make the application process itself as smooth as possible.”

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

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

Three separate information letters were sent to around 19,000 British nationals resident in Denmark, but this does not include people who were registered after January 31st 2020.

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.

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The Local has asked SIRI how many intended recipients of the letters did not receive them because they were registered after January 31st 2020.

Russell rejected SIRI’s stance that the letters were supplementary because the information was also available on the agency’s website.

“It is a clear breach of Denmark's obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement that they must actively publicise the need to submit an application. These letters cannot be considered an ‘additional’ service because there was no other form of active publicity,” he said.

“I am again calling upon SIRI to stop running away from their responsibility for creating this situation and to process the residency applications of those people that were not provided adequate information,” he said.

British in Denmark’s spokesperson said that many of those who arrived in 2020 “were verbally told by staff at SIRI that they either did not need to do anything with regard to Brexit, or to wait for a letter which would tell them when to apply.”

“These combined errors have now proved to be absolutely disastrous to hundreds of British people, who potentially could be forced to leave Denmark as they were not given the correct information,” they said.

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