Anger as Danish authority admits Brexit residency reminders were not sent

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.

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

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.

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.

“SIRI’s primary source of information to British citizens has always been the website [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.

“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.

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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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.