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RESIDENCY PERMITS

‘I have a Danish partner, friends and a job’: Briton told to leave Denmark over Brexit deadline

A UK national who lives in Odense with his Danish partner has told The Local of the worry and impact on his life after being told to leave the country after Danish authorities rejected his late post-Brexit residency application.

'I have a Danish partner, friends and a job': Briton told to leave Denmark over Brexit deadline
Jonathan Bartley and his Danish partner Amanda Barkou. Bartley faces having to leave Denmark because he missed the deadline to update his residence status under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Photo: supplied

Jonathan Bartley, a project engineer who moved to Denmark in February 2020, contacted The Local after reading about other cases of British residents similar to his.

Bartley has been told his late application to extend his residency in Denmark after Brexit cannot be processed. He submitted his application seven days after the December 31st, 2021 deadline.

The Local has previously reported on other British nationals who did not receive notification from SIRI in 2021 that they needed to apply to update their residence status by the end of last year under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

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“I am currently in the exact same situation and face being deported. I am writing an appeal letter in the hope that they decide to change their minds,” Bartley said.

Had he submitted his application prior to the deadline, it would have been accepted given that he had legal residence in Denmark under EU rules prior to the end of the Brexit transitional period.

Like many others who moved from the UK to Denmark in 2020, Bartley received no direct notification from SIRI that he needed to apply to update his residence status under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

By its own admission, SIRI failed to send reminder letters to British citizens who moved to Denmark after January 2020 and were due to apply to extend their residency status under the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU.

People who registered in Denmark prior to January 31st, 2020 received the letters.

In his January 7th, 2022 application to SIRI, seen by The Local, Bartley does not mention that he did not receive the information letters – because he did not know they existed.

Bartley only found out about the need to apply when the topic eventually came up in discussions with his employer, he said.

SIRI has previously said its information letters were only a supplementary service, and that British citizens had access to the relevant information on its website throughout 2021.

“I didn’t go on the [SIRI] website at all before the deadline. When I previously got my permit before Brexit [under EU free movement, ed.] my company at the time had applied on my behalf, and everyone else’s behalf who I worked with, so I’d never even heard of SIRI until after January,” Bartley said.

“I received nothing from SIRI to remind me of the fact I would need to reapply for residency,” he said.

After asking him to submit additional information following the late submission of his application, SIRI said it didn’t consider his personal circumstances good enough reason to process the late application.

“We have paid importance to the fact that you do not meet the conditions for a residence document in Denmark, as you have not applied for a residence document before January 1st 2022,” SIRI writes in the rejection letter, seen by The Local.

In the letter, the agency says it has concluded Bartley’s connection to the Danish labour market, family situation and length of stay in Denmark, and his explanation for his late submission, do not constitute “fair reason for you not to have submitted your application before the deadline”.

The agency concludes that “it is not disproportionate or especially inconvenient for you that we do not process your application with the consequence that you lose your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement,” it states.

Jonathan Bartley and his Danish partner Amanda Barkou say their future plans will be left in chaos if he is required leave Denmark. Photo: supplied

Bartley had informed SIRI that he had spent periods in the UK and Netherlands, for family and work reasons respectively, during the time since he registered in Denmark in 2020.

“In their rejection letter they are stating I haven’t contributed to the Danish labour market enough and so consider that to be a valid reason for rejection. I am a self-employed engineer and I don’t pay tax until the end of the tax year,” Bartley said.

The amount of tax he is due to pay will put him in the bracket for the top tax rate, he noted.

“Another reason for their rejection is they don’t consider me having to leave to have an impact on my life which I completely disagree with. I have a girlfriend here, I have friends here, a job here which I need to support my family,” he said.

The decision “has a huge impact on the people around me, most importantly my Danish girlfriend who is back in university to better her future,” he said.

SIRI cannot comment on individual cases but told The Local via email that the “individual circumstances of the applicant” always provide the basis for “what can be considered as fair grounds for not complying with the deadline [for application to retain residence rights under the Withdrawal Agreement].”

SIRI “takes special consideration for children, elderly persons and or physically or mentally ill persons who depend on others to care for them”, the agency said.

“Even though we in a specific case might conclude that there is not reasonable cause for the applicant to apply late, factors such as a long stay in Denmark or consequences for the applicant’s school-going children might mean that we process the applicant’s case”.

Because SIRI did not sent reminder letters to people who registered in Denmark after January 2020, it is reasonable to assume that a large number of those who missed the deadline moved to Denmark in that year. As such, they would not benefit from any leniency for having had a long stay in Denmark prior to Brexit.

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 British citizens were registered after January 31st 2020.

Bartley also said that the processing times at SIRI were out of kilter given the agency’s strict stance on late applications.

“On the website it stated they would take 1-3 months for a decision on my application, they took 11 months and are now saying I can’t reapply [under normal immigration rules, ed.] until I’ve been back in the UK for 3 months”, which would prevent him from completing his existing work project, he said.

Bartley’s Danish partner, Amanda Barkou, said that having to reapply under family reunification rules, instead fo the Withdrawal Agreement, would be difficult for the couple and that she was unsure they would be able to meet the financial demands.

“I can’t bear to think that we could face living without each other for up to a year and that’s even if we can save up enough to meet the family reunification rules,” she said.

“I can’t understand [SIRI] saying that because of no kids and no marriage they see no reason for Jon to stay. If this only had something to do with the late application then why even mention private matters?,” she said.

READ ALSO: What do we know so far about Denmark’s plan to relax family reunification rules?

“I’ve had numerous opportunities for work in Denmark for both permanent and contract positions but I’ve had to turn them down due to having no decision on this application,” Bartley said.

“Not only have they failed to remind me about the deadline, they have also taken away multiple opportunities.”

The 34-year-old project engineer said that the decision has already caused him to feel under severe pressure and that this would get worse if he is forced to return to the UK. He said he was concerned about the longer-term impact on his mental health.

“The impact on my life is huge, had I applied before the deadline there would be no issues with staying,” Bartley said.

“Nothing changes because I’m seven days too late. I’m still living here paying taxes, I still spend all my wages here contributing to the economy, I still want to work and live here.

“It makes no sense to me why I would be rejected,” he said.  

“Quite frankly, [since] the decision I haven’t been myself and can see myself slumping into depression,” he 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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