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BREXIT

REVEALED: Hundreds of Britons in Denmark could be impacted by unsent Brexit residence letters

Up to 1,800 British citizens who registered to live in Denmark under EU freedom of movement rules may not have been directly contacted telling them to update their post-Brexit residency status before a key deadline. Some have been ordered to leave the country.

REVEALED: Hundreds of Britons in Denmark could be impacted by unsent Brexit residence letters
Pro-EU demonstrators in London in 2019. Hundreds of Britons registered in Denmark under EU rules in 2020, and may therefore have not received an important reminder to update their status under the Withdrawal Agreement. Photo: Niels Ahlmann Olesen/Ritzau Scanpix

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.

Over 1,800 people with British citizenship were issued registration certificates (registreringsbeviser) in Denmark under EU freedom of movement rules in between February and December 2020.

The figure comes from the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI), the agency responsible for processing residency permit applications.

In response to an access to information request, SIRI provided The Local with data related to the number of UK citizens registered under EU rules in the period.

SIRI’s records state that a total of 1,838 persons with British citizenship were registered for the first time in Denmark under EU rules between February 1st and December 31st 2020.

Of these, 725 registered in Denmark for work purposes. Some 222 were family members of people already resident in Denmark; 699 had sufficient personal finances to be granted non-permanent residency under EU rules, 186 were students and 6 are listed as “other” reasons.

Figures for the last 11 months of 2020 – the final year in which Britons could move to Denmark under EU rules – are relevant because SIRI has already confirmed that it did not send reminder letters about the need to apply for post-Brexit residence permits to people who moved to Denmark from the UK after January 2020.

Denmark was entitled to ask British citizens to apply for renewed status under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU.

READ ALSO: Anger as Danish authority admits Brexit residency reminders were not sent

But people who moved to Denmark from the UK in the year 2020 (after January) were not directly notified in 2021 that they needed to submit an application to SIRI to update their residence status in Denmark before a deadline on December 31st, 2021.

These people were therefore at higher risk of missing the deadline.

The issue 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.

An increasing number of instances have been reported of Britons who have been told to leave Denmark for this reason.

READ ALSO:

It should be noted that the numbers provided by SIRI may not correspond exactly with the people who were due to be sent reminder letters by the agency in 2021, telling them that they needed to apply for a new residence permit by the end of that year.

This is because SIRI used a database drawn from Denmark’s central personal registry (CPR) to send the reminder letters.

CPR numbers, which are used for registration of addresses and personal identification, are issued by municipalities and not by SIRI, whose remit is to process applications.

This means it’s possible to register with SIRI as resident in Denmark under EU rules but never be issued with a CPR number. An example for such a situation could be a change of career plans resulting in someone not moving to Denmark after the initial registration.

Additionally, some people – for example, international students – may have been in Denmark for a short period and therefore registered in 2020 but no longer living in the country in 2021.

Despite this, there is likely to be a strong correlation between the people who were registered in the period and the people who were not directly informed of the need to apply for a new residency permit in 2021.

This means the issue could affect hundreds and potentially over a thousand people who moved to Denmark from the UK in 2020.

The Facebook group British in Denmark, which seeks to provide advice and support for UK nationals who live in Denmark, called the numbers “deeply concerning”.

The figures “indicate how many people could be affected by this mistake,” a spokesperson from the group told The Local.

“SIRI said that they would notify all British citizens living in Denmark of the requirement to apply for residency in 2021 but they failed to communicate with a huge number of us. This is a systemic failure on SIRI’s part and it could be argued that a mistake on this scale breaches the Withdrawal Agreement,” they said.

“We are worried that the figures we have seen so far for late applications could be just the tip of the iceberg. There are potentially hundreds more British citizens living in Denmark who may be completely unaware that they have missed the deadline,” they said.

“We ask SIRI to accept that their error has created this problem, to notify everyone affected who should have received a letter and to accept late applications from everyone involved,” they said.

SIRI earlier said it viewed “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”.

The agency sees the letters as only being a supplementary service and says that all relevant information was available on its website throughout 2021.

A new government last week took power in Denmark following elections at the beginning of November. Political intervention in the matter is therefore again possible because the government no longer has “caretaker status”, as was the case while negotiations to form the new administration were ongoing.

Mads Fuglede, a Liberal (Venstre) MP who was the party’s immigration spokesperson during the previous parliament, told The Local in November that he believed “a minister would have the powers to say to the authority – that is, SIRI – that they should accept late applications”.

The Liberal party is one of the three coalition partners in the new government.

British in Denmark urged anyone affected by the issue to get in touch with them on Facebook.

“We have set up a separate private group for late applicants,” the group’s spokesperson said.

“We would also ask everyone who did not receive a letter to contact Your Europe Advice to make a complaint,” they added.

The EU advice service can be found here.

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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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