Why Brits in Norway may need to get their post-Brexit residence cards changed

British nationals living in Norway may need to get their post-Brexit residence cards updated after some were issued permits with a key detail missing. The error could affect their rights.

A sample version of the post-Brexit residence permit issued to UK nationals in Norway. Some Brits in Norway will need to get their post-Brexit residence cards updated.
Some Brits in Norway will need to get their post-Brexit residence cards updated. Image: UDI

Some post-Brexit residence cards have been printed and issued to UK nationals in Norway without one piece of vital information, potentially affecting rights which are protected under the Separation Agreement.

This means that those with the affected cards will need to have them updated, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has confirmed to The Local.

Those who have been issued cards that do not have “Separasjonsavtalen EØS/EFTA-UK” printed on the reverse of the permit will need to get them changed.

Below you can see what cards issued under the Separation Agreement are supposed to look like.

The UDI has meanwhile sent a letter to more than 17,000 UK nationals. The letter will explain what should be displayed on the residence cards along with other relevant information.

READ MORE: Why are Norwegian immigration authorities writing to British residents?

An example residence cards being issued under the separation agreement. The example used is for someone with permanent residence. “Separasjonsavtalen EØS/EFTA-UK” is found on the reverse under “Merkander”. Photo provided by the UDI.

This important detail highlights that the cards were issued as part of the Brexit Separation Agreement, protecting the rights of those who were living in Norway prior to the UK leaving the EU.

“All UK nationals with rights according to the Separation Agreement shall have a residence card where ‘Separasjonsavtalen EØS/EFTA-UK’ is stated. If this information is missing, this could affect their residency rights. If information is missing from the card, the UK national has to contact the local police station in order to get a new card issued with the right information,” Oda Gilleberg, adviser to the press at the UDI, told The Local.

Brits will need to get their cards updated at the police station which processed their application. So, for example, if Hønefoss Police Station processed your residence application, it will be responsible for updating the card if there is a misprint. The UDI said the process of updating the cards should be straightforward as the police directorate was aware of the error.

The UDI said it was unsure exactly how many cards were issued without “Separasjonsavtalen EØS/EFTA-UK” on them. However, it believes the cause of the missing information is a new application procedure brought in at the beginning of this year.

The immigration directorate added that it didn’t think many cards were printed with the information missing. Also, not all cards issued to British residents will need to be updated, only those issued under the Separation Agreement.

All UK citizens who were legal residents of Norway before 31st December 2020 will need to apply for residence under the Separation Agreement before the end of this year.  

“There will, however, be UK nationals in Norway that have another type of residence permit other than according to the Separation Agreement. Therefore, on their residence card, there will be no reference to the Separation Agreement,” Gilleberg said.

One of the main rights which could be affected by those with cards missing the correct information, according to the UDI, is how long those granted permanent residence can spend outside of the country without losing their rights.

“According to the Separation Agreement (SA), the right of permanent residence shall only be lost through absence from the host State for a period exceeding five consecutive years. This is one of the main rights under the SA that could be affected if a UK national does not have a residence card stating their rights according to the SA,”

This means that residence rights will be lost after spending two consecutive years out of the country rather than five.

This isn’t the only right affected, though. The Separation Agreement also extends to children born, or legally adopted after the transition period ends. This means the rights of children born and adopted after Brexit could be affected. 

The UDI added that there could be other rights that could be affected that it wasn’t yet aware of.

“There could be other rights in other fields of law that will be affected since the SA also covers other areas of law that we do not have an overview over,” Gilleberg explained.

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How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired if the person has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge. 

The EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment and self-employment or education. In addition, EU long-term residence grants the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

READ ALSO: Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

Around 3.1 million third-country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.