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BREXIT

Why are British residents’ passports being stamped at Norway’s border?

British residents in Norway are having their passports stamped by border police, even if they present their residence cards. So, why is it happening, and what does it mean if your passport is stamped? 

Why are British residents' passports being stamped at Norway's border?
British residents have had their passports stamped by border officials despite presenting their residence cards at the border. Pictured is street sign reading "Norway" in both Norwegian and Swedish languages on the old bridge of Svinesund, Sweden, on May 1, 202 Photo by Petter Bernsten / AFP

Due to Brexit, Brits are no longer EU citizens, meaning there are new rules in place for crossing the border between the UK and Norway, which means some people will need to have their passports stamped, while others won’t. 

Who needs to get their passport stamped? 

British tourists and visitors in Norway will typically need to have their passports stamped by border police on entry and exit to help the authorities keep track of the length of their stay. 

This is because Brits who do not have residency are limited to stays of up to 90 days every 180 within the Schengen zone, of which Norway is a member, and stamps help keep track of this. 

However, an electronic system also keeps track of this, meaning you don’t get to stay longer if you don’t get stamped. 

Who shouldn’t be stamped? 

British nationals who are legal residents of Norway and can prove their residency at the border are exempt from being stamped. 

Residency cards are one, and probably the most common, way that residents can prove their residence. 

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has also previously advised that the receipt for a submitted residence application can be a suitable alternative for those still waiting for residence cards. 

Last year, the UDI told The Local that these receipts could be used as proof until July 1st 2022

What’s the issue? 

Brits in Norway are still having their passports stamped, even when presenting proof of residence. This can make it look as if they may be overstaying the limit put on Schengen visits post-Brexit. 

To make matters worse, many residents feel that the rules are being applied inconsistently, and that it can be a lucky dip over whether they are stamped or not. 

A number of British nationals who live in the Scandinavian country have been in touch and shared their experiences of having their passports stamped at the border—even more shared their experiences on social media.

“I have recently travelled a few times, and pretty much every time, it is a different story, and it seems to depend on the individual at the border control at the time. It would appear that they have not been given clear guidelines as some of them stamp it, and some of them do not stamp,” Rebwar, who lives in Norway and has travelled from the UK into Oslo Gardermoen at least four times since last summer, told The Local. 

It wasn’t just an issue affecting travellers passing through Gardermoen. Douglas, who travelled through Bergen on route to Aberdeen, also had his travel document stamped. 

“On a recent trip from Oslo, but this occurred in Bergen as I changed there for Aberdeen, they stamped my passport to leave Schengen despite me showing the card. A very friendly guy (at the border) said he didn’t know (whether it should be stamped), so he would just do it to be sure. This is incorrect as it now looks like I left Schengen 6 months ago and haven’t been back as they didn’t stamp it on the way in. I went home for a weekend,” he said. 

Another Brit in Norway, Andrew, said that they’ve had their passport stamped when there was initially confusion about the impact of Brexit at European borders, but also as recently as March. 

READ ALSO: How many Brits in Norway have applied for post-Brexit residency?

Why are residents having their passports stamped? 

The Norwegian Police Directorate, responsible for police at Norway’s borders, told The Local that border officers stamped passports as a precaution if they were unsure of the proper procedure. 

“As Norway is a Schengen Associated Country, the common rules for border checks following the Schengen acquis are applicable for the checks carried out at Norwegian Border Crossing Points, and stamping of passports follows the rules set out by the EU Commission. This implies that passports presented by UK nationals should not be stamped if proof is shown that the UK national is beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). However, if the border guard is in doubt, passports should be stamped,” The directorate said to The Local in a statement. 

The statement also added UK nationals should “bring the appropriate documentation when crossing the border”. 

What makes this frustrating for British residents who’ve been stamped is that they have presented the correct documentation and explained why they shouldn’t have their travel document marked, only for it to be stamped anyway. 

“I’ve been through passport control on many occasions – sometimes they stamp, sometimes they don’t. I always show my residence card! I’ve tried to argue when they try to stamp – but they never listen,” Nigel got in touch with The Local to say. 

“On one occasion, I was travelling with my British wife – She was stamped, I was not. We used different passport desks. On another occasion, my wife argued with the passport officer – who asked her colleague. The colleague said, ‘of course you don’t stamp’. The training/information/routines are not consistent. I’ve mentioned this to the UK embassy… the last I heard, they were planning a visit to Gardermoen,” Nigel added. 

Is it a problem to have your passport incorrectly stamped? 

Other than cluttering up the pages of your passport, is this a problem? 

British embassies around Europe say no. Your right of residence proved via your card will trump a passport stamp should any questions or problems arise. 

The UK government’s website, that issues advice for living in Norway, also says that passport stamping shouldn’t be an issue

“If a passport is stamped, the stamp is considered null and void when you can show evidence of lawful residence,” the governemnt have said on its website. 

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EUROPEAN UNION

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.

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