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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. 

Member comments

  1. As a regular traveler for business who always presents my residency card I would say my passport is stamped more than it is not. At the border tonight the police officer looked for my exit stamp from yesterday for 5 mins before stamping it again for entry! I now have over 30 Norwegian stamps in my passport! I am going to run out of space soon and have to get a new one! It is even more infuriating when I travel to London a lot and Norwegian passport holders can use the E gates in the U.K.!

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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