The Government of Finland has had to rectify its messages to British citizens regarding their obligation to register for the right of residence after Brexit.
"The European Commission has pointed out that the EU-UK withdrawal agreement has been partially misinterpreted in Finland. Under the withdrawal agreement, all UK citizens, including those who have a document certifying a permanent right of EU residence in Finland, must exchange that document for a residence permit card," the Ministry of the Interior pointed out on Monday 2 November in a press release.
The withdrawal agreement states that these persons have the right to exchange their previous right of residence for a new one.
In Finland, this right was initially interpreted as a recommendation rather than an obligation. However, the Commission has sent a clear message that all UK citizens must apply for a new status under the withdrawal agreement in order to retain their rights under the agreement in Finland.
Until now, the Ministry of the Interior and the Finnish Immigration Service have already strongly recommended that all UK citizens apply for a new status because the right of residence under the withdrawal agreement will make it easier to go about their business in Finland and at the Schengen external border.
Apply until end of September 2021
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the application for a right of residence under the withdrawal agreement is free of charge for those who have a document certifying a previous permanent right of residence in the EU.
There is still plenty of time to submit the application. The period of application began on 1 October 2020 and will run until 30 September 2021.
"The new uniform interpretation will clarify the position of the UK citizens living in Finland in future, as everyone will have a new residence permit card. We apologise for the previous incorrect instructions," the Interior Ministry added.
Finland's earlier interpretation is evident from the rationale of the legislative proposal concerning the residence rights of UK citizens, but it is not laid down in the act itself. Therefore, the act does not necessarily need to be amended. The Ministry of the Interior will assess any need for changes that may come up later.