The EU Rights Clinic has again referred Sweden to the European Commission for its failure to abide by EU law.
In a second complaint to be filed against Sweden in under a year, this case relates to the failure of the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) to issue residence cards to non-EU family members of EU citizens within the deadline of 6 months laid down by EU law.
The evidence collated by the EU Rights Clinic and its partner Crossroads in Göteborg shows that it can takes up to two years for the Migrationsverket to process such applications for residence cards submitted by non-EU family members of EU citizens.
The delay in issuing residence cards is affecting the ability of non-EU family members to lead a normal life in Sweden. The affected family members cannot prove their right to work, they are unable to leave Sweden while awaiting their residence card, and the state of uncertainty caused by excessive delays is leading many to anxiety and even depression.
In previous cases involving similar delays in processing applications in Ireland, Spain and the UK, the Commission opened official infringement cases against these Member States, which eventually led those countries to take the necessary measures to comply with the six-month deadline.
The EU Rights Clinic is urging the Commission to take similar robust enforcement action against Sweden, including launching formal infringement proceedings before the EU Court of Justice in the event Sweden fails to take swift action to remedy the situation.
You can read our executive summary of the complaint.
If you or your family member have suffered similar delays in obtaining your residence cards, or if you would like to lend your support to the EU Rights Clinic’s complaint, please let us know using the following form.
The EU Rights Clinic is a collaboration between ECAS and the University of Kent in Brussels. As part of the ACT for Free Movement project, funded by EPIM, the EU Rights Clinic is investigating breaches of free movement rights in EU Member States. This complaint was submitted in cooperation with Crossroads of the Göteborgs Kyrkliga Stadsmission. Together, the EU Rights Clinic and Crossroads Göteborg have received 20 complaints from affected EU citizens and their family members.
- According to EC Directive 2004/38, EU citizens and their family members – whatever their nationality – have a right to reside in any EU country. Where family members do not possess the nationality of an EU country, they are required to apply for a residence card. This residence document should be issued to them within a deadline of six months which is set by EU law and also contained in Swedish law.
- The delays in issuing residence documents to family members is made apparent on the website of the Migrationsverket, which contains information on the average time it takes for applications for residence documentation to be processed. The website confirms that it can take anywhere between 16 to 24 months for the Migrationsverket to take a decision on applications for residence cards made non-EU family member of a EU citizen.
- The evidence collated by the EU Rights Clinic and its partner Crossroads of the Göteborgs Kyrkliga Stadsmission illustrates the systematic failure of the Migrationsverket to meet the six-month deadline in respect of any kind of application for residence documentation made by non-EU family members. The delays have been reported in several publications since 2013.
- The obligation to issue residence cards and permanent residence cards to non-EU family members within six months is contained in Articles 10 and 20 of EC Directive 2004/38. These obligations have been correctly transposed by Swedish law, as stated in Chapter 3a Section 7 of the Swedish Alien Ordinance (Utlänningsförordning 2006:97). However mere transposition into national law is not sufficient for meeting an obligation to implement a directive under EU law; the objective prescribed must be met both in law and in fact.
- In a case involving delays in Spain in 2003, the Commission brought infringement proceedings before the Court of Justice which resulted in a ruling by the Court that the Spanish authorities had failed to fulfil their obligations under EU law (Case C-157/03).
- More recently, in 2009 and 2011, the Commission launched formal infringement proceedings concerning extensive delays in the issuance of residence documentation by the Irish and UK authorities. The Commission’s actions resulted in the elimination by the UK and Irish authorities of delays in processing applications for residence documents submitted by EU citizens and their families. Following the Commission’s intervention, the UK authorities put in place a comprehensive plan to reduce the backlog of cases, including the significant expansion of the number of caseworkers allocated to handle EU residence applications, as a result of which the time for handling new applications was returned to the appropriate six-month deadline required by Directive 2004/38.