Under the withdrawal agreement, all UK citizens, including those with a permanent right of EU residence in Finland, must exchange the previous document for a residence permit card.

Photograph: Vaughan Leiberum/Flickr

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 withdrawal agreement states that these persons have the right to exchange their previous right of residence for a new one. “In Finland,” the Ministry of the Interior noted in a news release on Tuesday, “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 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.

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.

The period of application for the right of residence under the withdrawal agreement began on October 1, 2020, and will continue until September 30, 2021.

The new uniform interpretation will clarify the position of the UK citizens living in Finland in the future, as everyone will have a new residence permit card.

“We apologize for the previous incorrect instructions,” the ministry noted and added that “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.”

According to the ministry, it will assess any need for changes that may come up later.