The Myth of European Mobility

The Europe concept was sold to the masses on the premise it would allow them to live and work in any European country with no or little restrictions, and thus, experience full mobility throughout a united European Union. With growing non-European immigration throughout Europe, we wanted to know how easy it actually is for a European to establish residency in another European country.

So we put it to the test. 10 guys holding EU/EEA citizenships in Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Spain and the U.K. sought to establish residency in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway. For the sake of clarity, we define "residency" as the ability to freely live, work, and be part of society in a host country.

The legal basis for residency is outlined in EU Legislation, namely, Directive on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, and Right to move and reside freely within the EU.

Overall, the majority of our guys, holding European passports, and thus, all Europeans, were not able to establish residency in most other European countries, with the exception of Nordic nationals who were usually able to establish residency in Nordic countries relatively easily (with the exception of Norway). 

Here's a breakdown per country.


Belgium

All of our guys registered at the local maison communale/gemeentehuis (town hall) providing passport, proof of funds and employment, proof of housing, and proof of healthcare insurance. They were advised that the Belgian Immigration Office would render a decision within 6 months.

After 12 months, they still hadn't received a decision from the Belgian Immigration Office. In the meantime, they were unable to even get electricity in the house they had rented without proving their were Belgian residents.

Belgian authorities did not provide any service in English, and were reluctant to provide services in French, although it is an official language.

Ultimately, none of our 10 guys were able to establish residency in Belgium.

Denmark

The guys who were not Nordic nationals applied for a registration certificate with Statsforvaltningen (State Administration) providing passport, proof of funds and employment, proof of housing, and proof of healthcare insurance. They all eventually received a registration certificate. The guys who were Nordic citizens were not subjected to this step. 

The next step involved getting a CPR (Det Centrale Personregister), or a Danish ID number, essential to operate in Denmark, and required for most day-to-day life activities, from opening a bank account, to acquiring property, to buying a vehicle or even being able to see a doctor. Application for a CPR was made with local municipality of residence as per procedures.

Only 4 of our guys (including 3 Nordic nationals) were issued a CPR. The remaining 6 guys never obtained a CPR, under various dubious excuses, without ever receiving a formal refusal. The guys without a CPR were not able to open a bank account, purchase property or a vehicle, get utilities to their accommodations, or even buy a cell phone.

Danish authorities provided limited services in English.

At the end of the day, only 4 of our guys were able to establish residency in Denmark.

France

All of our guys registered at the mairie (town hall) in their place of residence, providing passport and proof of housing. They were issued an attestation d’enregistrement (registration certificate) with no issues.

They then applied for a numéro de sécurité sociale (social security number) at the local Caisse Primaire de l'Assurance Maladie (CPAM), which they all received within a few days, together with healthcare.

French authorities tried their best to provide services in English.

All 10 of our guys were able to establish residency in France.

Germany

All of our guys registered at the local Bürgeramt (local residency office), providing passport and proof of housing. They were issued a Meldebestätigung (certificate of registration) with no issues. They also later received in the mail an IdNr (steuerliche Identifikationsnummer) without further requests or procedures. 

German authorities were not able to provide services in English.

All 10 of our guys were able to establish residency in Germany.

Sweden

In Sweden, there was no need to register or contact the Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Authority). Believing you were entitled to live and work in Sweden as an EU/EEA national was good enough. 

Getting a personnummer (personal identity number) with Skatteverket (Swedish Tax Agency) was a different story, however. Non-Nordic nationals submitted their passport, proof of work/fund, and proof of health insurance, while the Nordic nationals only had to provide ID. Only 4 of our guys (including 2 Nordic nationals) got registration in Folkbokföring (Swedish population register). Remaining guys never received a personnummer, nor a letter of refusal, and their queries for clarifications were ignored.

As with other Nordic countries, guys without the personnummer were unable to obtain any basic service in Sweden, including opening a bank account or getting heat or electricity.

Swedish authorities provided service in English.

Only 4 of our guys were able to establish residency in Sweden.

Norway

The guys who were not Nordic nationals were required to apply for registration with the local police at their place of residence within 3 months of arrival in Norway. In several locations, appointments to apply for registration were not available for more than 3 months. Two of the guys who waited for an appointment to register were informed they had broken the law by not registering earlier (which they could not have done as there was no appointment available), were not issued a registration certificate, and were ordered to leave Norway. Other guys selectively established residency in an area with either available appointments, or walk-in options for registration, and were issued Registreringsbevis (registration certificates), albeit, reluctantly. 

Next step was applying for a fødselsnummer (Norway's national ID) with Skatteetaten (Norwegian Tax Office), providing passport, proof of funds and employment, proof of accommodations for at least 6 months, and various documents as randomly requested by government officials. Our guys were repeatedly sent from one office to another, with the previous office claiming registration was only possible in a different office. 

Only 2 of our guys, both Nordic nationals, received a fødselsnummer. The rest of the guys received letters questioning how long they would stay in Norway, how often they would travel and visit family abroad, questions about the validity and format of documents provided, and they were not issued a fødselsnummer. Letters were also sent to them to incomplete addresses in 4 instances, while requiring response within 14 days, in Norwegian only. 

As typical in Nordic countries, guys without fødselsnummer could not even obtain a cell phone, bank account, or vehicle in Norway.

Norwegian authorities provided services in English, with the exception of written communications with Skatteetaten that were only provided in Norwegian.

Ultimately, only 2 of our guys, both Nordic nationals, were able to establish residency in Norway. It is noteworthy that one Nordic national (Danish) was not able to establish residency in Norway.


Conclusions

With the exception of France and Germany, majority of our guys were effectively denied residency in other EEA countries. Including a Nordic national in Norway.

Nordic countries also never provided a direct refusal, but instead, would not issue a national ID number (required to operate in any Nordic country) for dubious reasons, when any reason at all was provided, making any legal challenge particularly difficult. 

Norway also had the peculiarity to not provide the ability to fulfill registration requirements under current legislation, forcing applicants to break the law, and therefore having an insidious legal justification for denying them residency.

While we could not assess the residency process for non-European migrants, we note that non-European migrant population in cities such as Oslo has reached 25% of the population, and is higher in other areas such as Stockholm.

We therefore conclude that the countries assessed, with the exception of France and Germany, had a bias against native Europeans who are entitled to residency under European legislation, privileging instead non-European migrants, who have no residency entitlement under European or local law.

Þór Þórðarson

Reykjavík, Iceland