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Manpower shortage leads to work permit delays

Published: 08 Jun 2011 10:45 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Jun 2011 10:45 GMT+02:00

Many Swedish companies are in need of foreign workers and the interest in working in Sweden is great, but the agency that deal with issuing their work permits, the Migration Board (Migrationsverket), has been struggling to keep up with the demand.

According to Alejandro Firpo, who headed the agency's work permit unit until his recent promotion, the agency was over-staffed when it was launched in 2008 following the introduction of new labour migration rules.

“We had expected more applications but because of the financial crisis that followed we didn’t receive as many as we had estimated,“ Firpo told The Local.

However, as the financial climate stabilised, the agency started receiving an increasing number of applications.

By 2010, however, the Migration Board was hit by an “explosive” rise in applications.

“It seems that more people found out about the law and we simply couldn’t keep up with the demand,” Firpo said.

The new rules from 2008 stipulated that individual employers rather than the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) decide whether there is a need to recruit foreign workers.

Under the new rules, immigrants are also able to receive an extended work permit for a maximum of four years, after which they can qualify for a permanent residence permit.

But delays in the processing times are causing grumbles among companies that need their staff faster than permits can be issued.

Sadek Yildic runs a recruitment agency supplying staff to catering companies specialising in foreign delicacies.

“We currently have 22 workers that have applied for a permit but are waiting for an answer. We are losing customers, time is ticking away and time is money,“ Yildic told news agency TT.

His lawyer Jan Axelsson, who has handled applications from more than 40 people from outside the EU, is also critical of the system.

“It’s completely useless. Imagine being offered a job and find yourself forced to tell your prospective employer: ‘Yes, I’ll be there. In 6 months’,” he said to TT.

But according to Firpo the delays are a thing of the past, the agency is managing to meet their targets despite a continuing increase in applications.

“Since last year we have a 40 percent rise in applications, but as it is looking right now we are getting more and more efficient,” he said.

Since 2010, the agency has both reshuffled their exiting resources and hired more officers to deal with work permits.

Firpo understands that companies need their workers fast but pointed out that delays often are due to incomplete applications rather than agency inefficiency.

When news agency TT told Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, he expressed concerns about the lengthy processing times for Swedish work permits.

“Of course we hoped that this wouldn’t happen. We want this to be a non-bureaucratic and efficient system and we tend to recommend electronic applications,” he told TT.

Reinfeldt also pointed out that despite delays, he is of the opinion that the system is working well and that several thousand foreign workers so far have arrived in Sweden.

And according to Firpo it is the paper applications that take a long time to process.

“If it drags out, there is generally a good reason,” Firpo said.

A paper application has to be handled by the Swedish embassy in a given country before it reaches the Migration Board, a process which in itself can take several months.

If the application turns out to be incomplete, officers have to start tracking down the right people, as the board can’t approve an application without all the relevant information.

“But when it comes down to electronic applications we are back on track – it is a question of days and weeks from when an application is received to when the permit is issued,“ Firpo told The Local.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:40 June 8, 2011 by swedejane
Typical swedish bureaucracy...with all due respect. I've gone through the Kafka-esque swedish paper maze many times, and am always astounded at the complete absence of rational and logical thought I can come up against. It seriously makes most of the US processes look downright efficient and 21st century, which is a real feat. And may god have mercy on you if you don't have an effing personal number...you know, because you're not from here and their own migration rules state you can't be issued a personal number unless you have a 1 year visa to be here. But of course, try getting a 1 year visa without a job and a 100,000sek in the bank. It amazes me that in a country that thinks of itself as so modern, they see no problem with their heavily dependent paper form system. Weird.
14:13 June 8, 2011 by Syftfel
Funny. There is shortage of manpower to issue work visas to needed qualified workers. There appears to be no such shortage in the Asylum Division, or the Family Reunification Division.
14:50 June 8, 2011 by crocadoodledoo
I do not understand swedish bureaucracy, especially when the employer is a swedish company or a university..i am an international phd student employed by KTH. PhD is normally a 5 year programme as we are expected to teach as well. Why cant these migrationsverket ppl issue university employed phd students a residence permit for 4 years to start with ?!.. Students like me have to get their residence permit renewed every year. That itself is a pain in the a$$. To add to the misery, they now take 4 months to process your visa (which is only granted for 1 year at a time). And they dont process it before your visa ends, so you are stuck here in sweden (often overstaying your visa for atleast a couple of months) and cant even make plans to go home/outside sweden lest you cant come back to work in case your current visa ends before your return date. The whole residence permit extrension process is harrowing, inhuman and completely unnecessary.
16:35 June 8, 2011 by johnny1939
It is indeed a scandal. Here we are w/ people ready and willing to work and nobody w/ any sense to help them to do so quickly. As a Swede I cannot understand what the hell is going on?? Maybe to many coffee breaks or time off for whatever? I have also heard that immigrants that are ready and willing to work and get ahead are not allowed to do so for strange and complicated reasons. This is not something new this has been going on as long as I can remember. It is a joke if it was not such a serious matter. Shape up people!!!
18:32 June 8, 2011 by teknowaffle
Here is a new one for people applying for residence permits. (I am an American btw with a Swedish wife)

I applied for my 2 year residence permit to move to Sweden in January.

Recently, (May 20th) the EU required a switchover to biometric cards that contain a chip with photo and fingerprints. My decision was made a couple of business days after to grant me permanent residence, but they hadn't taken my finger prints. I figure, no problem, get them done at the consulate in nearby San Francisco, or a local police station, and send them in.

Nope, I would have to fly out to the Embassy in Washington D.C to get them done, as will apparently any person applying to get a residence permit.

I suppose it will cut down on the number of applications.
19:56 June 8, 2011 by Iraniboy
I think waiting for 6 months for a job permit in unreasonable. But now that less non-EU students come to Sweden they can allocate staff to Work Permit units instead, so what's the problem?
21:10 June 8, 2011 by kenny8076
My visa expires on the 12th of this month. Me and my girlfriend mailed everything in about 2 months ago..... hadnt heard ANYTHING from anyone, so my girlfriend called a couple days ago and they said it would be a few weeks.... they are "flooded".... lol Swedes kill me when it comes to work..... Flooded?! baahahaha.... that's all i did was laugh when my girl told me that......
02:06 June 9, 2011 by ronneby
Absolutely Swedish bureaucracy. I had to wait for atleast 4 months because the case officer has requested for additional documents a day before her summer vacation for two months, and when i submitted, no one else at the migrationverket are allowed to take up the case, since it was already taken by some one.

And the head of Workpermit department replied "I understand everything, but unfortunately, it is the system and all you can do now is to wait!!!"
16:20 June 9, 2011 by gorgepir
Maybe if the idiots at Migrationsverket would not require me to extend my phd visa every year (which can only be done one month before and takes 4 months) they would have more time to do other stuff.

Talk about incompetence.
16:40 June 10, 2011 by Mark S.
Maybe the Migration Board should hire some foreign workers to help out.

The only way it can take several months to process the paperwork is if nobody is working on it. Yes, sometimes nobody is working on it because they are waiting for information from some other source, but a little transparency into the process would at least help the potential immigrants understand.

For example, what exactly is the embassy doing with the application for "several months"? Are they sending private investigators out to check the veracity of your statements? Or is it just sitting in a drawer because they only work on the papers 1 day a month?
12:59 June 15, 2011 by astra2thor6
Unemployment has risen to its highest level for a decade. Unemployment amongst "invandrare" is significantly higher than for Swedish born. Why cannot the currently unemployed be used to fill these empty vacancies?

In many countries in which I've lived diplomas, certificates, and even degrees can be purchased without education. Do those prospective employers verify the authenticity of foreign would-be employees?

Re "teknowaffle" comments above, "Have you ever applied to become an American citiizen (with an American wife)?" Now there's real bureaucracy at work!
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