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IMMIGRATION

New demands for immigrant families

Before bringing their families to Sweden, newly arrived immigrants must first demonstrate they have housing and disposable income, according to a new proposal.

A government commission looking into the requirement immigrants must fulfill before sending for their families suggests they must have secure housing and at least 5,000 kronor ($620) a month left over after making their rent.

The commission was launched in February and according to prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, the new rules are a way of strengthening Sweden’s employment policies.

At the same time, the government wants to show that “those who point to the downside of multiculturalism aren’t answered by an attempt to cover up problems but rather with measures for making improvements,” Reinfeldt said in Feburary at a press conference in Landskrona announcing the plan.

But critics from the opposition as well as immigrants’ and refugees’ rights groups immediately condemned the proposal.

Relatives of immigrants make up more than half of those who receive Swedish residence permits through Sweden’s asylum system, and officials from particularly popular towns like Malmö, Gothenburg, and Södertälje, have complained for years about the extremely cramped housing conditions for new immigrants.

Today, Sweden and Belgium are the only EU countries which don’t place self-sufficiency requirements on immigrants before allowing them to seek residency for their families.

Uppsala judge Erik Lempert, who led the inquiry, plans to present the commission’s suggestions on December 1st.

According to TT, he has concluded that the person who receives a Swedish residency permit would only be required to demonstrate a capacity to support him – or herself, but not an entire family.

The proposal also includes several exceptions.

Minors granted residency permits would not be bound by the requirements, for example, nor would those who have been granted asylum and have met the legal definition of being a refugee.

Also excepted from the requirements are those who are granted residency in Sweden for protective reasons, specifically those who are seen to have “well-grounded fears” for being subject to torture or suffering in a war in their home country.

However, those who are allowed to stay as a result of a natural disaster, as well as those with “special unnamed circumstances” must abide by the income and housing demands before being allowed to bring their families to Sweden, according to the commission’s proposal.

For members

WORK PERMITS

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Many foreigners living in Sweden need to have a residence permit to live in the country legally. Permits are issued for two years at a time and can be renewed 30 days before expiry, at the earliest. But with waiting times exceeding 8 months for many applicants, just what are your rights while you wait to hear back?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Can I keep working in Sweden?

It depends. If you have a residence permit which allows you to work in Sweden, have held that residence permit for at least six months and apply for an extension before your old permit expires, you still have the right to work in Sweden while you wait for the Migration Agency to make a decision on your permit application.

You can apply for a new residence permit 30 days before your old permit expires, at the earliest, and you can’t get a new residence permit before your old one has run out.

Can I leave Sweden?

Technically you can, but it might not be a good idea. This is due to the fact that if you leave Sweden after your residence permit has expired, it can be difficult to enter Sweden again before your new permit is granted, even if you can prove that you’ve applied for a new one.

In the worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to Sweden at the border and forced to wait in another country until your new residence permit is granted. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in some cases, apply for a national visa allowing you to re-enter Sweden. These are only granted under exceptional circumstances, and must be applied for at a Swedish embassy or general consulate in the country you are staying in. If you are not granted a national visa to re-enter Sweden, you can’t appeal the decision, meaning you’ll have to wait until your residence permit is approved before you can re-enter Sweden.

The Migration Agency writes on its website that you should only leave Sweden while your application is being processed “in exceptional cases, and if you really have to”.

It lists some examples of exceptional cases as “sudden illness, death in the family or important work-related assignments”, adding that you may need to provide proof of your reason for travelling to the embassy when you apply for a national visa to re-enter Sweden.

What if I come from a visa-free country?

If you come from a visa-free country, you are able to re-enter Sweden without needing a visa, but you may run into issues anyway, as visa-free non-EU citizens entering Schengen are only allowed to stay in the bloc for 90 days in every 180 before a visa is required.

If you are a member of this group and you stay in Schengen for longer than 90 days without a visa, you could be labelled an “overstayer”, which can cause issues entering other countries, as well as applying for a visa or residence permit in the future.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “a visa-free person waiting for a decision in their extension application can leave Sweden and return, as long as they have visa-free days left to use”.

“However, an extension application usually requires the individual to be located in Sweden,” the Agency wrote. “Travelling abroad can, in some cases, have an effect on the decision whether to extend a residence permit or not, in a way which is negative for the applicant, but this decision is made on an individual case basis (it’s not possible to say a general rule).”

“The right to travel into the Schengen area for short visits is not affected, as long as the person still has visa-free days left.”

The Local has contacted the Migration Agency to clarify whether days spent in Sweden count towards the 90-day limit, and will update this article accordingly once we receive a response.

Does this apply to me if I have a permanent residence permit?

No. This only applies to people in Sweden holding temporary residence permits. If you have a permanent residence permit and your residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort or UT-kort) expires, you just need to book an appointment at the Migration Agency to have your picture and fingerprints taken for a new card.

How long is the processing time for residence permit renewals?

It varies. For people renewing a residence permit to live with someone in Sweden, for example, the Migration Agency states that 75 percent of recent cases received an answer within eight months.

For work permit extensions, it varies. In some branches, 75 percent of applicants received a response after 17 months, others only had to wait five.

This means that some people waiting to extend their residence permits could be discouraged from leaving Sweden for almost a year and a half, unless they are facing “exceptional circumstances”.

You can see how long it is likely to take in your case here.

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