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WORK PERMITS

Manpower shortage leads to work permit delays

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.

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

In the new work permit law which comes into force on June 1st, Sweden is launching a new nine-month 'talent visa', which will allow “some highly qualified individuals” to get temporary residency while they look for jobs or plan to launch a business. What do we know so far?

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

When was the law passed and when does it come into force? 

The parliament passed the new law on April 21st, and the final text of the change in the law was published on May 5th. It will come into force on June 1st. 

What does the new law say about the ‘talent visa’? 

It says that “in certain cases”, a temporary residency permit can be granted to a foreigner who wants to “spend time in the country to look for work or to look into the possibility of starting a business”. 

To qualify the applicant must: 

  • have completed studies equivalent to an advanced level degree 
  • have sufficient means to support themselves during their stay and to cover the cost of their return trip 
  • have fully comprehensive health insurance which is valid in Sweden 

How long can people initially stay in Sweden under the talent visa? 

The residency permit will be valid for a maximum of nine months.

Which agency will assess applications for the talent visa? 

The government has decided that applications should be assessed by the Migration Agency. The Migration Agency will publish more details on the requirements, such as what qualifies as an advanced degree, what documents need to be submitted, and how much capital applicants will need to show they can support themselves, in the coming weeks. 

The Migration Agency is also likely to develop a form for those wishing to apply for the talent visa. 

What level of education is necessary? 

What is meant by an “advanced degree” has not been set ou in the law, but according to Karl Rahm, who has helped draw up the law within the Ministry of Justice, a master’s degree (MA or MSc), should be sufficient. 

How much capital will applicants need to show that they have? 

According to Rahm, the amount of money applicants will need to show that they have is likely to be set at the same level as the minimum salary for those applying for a work permit, which is currently 13,000 kronor a month. If he is right, this means that someone applying for a nine-month visa would have to show that they have 117,000 kronor (€11,259) in saved capital, plus extra for their trip back to their home country.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

Can applicants bring children and spouses? 

“You will not be able to bring your family with this kind of visa, since the idea is that it’s for a relatively limited amount of time,  just to see if there is employment for you, or if there is a chance of starting a business,” says Elin Jansson, deputy director at the Ministry of Justice, who helped work on the new visa. “And if you do decide to stay in Sweden, then you apply for a regular work permit for starting up a business, and then you can bring your family.” 

Where will detailed information on the requirements for a talent visa be published? 

The Migration Agency will publish detailed requirements on the talent visa on its Working in Sweden page when the law starts to apply on June 1st. 

What is the reason for the talent visa? 

Those searching for a job or researching starting a new business in Sweden can already stay for up to 90 days with a normal Schengen visa. The idea behind the talent visa is to give highly educated foreigners a little longer to decide if they want to find a job or set up a business in the country before they need to go the whole way and launch a company. 

How many people are expected to apply? 

In the government inquiry on the new work permit law, experts estimated that about 500 people would apply for the new talent visa each year, but it could end up being either much more, or less. 

“It’s really hard to tell. There could be a really big demand. I don’t think it’s anyone can really say before this comes into effect,” Jansson said. 

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