'Swedish work-visa window too narrow'

The Local
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'Swedish work-visa window too narrow'

Since 2008, migrants to Sweden can swap course from seeking asylum to seeking a work visa with the help of a Swedish employer. The Local speaks to one migrant who praises the system, while saying it could be improved.


Safaa Badij Abdulwahid, 42, first applied for asylum when he came to Sweden in 2007. It was rejected, but Abdulwahid became one of a few thousands migrants since Sweden's labour migration reform in 2008 who first applied for asylum, and then chose the work-visa route.

"Finding a job and getting a work permit is better than seeking asylum," he told The Local.

He advised other would-be migrants to opt for a job solution if possible before entering into the asylum process, which Abdulwahid described as "taxing and long", but added that he in any case would always prefer being employed.

"Working makes you feel like a human, you feel independent," Abdulwahid said. He was joined by his wife and two children, aged eight and 14, in 2010.

On Thursday, the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) published a report entitled New Route (Ny väg), in which researchers said there was not enough information among people pondering a move to Sweden about the opportunities to reside here on a work visa.

Abdulwahib praised the Swedish system that now allows migrants to swap course in their application to stay in Sweden without having to return to their country of origin.

In Abdulwahid's case, being made to apply for his papers from abroad would have been troublesome, as Sweden's embassy in Baghdad is not open to the public.

"I avoided a lot of complications, partly because I would have had to have gone to a third country to file my work-visa application," he said.

Yet he would ideally like to see further reform, as the two-week window between a rejected asylum application and the deadline for filing work-visa papers from Sweden is in his view too narrow.

"I panicked when my asylum was denied because I only had two weeks. I think they should widen the window to two months," Abdulwahid said.

He welcomed the Migration Board's plans to improve communication about the possibilities of labour migration to Sweden, partly because it could undercut the market for traffickers.

"I think the smugglers will shut shop if more people apply for work visas rather than asylum."

Ann Törnkvist

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