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‘I don’t think anybody wants treaty change now’

The refugee crisis and Brexit were top of the agenda when Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven held talks with his UK counterpart David Cameron on an official visit to London.

'I don't think anybody wants treaty change now'
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and the UK's David Cameron. Photo: AP Photo/Tim Ireland

The discussions came at a crucial time for both nations regarding foreign policy. Sweden is currently campaigning for other EU member states – including the UK – to take in a greater share of refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile Britain is seeking support for its negotiation for treaty change with the European Union. 

But Löfven, who heads up Sweden's ruling centre-left Social Democrat-Green coalition, suggested that right-wing Conservative leader Cameron should not count on the Nordic country's backing during a precarious time for the union as it continues to tackle the refugee crisis.

Speaking to international media after the meeting late on Monday – after his plane from Stockholm was delayed due to fog in London – the Swedish premier said he hoped the UK would remain within the EU, but advised against radical legislative action.

“I don't think anybody wants treaty change right now. (…) I see that as a very difficult issue and you have to find other technical solutions to handle those kinds of issues,” Löfven told Sky News.


David Cameron and Stefan Löfven outside 10 Downing Street. Photo: AP Photo/Tim Ireland

Last month the UK's Finance Minister George Osborne visited Stockholm as part of his efforts to drum up support for the idea that Britain should be allowed to renegotiate its relationship with the other 27 member states, before UK voters are given the chance to decide whether to remain 'in or out' of the European Union.

But Löfven was reluctant to offer Swedish support for the scheme on Monday.

“I cannot see a country that wants to go into a process of treaty change, not least because of the issue with the refugee crisis,” he told Sky News.

READ ALSO: 'Serious blow' to the EU if Britain leaves

Up to 190,000 people are expected to seek asylum in Sweden in 2015 and while Löfven has praised his country's response to the crisis he has warned that it is “approaching the limit” of its reception capacity.

The UK, on the other hand, has chosen to not be part of the EU's common asylum policies, with Cameron's government saying it would be able to accept 20,000 Syrians in the coming five years – the number of asylum applications Sweden receives in a month.

Swedish ministers have previously blasted EU member states for not doing enough to ease the burden on Sweden and other nations such as Germany taking in unprecedented numbers of refugees, but Löfven refrained from criticizing his host country on Monday.

“All EU countries must take their responsibility and we need a completely new redistribution system within the EU,” Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter quoted Löfven as saying after the meeting.

“[Cameron] said that the country does its part outside of the redistribution system and that they are accepting a few thousands. That's what the UK insists and continues to insist,” he said.

Stefan Löfven also met with the UK's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn during his visit.

For members

WORK PERMITS

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years. 

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