This is how long you have to wait for Swedish work permits

But the Migration Agency's long waiting times for work permits may be on their way down, The Local has been told.

This is how long you have to wait for Swedish work permits
Migration Agency offices in Sweden. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

According to median figures provided by the Migration Agency to The Local, in the second half of October employed foreigners waited 121 days for a decision to renew their work permit, compared to 49 days for first-time applicants (scroll down for more statistics).

“We do a more extensive check when they reapply,” Erik Holmgren, interim head of the Migration Agency's work permit unit in Stockholm, told The Local when asked to explain the reason behind the difference.

“In autumn 2015 the procedure changed, because of court decisions, so we now have to make sure that the conditions under which the first permit was granted were met when you apply for an extension.”

The change in procedure is one of several reasons explaining why waiting times have risen sharply in the past few years. In 2015 a foreign worker had to wait 95 days for a renewed permit, compared to 33 days in 2010. First-time applicants faced a median wait of 40 days last year and 18 days six years ago.

Those working as IT architects or system developers waited around 12 days for a decision on their first permit and 18 days for renewed permits. They now face a median wait of 24 respectively 73 days.

The Migration Agency does not disclose the shortest or longest waiting times, because they “could be down to misregistrations”, a spokesperson told The Local. However, according to its own website it could in some cases take over 24 months.

Work permits are granted for up to two years at a time, after which holders have to apply for an extension. But the long waits are in some cases leaving workers in limbo without a permit at all, unable to leave Sweden in the meantime to travel abroad for work or visit family back home.

“It is a process, and it is of course also important to us to reduce waiting times. We're working on spreading information to make it easier for those who apply,” said Holmgren.

As The Local has previously reported, another reason behind the long waits is a backlog of cases from last autumn's refugee crisis when Sweden received 163,000 asylum applications, and staff were called in from other departments, for example work permits, to help with the extra workload.

READ ALSO: Family members wait years for residency in Sweden

But the pressure has since eased, with the Migration Agency expecting that fewer than 30,000 people will have applied for asylum in Sweden over the whole of 2016 by the end of the year.

And officials believe that foreigners working in Sweden will soon be able to see the effect too.

“We have hired more staff, but it takes time before they are trained up and you start seeing the effects, with shorter waiting times. It is hard to say; we don't know if procedure changes again and the Migration Agency is an authority that is heavily affected by world affairs,” said Holmgren.

“So I can't give a straight answer, but I think that in 2017 we will start seeing the effects.”

Around 13,500 first-time work permit applications have so far been approved this year, and nearly 3000 applications rejected, according to the Migration Agency, compared to more than 7,600 approvals for renewed permits and around 770 rejections.

But the process has been slammed by many as bureaucratic and complicated after a number of high-profile rejections of skilled workers sparked debate this year.

Asked if there is anything applicants could do themselves to reduce their wait for an answer, and increase their chances of a positive reply, Holmgren said: “The advice I can give is that we need complete applications and that's where we, but also the employer and the employee, have a responsibility.”

“Know the rules of work permits, make sure the conditions promised are met, that you have a salary you can support yourself on, that the job was advertised in a correct way. Apply digitally, because that reduces the risk of not enclosing documentation, which contributes to cutting waiting times.”

For members


EXPLAINED: How do you apply for Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

From June 1st, non-EU citizens can apply to come to Sweden on the new talent visa or "resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons". These are the latest details on how to apply.

EXPLAINED: How do you apply for Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

Sweden’s “resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons to look for work or start a busi­ness” was voted through parliament in April as part of a set of changes to the country’s new work laws in April.

The visa was brought in as part of the January Agreement between the economically liberal Centre and Liberal Parties and the Social Democrat government. 

The basic form for the new talent visa was published when parliament voted it through: The visa allows non-EU citizens with a higher-level degree to apply for a visa of between three to nine months, which they can then use to stay in Sweden while they look for work or research setting up a new business.  

But the Migration Agency on June 1st published the details of what exact educational requirements are required to be eligible for the new visa, how much money applicants need to show they have to support themselves, and how and where to apply. They also published the form that needs to be filled in

What counts as an advanced-level degree and how do I prove it? 

The bar is set pretty low. To be eligible for the talent visa, applicants need to have a degree corresponding to at least a 60-credit Master’s degree, a 120-credit Master’s degree, a professional degree worth 60-330 credits, or a postgraduate/PhD-level degree.

You need to send copies of any examination certificates along with your application, as well as copies of the official transcript of your academic record, that shows the courses included in your education. 

If these documents are in a language other than English, French, Spanish, German, or a Nordic language, they have to be translated into Swedish or one of the above languages by an authorized translator.

You also need to print out, sign, scan, and send a letter of consent to the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR), allowing them to contact the educational institutions where you studied for your higher-level degree.

What financial assets do I need to show and how do I prove them? 

You must need to show that you have enough money (or a source of regular income) to support yourself during the time that you will be in Sweden, as well as enough to pay for your journey home. The Migration Agency judges that you need 13,000 kronor per month, so you need a lump sum of 117,000 kronor (€12,000). 

Source: Migration Agency

To prove that you can support yourself, you must either submit copies of your bank statements (plus a translated version if necessary). If you have another source of regular funding, you can explain in the ‘other’ box on what you intend, and enclose documents to support this.

What insurance do you need? 

You need to confirm that you have signed a comprehensive health insurance on the form, and also name the insurance company and the dates between which the insurance policy is valid. 

The insurance needs to cover the costs of emergency and other medical care, hospitalisation, dental care, and also the cost of repatriation for medical reasons. You need to enclose a copy of a document setting out the terms of your insurance policy. 

Source: Migration Agency

What do you need to write about your plans for Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, the visa is for people living outside the EU who “plan to seek employment or explore the possibilities for starting [their] own business”, but the form gives few guidelines as to what will count. 

In the form, there is a space for a few sentences in which you can say what sort of business you plan to start, or which sort of job you intend to look for, as well as whether you intend to leave Sweden, or apply for residency in another way if you fail to secure a job. 

Carl Bexelius, the Migration Agency’s Head of Legal Affairs, said that there was no requirement in the legislation that those with the new talent visa seek jobs that require them to be highly qualified. 

“The crucial part is that you have you are talented in a legal sense, that you have the appropriate education to qualify. If they find work, they can then apply for for a work permit, but that work does not need to require high qualifications.”

Other requirements? 

The other requirement is to have a passport that is valid for the full period in which you will be in Sweden. In the application you need to send copies of all the pages that show your personal data, photo, signature, passport number, issuing country, period of validity, entry stamps, and also if you have permission to live in countries other than your country of origin. 

How to apply? 

You need to send the application form, with the attached documents to the Swedish embassy or consulate-general in your country of residence, or, if that is not possible, at the embassy or consulate-general in the closest country. 

You should contact the embassy for information before applying, and to learn how large an application fee you will need to pay. 

What sort of permit will I get? 

If you get a permit valid for more than three months, you will get a residence permit card which features your fingerprints and a photo.

If you need an entry visa to come to Sweden, you will need to be photographed and have your fingerprints scanned at the Swedish embassy or consulate-general in your country of residence before leaving to come to Sweden.

If you do not need an entry visa, you can apply for a residency card, and have your photo taken and your fingerprints scanned, after your arrival in Sweden. 

What happens if I get a job or start a business while in Sweden? 

If you get a job while in Sweden, you can apply for a work permit from within the country. You cannot start work until the work permit is granted, though (which may not happen until after your talent visa has already expired). 

If you start a business in Sweden, you can apply for a residence permit as a self-employed person. You can start setting up and running your business even before the Migration Agency has made its decision.