Star developer loses fight against deportation from Sweden

The star developer who was told to leave Sweden because of an administrative error by a previous employer has lost his case at Stockholm's Migration Court.

Star developer loses fight against deportation from Sweden
Tayyab Shabab has been fighting a decision not to grant him a new visa over an admin error. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Pakistan native Tayyab Shabab is described as a “world class talent” and has a steady job as an app developer in Sweden, but last year he had an application for a work permit extension rejected by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) because a previous employer forgot to take out occupational pension insurance for him.

The fight to prevent his deportation was backed by huge names in the tech world including Spotify founder Daniel Ek, and also provoked an online petition signed by more than 10,000 people including The Local's CEO Paul Rapacioli. With the help of non-profit organization Centre for Justice, Shabab launched an appeal against Migrationsverket's decision.

On Tuesday however, the Migration Court in Stockholm delivered its judgment that Shabab and his wife should be deported from Sweden on the grounds of the error his previous employer made.

“I heard the decision from my lawyer today and felt really sad, I'm really disappointed now,” he told The Local.

“I was quite optimistic and didn't expect it. Things were moving in a positive direction, there was a lot of media hype, the government was even proposing new rules, so I thought that seeing as it was all going in a positive direction I'd get a positive decision from the court. I wasn't expecting it at all.”

READ ALSO: Show of support for tech talent told to leave Sweden

The court was split in its decision: two of the four members assessed that Shabab should be allowed to stay in Sweden, but as a result the final say was decided by the chair of the court, who agreed with Migrationsverket's interpretation of the rules.

The developer has now been told that he has four weeks to leave Sweden unless he decides to appeal the decision further to the highest migration court in Sweden, the Migration Court of Appeal (Migrationsöverdomstolen).

“There's the possibility of appealing higher in three weeks. I don't know about it yet though because I have to discuss it with my lawyer and my company, then we'll decide,” he explained.

READ ALSO: Foreign workers form human chain to stop deportations

Shabab has lived in Sweden since 2013. He moved to the Nordic country to do a masters degree in computer science before going on to work in the tech industry. His previous employer made an admin error when trying to take out occupational pension insurance for him, based on which Migrationsverket said he could not be granted a new visa last year.

That is despite his employer at the time offering to correct the mistake by paying for the necessary insurance in retrospect. His current employer, Dynamo, has always insisted that he is a top talent within his field.

“A lot of people have spoken to me, and there's been a lot of support from colleagues, friends and the media. I don't know why the court still thinks it's my mistake and I should be rejected. That's crazy, to me. I don't feel good at all right now,” he sighed.

“In the last few months a lot of people have contacted me who are going through the same problems. There are a lot of problems for small startups – new companies sometimes don't know the exact rules for international people.”

Debate about Sweden's overzealous interpretation of work permit rules and deportations on the grounds of small errors grew so strong at the end of 2016 that the government is currently considering changing them after being told by a parliamentary committee to do so.

For members


EXPLAINED: Why is it taking so long to get work permits in Sweden?

The Migration Agency has in September been taking nine times longer than its target to process work applications for foreigners employed by so-called "certified operators". What's going on and when will the situation return to normal?

EXPLAINED: Why is it taking so long to get work permits in Sweden?

How long are work permits taking at the moment? 

The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in the first half of September the average work permit decision for those who have been hired by so-called certified operators — basically a fast-track for big and trustworthy companies — had taken an average of 105 days, while under its agreement with these companies, it is supposed to take only ten. 

The agency told The Local that this number, though correct, was misleading as the number and timing of applications varies so much from month to month, which is why it prefers to take an average over a longer period. 

According to tables provided to The Local by the agency, it has so far this year taken an average of 46 days to handle a first-time application for a work permit by an employee who has been hired by a company that is part of the certified operator scheme. This is nearly three times as along as the average of 19 days it took in 2021. 

Work permit extensions for employees at certified companies have taken 108 days so far this year, up from 43 days in 2021. 

First time work permit applications outside the certified employer scheme have taken 121 days so far this year, which is actually less than the 139 days it took in 2021. Extensions outside the scheme have so far this year taken an average of 327 days, up from 277 in 2021. 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications for people in industries that are not considered high risk are currently completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

For first-time work permit applicants who have been given jobs by or through a certified company, the agency also estimates that 75 percent of applications are processed “within three months”. 

What’s the problem? 

According to Fredrik Bengtsson, the agency’s director for Southern Sweden, who is also responsible for processing work permits, the agency has received far more applications in 2022 than it had predicted at the start of the year. 

“So far this year we have already received 10,000 more applications than our prognosis,” he told The Local. 

New rules which came into force on June 1st have also significantly increased the workload, particularly a new requirement that those applying for work permits already have a signed contract with their future employer. 

“That meant that tens of thousands of ongoing cases needed to be completed,” Bengtsson said.  

The new law also meant that instead of simply having to simply meet a minimum income requirement to bring over spouses and children, work permit applicants also needed to prove that they could support them and supply adequate housing. 

“With the new law, we need to do a much more fundamental analysis of the employee [‘s financial situation], if they want to bring their family,” he added. 

Although the agency has reduced the number of its employees from around 9,000 immediately after the 2015 refugee crisis to about 5,000 today, Bengtsson said this was something decided on by Sweden’s government in the annual budget, and was not directly linked to the current staff shortages, or to the pandemic as some have reported. 

Wrong-footed by war in Ukraine 

While the agency had been aware of these changes in advance, warned about them in its responses to a government white paper, and recruited more staff in anticipation, Bengtsson said that that the war in Ukraine had diverted resources, meaning that at the time the new law came into effect in June, the work permit division lacked sufficient staff to handle the additional workload. 

What is the agency planning to do? 

The agency is still recruiting and moving more staff to the division processing work permits.

It is also increasing the use of digitalisation, or automated systems, to process work permit applications, although there are limits under the law meaning that parts of a work permit decision still need to be made by case officers. 

The new requirement to assess applicants’ ability to support their families has made digitalisation more complicated, Bengtsson said: “As soon as we need to make judgements, we can’t digitalise”. 

He stressed that the agency was still managing to process work permits within the four-month time limit given to it under law. The ten-day goal was just “a service we offer companies”, he added, and was not something the agency was mandated to achieve. 

“We are working full out to bring down the processing time again, but it is possible that we won’t be able to return to the processing times that we had before,” he said. “We may have to say, we can only do it in a month, but we will have to see how it is with the new laws for a few more months, and then we’ll take a decision.” 

In the longer term, Bengtsson predicted that if the labour market test or a much higher minimum salary for work permit applicants is brought in, as seems likely in the coming years, this would speed up processing times. 

“There will be fewer applicants, and it will be easier for those big companies hiring people with a higher education level to get work permit,” he said.