Star developer to leave Sweden for Berlin after growing tired of deportation fight

A star developer who had a work permit application rejected because of an error made by a previous employer has decided to leave Sweden after losing hope in his fight to stay in the country.

Star developer to leave Sweden for Berlin after growing tired of deportation fight
Tayyab Shabab (left) has his work permit application rejected by Migrationsverket over an admin slip. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT & Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

Pakistani developer Tayyab Shabab had his permit application rejected by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) last year because a previous employer forgot to take out occupational pension insurance for him. The fight to prevent his deportation was backed by big names in the tech world like Spotify founder Daniel Ek, provoked an online petition signed by more than 10,000 people and sparked debate about how fair Sweden's rules in the area are.

READ ALSO: Star developer told to leave Sweden over admin slip

READ ALSO: Startup heavyweights back tech ace told to leave Sweden

After losing his case in the Stockholm Migration Court in May, Shabab appealed to the Migration Court of Appeal (Migrationsöverdomstolen), but he has now decided to take his talents elsewhere after growing weary.

“I have decided to move to Germany from Sweden. I took this decision because I still see no hope of getting this problem fixed for me,” Shabab told The Local.

He will however see his appeal through:

“I just had a meeting with my lawyer Fredrik and he suggested that I should keep my case here open and not take it back right away. So I won't be withdrawing my case here for now”.

Shabab, who is described as a “world class talent” in his field, had a steady job as a developer in Sweden and has lived in the country since 2013, when he moved to study a Masters in computer sciences before going on to work in the tech industry.

His previous employer made an admin error while trying to take out occupational pension insurance for him, but despite the company offering to correct the mistake by paying the necessary insurance in retrospect, Migrationsverket said he could not be granted a new visa.

The developer said he still has a positive opinion of Sweden, but thinks its rules in the area need to change.

“It didn't change my opinion about Sweden. I still think the people are very nice here. However it is the rules which need to be changed. I think the government does not look interested in fixing the issues.”

In May the Swedish government announced that it wants to change the country's migration laws so that small mistakes can be fixed if they are noticed by an employer before Migrationsverket. It will also investigate a further law change that would make rules more flexible in cases where an employer was not able to fix the mistake before Migrationsverket notified them about it.

READ ALSO: Sweden to fix rules that lead to deportations over admin slips

But Shabab said he is not optimistic about anything significant happening:

“Until now I have seen nothing change. It looks like this issue is not a priority for the government or maybe they are just delaying it on purpose”.

Instead, he is now looking forward to a new life in Germany, where the signs so far are that things will be easier.

“I am moving to Berlin and a software company that works with artificial intelligence solutions. It's a very good company and Berlin is also a nice city. It was very easy to get a permit for Germany. I got the decision within just one week and the process was very smooth,” he concluded.

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.