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American student told to leave Sweden over money error: ‘I feel very frustrated’

An American student has been refused the right to stay in Sweden because she briefly transferred some of the money she had saved over to her parents' account in the US for safe-keeping.

American student told to leave Sweden over money error: 'I feel very frustrated'
Miranda Andersson is studying at Uppsala University. Photo: Private
Miranda Andersson, 24, who is studying for a Master's degree in Digital Media at Uppsala University, moved the money over the summer and left it in her parents' account for just two months, but has now been informed by Sweden's Migration Agency that she must leave the country. 
 
The reason? Her account in Sweden briefly dropped below the 80,640 kronor ($10,126) foreign students from outside the EU need to have in their accounts to get residency. 
 
“I feel very frustrated,” Andersson told The Local. “It's very aggravating to deal with with school and everything going on at the same time. I wanted to study and get my degree and it feels that they don't want me to do that.” 
 
She said that she had believed that it was enough to have the required funds available. 
 
“I showed them that I can support myself for the whole year, but they said 'you can't do that, you can't just take money out and put it back in',” Andersson said.
 
The money was in her account at the time she applied for residency, and was returned to it as soon as she realized her error.
 
“They wanted me to keep the money in my account at all times. I just misunderstood that. When I discovered it, I just put the money back into my account.”  
 
Andersson said that had initially wanted to keep the money in my parents’ account for safekeeping, but then realized that she needed to keep her living funds in her own account. 
 
“I sold my car in August, and they sold it on my behalf – so that's where the final money came from. All the money had been mine all along, I just didn't want to keep that large an amount of money in my account all at once.” 
 
 
But the Migration Agency insists sufficient funds must be in an account under the name of the applicant throughout the period of residency. 
 
“The applicant should show that she has money for the entire time she is applying for a residency permit,” said David Lindstrand, the agency's legal expert. “You should have the money in a named account over the entire period.” 
 
Lindstrand said that the agency grants 90 percent of residency applications from students, and said it was possible that the Migration Court could take a more lenient view. 
 
Andersson received her decision in November, and has already had one appeal in December. She has now sent it to the Migration Court and expects a decision within between six to twelve months. 
 
“She's has appealed the decision, so we should wait and see what the Migration Court rules.” 
 
Andersson is worried that if the court rules early, she might be forced to leave Sweden before she graduates in June, writing her thesis from outside the country. 
 
But a greater worry is that it might close off her plans to work in Sweden after graduation. 
 
Andersson's father comes from the Swedish community in Minnesota. 
 
“My father's side is all Swedish ancestry. From Småland, and they're very proud of it. My father came here to teach business English back in the 1970s and learn Swedish as well, so he kind of inspired me to go abroad in my early 20s and get my degree.” 
 
She now lives with her Swedish boyfriend, speaks fluent Swedish and has a job in PR. 
 
“My initial plan was just to come for education, but now it's changed because I've really enjoyed my time here and feel at home,” she said. “I would really like to stay here. We would really like to live together in Stockholm.”
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What is the EU’s ‘single permit’ for third-country nationals and can I get one?

In 2020, 2.7 million non-EU citizens were issued a so-called "single permit" to both reside and work in the EU. But what is the single permit, how does it work and what could change in the future?

What is the EU's 'single permit' for third-country nationals and can I get one?

Among the recent proposals made by the European Commission to simplify the procedures for the entry and residence of non-EU nationals in the European Union, there is the reform of the ‘single permit’.

In 2020, 2.7 million non-EU citizens were issued a ‘single permit’ to both reside and work in the EU, according to the European statistics agency Eurostat. Five countries together issued 75% of the total, with France topping the list (940,000 permits issued), followed by Italy (345,000), Germany (302,000), Spain (275,000) and Portugal (170,000).

Seven in 10 single permits were granted for family and employment reasons (34 and 36 percent respectively) and just less than 10 percent for education purposes.

But what is this permit and how does it work?

What is the EU single permit?

The EU single permit is an administrative act that grants non-EU citizens both a work and residence permit for an EU member state with a single application.

It was designed to simplify access for people moving to the EU for work. It also aims to ensure that permit holders are treated equally to the citizens of the country where they live when it comes to working conditions, education and training, recognition of qualifications, freedom of association, tax benefits, access to goods and services, including housing and advice services.

Equal conditions also concern social security, including the portability of pension benefits. This means that non-EU citizens or their survivors who reside in a non-EU country and derive rights from single permit holders are entitled to receive pensions for old age, invalidity and death in the same way as EU citizens.

The single permit directive applies in 25 of the 27 EU countries, as Ireland and Denmark have opted out of all EU laws affecting ‘third country nationals’.

Who can apply for a single permit?

The directive covers non-EU nationals who apply to reside in an EU country for work or who are already resident in the EU for other purposes but have the right to access the labour market (for instance, students or family members of a citizen of the country of application).

As a general rule, these rules do not apply to long-term residents or non-EU family members of EU citizens who exercise the free movement rights or have free movement rights in the EU under separate laws, as their rights are already covered by separate laws.

It also does not apply to posted workers, seasonal workers, intra-corporate transferees, beneficiaries of temporary protection, refugees, self-employed workers and seafarers or people working on board of EU ships, as they are not considered part of the labour market of the EU country where they are based.

Each country can determine whether the application should be made by the non-EU national or the employer or either of them.

Applications from the individual are required for the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden. For Bulgaria and Italy it is the employer who has to apply, while applications are accepted from either the recipient or the employer for Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

How long does it take to process the application?

The EU directive says the competent authority must decide on the application within 4 months from the date it was lodged. Only in exceptional circumstances the deadline can be longer.

Where no decision is taken within the time limit, national law determines the outcome. In some EU countries (including France, Italy and Spain) this is a tacit rejection while in others it is a tacit approval.

If the application is incomplete, the authority should notify the applicant in writing specifying which additional information is needed, and the time count should be suspended until these are received.

In case of rejection, the authority must provide the reasons and there is a possibility to appeal.

How does it work in practice?

Although the intention of the directive was to simplify the procedure and guarantee more rights, things always get complicated when it’s 25 countries turning rules into reality.

A 2019 report of the European Commission on how this law was working in practice showed that the directive “failed to address some of the issues it proposed to solve”.

The Commission had received several complaints and launched legal action against some member states.

Complaints concerned in particular excessive processing times by the relevant authorities, too high fees, problems with the recognition of qualifications and the lack of equal treatment in several areas, especially social security.

Only 13 countries allowed the transfer of pensions to non-EU countries. In France, invalidity and death pensions are not exportable to non-EU states. Problems were identified also in Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Slovenia.

In Italy single permit holders were excluded from certain types of family benefits and it was the EU Court of Justice that ruled, in September 2021, that single permit holders are entitled to a childbirth and maternity allowances as provided by Italian laws. The EU Court also rules that Italy and the Netherlands were charging too high fees.

Sweden restricts social security benefits for people living in the country for less than one year and takes too long to process single permit applications, according to the report.

Generally the report found that authorities were not providing sufficient information to the pubic about the permit and associated rights.

What will change?

As part of a package of measures to make working and moving in the EU country easier for non-EU nationals announced at the end of April, the European Commission has proposed some changes to improve the situation.

The Commission has suggested shortening the deadline for member states to issue a decision ensuring that the 4 month limit covers the issuing of visas and the labour market test (to prove there are no suitable candidates in the local market).

Under the proposal, fees should be proportionate and candidates should be able to submit the application both in the member state of destination and from a third country.

In addition, permit holders should be able to change employer during the permit’s validity, and the permit should not be withdrawn in case of unemployment for at least 3 months. These measures should reduce vulnerability to labour exploitation, the Commission says.

The Commission also suggests member states should introduce penalties against employers who do no respect equality principles especially with regard to working conditions, freedom of association and affiliation and access to social security benefits.

These proposals have to be approved by the European Parliament and Council and can be modified before becoming law.

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