Work permit processing time for many foreign tech workers cut from nine months to ten days

Work permit processing time for many foreign tech workers cut from nine months to ten days
The processing time is being drastically reduced from 9-18 months to ten days. File photo of programmers in Sweden: Pontus Lundahl / TT
The processing time for many tech workers' permits will be cut from up to 18 months to just ten days under a new system introduced by the Migration Agency in an effort to tackle the existing bottleneck in permit applications.

Delays over permit decisions have caused problems for Sweden's foreign workers and the companies that rely on them for several years, with the booming tech industry particularly severely affected.

Now, many companies will be able to bypass much of the bureaucracy, drastically shortening processing time to just ten days. A certificate issued to employers' organizations allows them to apply for work permits on behalf of their member companies, with the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen) the first to take advantage of the scheme.

It allows individual companies to be treated as subsidiary companies of Teknikföretagen, which ensures that its members comply with the employment conditions used as criteria for assessing work permit applications. The organization is offering to do this for free for its members, and says that as well as speeding up applications, the certificate also means that “the risk of rejection is minimal”. 

The certificate has existed since 2012, but it was only in 2017 that the opportunity to apply for it was granted to a greater number of larger organizations, and Teknikföretagen gained the certificate earlier this year. It estimates that up to 2,000 permits a year will be affected as a result.

“We have already been contacted by several companies who want to use this service and several who asked questions about how it works. We noticed a clear interest in the offer already in the first few days after launch,” the organization said in a statement.

In order to avoid exploitation of overseas workers, work permits are only granted in cases where the employer meets minimum conditions including salary, vacation, and insurance agreements.

However, strict interpretation of these rules and the high workload of Migration Agency staff over recent years have led to delays in permit processing times — as well as other issues such as deportation of many foreign workers due to minor administrative errors.

Members' Q&A: Why is Sweden deporting skilled foreign workers?

The Migration Agency has pledged to process first-time work permits applied for using the certificate in a maximum of ten days, and permit extensions in a maximum of 20. 

Teknikföretagen believes this will primarily help the small tech startups which it counts as member companies. But its members also include major Swedish brands such as Volvo, Scania and ABB, the latter of which has also suffered from work permit bureaucracy. An Iranian sales engineer at ABB was deported despite rule changes intended to stop minor errors leading to deportations of skilled workers

Several tech CEOs have previously told The Local that bureaucracy over work permit applications has led to difficulties recruiting foreign talent as well as taking up time and energy of their staff and negatively impacting workplace morale.

You can find all of The Local's coverage of work permits HERE

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