New dad faces deportation from Sweden after 16 years due to holiday pay error

A new father has been ordered to leave Sweden – and his baby son – after 16 years in the country because of a minor mistake made by his employer relating to holiday pay.

New dad faces deportation from Sweden after 16 years due to holiday pay error
Cihat 'Gino' Karahan has been told to leave Sweden, and therefore his home of 16 years, his job, wife and two-week-old baby. Photo: Private

The case of Cihat Karahan, known to friends as Gino, is the latest evidence that foreign professionals are still being deported from the country over administrative errors despite repeated attempts to stop such incidents.  

“No person should have to go through what I'm going through right now. It's awful that they can deport someone on these grounds and ignore the fact that you've created an honest life in Sweden with a wife and newborn baby,” Karahan told The Local.

“It feels as if you've been erased from Swedish society and never existed. Everything you've built up in Sweden, means nothing. I feel exploited,” he continued. “It's affected my family a lot, especially my wife who was heavily pregnant and experienced several complications with her health. She was forced to take leave of absence from work due to sickness because of mental and physical exhaustion.”

Karahan, a Turkish Kurd, first moved to Sweden in 2002 as a political refugee and since then has put down roots in the country, where he has a home, a job, a wife and now a two-week-old baby. He currently lives in Stockholm, where he has worked in restaurants, and also spent time working in a shop in Grisslehamn, a town on the outskirts of the Stockholm region.

In October 2017, over a year after applying for permanent residence, he was told by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) that his application had been rejected and he needed to leave the country within four weeks.

The reason was that he had not been paid holiday supplement (semesterersättning) for a period between 2014 and 2016. “The strange thing is that I didn't get the holiday supplement from 2012, but Migrationsverket still chose to extend my work permit then,” Karahan notes.

READ ALSO: What to do if your work permit renewal is rejected?

Well aware of the bureaucracy facing foreign workers and the risk of deportation, Karahan says he had been especially careful to ensure his contract fitted in with rules around salary, vacation allowance, and insurance. After receiving the first rejection from Migrationsverket, his employer adjusted his contract in order to pay the supplement, but it made no difference and the agency confirmed the deportation decision.

“They didn't take into consideration that I have established myself in Sweden by working, paying tax, learning the Swedish language and integrated into Swedish culture,” he said. “My lawyer and I appealed twice and both times I got a rejection, despite saying in my appeal that my sambo and I were expecting a child.”

After laws about work permits were tightened and came to apply retroactively, the Migration Agency began judging such cases more strictly, and the number of permit rejections rose dramatically. 

Last year, legislation was passed which meant permits should not be rejected if a mistake had been noticed and action taken to correct it before it was pointed out by the Migration Agency – but the complicated nature of the paperwork means that often employers and workers believe they have followed the process correctly and only learn of the mistake when the permit is rejected.

However, judgments from the Migration Supreme Court have also set a precedent that decisions should be based on an overall assessment of factors, meaning that one minor mistake should not derail an otherwise good application.

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

Karahan's final rejection came in late July this year, and cannot be appealed again.

He has a flight to Turkey booked for the end of November but is trying one more route: he hopes that the Migration Agency will change its decision based on his new family circumstances, namely the birth of his son, a Swedish citizen.

“We live in hope that Migrationsverket will change its decision so I can be with my family in Sweden,” he told The Local. “The worst-case scenario is that I'm forced to leave the country on November 30th and won't be able to see my wife and newborn son for an indefinite period of time.”

So far, a petition calling for Karahan's deportation order to be stopped has amassed more than 5,000 signatures.

“It is completely absurd that Gino will be deported on these grounds. Do it again, do it properly!” wrote one supporter.

“I'm signing because one of my students came close to losing his father for the exact same reason as Gino. And it's totally sick that a person can be judged for something they didn't do, it's obviously the employer which made a mistake,” another commented.

Others described the decision as “unfair”, “shameful” and even “inhumane”.

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EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

In the new work permit law which comes into force on June 1st, Sweden is launching a new nine-month 'talent visa', which will allow “some highly qualified individuals” to get temporary residency while they look for jobs or plan to launch a business. What do we know so far?

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

When was the law passed and when does it come into force? 

The parliament passed the new law on April 21st, and the final text of the change in the law was published on May 5th. It will come into force on June 1st. 

What does the new law say about the ‘talent visa’? 

It says that “in certain cases”, a temporary residency permit can be granted to a foreigner who wants to “spend time in the country to look for work or to look into the possibility of starting a business”. 

To qualify the applicant must: 

  • have completed studies equivalent to an advanced level degree 
  • have sufficient means to support themselves during their stay and to cover the cost of their return trip 
  • have fully comprehensive health insurance which is valid in Sweden 

How long can people initially stay in Sweden under the talent visa? 

The residency permit will be valid for a maximum of nine months.

Which agency will assess applications for the talent visa? 

The government has decided that applications should be assessed by the Migration Agency. The Migration Agency will publish more details on the requirements, such as what qualifies as an advanced degree, what documents need to be submitted, and how much capital applicants will need to show they can support themselves, in the coming weeks. 

The Migration Agency is also likely to develop a form for those wishing to apply for the talent visa. 

What level of education is necessary? 

What is meant by an “advanced degree” has not been set ou in the law, but according to Karl Rahm, who has helped draw up the law within the Ministry of Justice, a master’s degree (MA or MSc), should be sufficient. 

How much capital will applicants need to show that they have? 

According to Rahm, the amount of money applicants will need to show that they have is likely to be set at the same level as the minimum salary for those applying for a work permit, which is currently 13,000 kronor a month. If he is right, this means that someone applying for a nine-month visa would have to show that they have 117,000 kronor (€11,259) in saved capital, plus extra for their trip back to their home country.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

Can applicants bring children and spouses? 

“You will not be able to bring your family with this kind of visa, since the idea is that it’s for a relatively limited amount of time,  just to see if there is employment for you, or if there is a chance of starting a business,” says Elin Jansson, deputy director at the Ministry of Justice, who helped work on the new visa. “And if you do decide to stay in Sweden, then you apply for a regular work permit for starting up a business, and then you can bring your family.” 

Where will detailed information on the requirements for a talent visa be published? 

The Migration Agency will publish detailed requirements on the talent visa on its Working in Sweden page when the law starts to apply on June 1st. 

What is the reason for the talent visa? 

Those searching for a job or researching starting a new business in Sweden can already stay for up to 90 days with a normal Schengen visa. The idea behind the talent visa is to give highly educated foreigners a little longer to decide if they want to find a job or set up a business in the country before they need to go the whole way and launch a company. 

How many people are expected to apply? 

In the government inquiry on the new work permit law, experts estimated that about 500 people would apply for the new talent visa each year, but it could end up being either much more, or less. 

“It’s really hard to tell. There could be a really big demand. I don’t think it’s anyone can really say before this comes into effect,” Jansson said.