Stockholm drone entrepreneur faces deportation for cutting own salary

A Stockholm-based drone entrepreneur has been ordered to leave Sweden within a month after the Migration Agency confirmed its decision to deny him a work visa extension because he went several months without a salary.

Stockholm drone entrepreneur faces deportation for cutting own salary
Ahmed Alnomany at work in his offices at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Photo: Inkonova
Ahmed Alnomany arrived in Sweden in 2015 and has since set up a mining drone company Inkonova, based at the THINGS startup hub at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Last month Inkonova raised 3.1 million kronor from Japan's Terra Drone in return for “a significant stake”. This came just months after Swedish mining giant LKAB and the world's largest gold miner Barrick Gold both contracted it to scan mines using the Batonomous system, the first commercial scanning jobs for its drones. 
But on Friday, Alnomany was ordered to leave the country, a decision he hopes to appeal. He finally got the verdict on an earlier appeal he made in 2017 against a decision to deny him an extension to his work visa. 
“After more than a year of waiting, running the business while being locked in the country because I cannot travel, the decision is: yet another refusal from Migrationsverket for my work permit,” he told The Local. “This time they added more reasons additional to taking too little salary, including that I took too little vacation.” 
Alnomany, who was born and grew up in Dubai, said that Sweden needs a better work permit system for foreign entrepreneurs which would allow them to forgo salaries and vacation in the early stages of their companies' development, just as Swedish entrepreneurs invariably do. 
“This blindness from the Swedish Migration Agency to this whole process of entrepreneurship is just unjust,” he said. 
Sweden's government this year stopped working on a long-awaited new law to prevent talented international workers being denied permits for minor administrative errors. 
It justified this decision by arguing that a December ruling from the Swedish Migration Court of Appeal now required the Migration Agency to look at the entirety of an individual's case when making decisions, meaning small administrative errors should not result in deportations. 
But, as Alnomany's case and many others make clear, skilled workers and entrepreneurs are still being forced to leave Sweden. 
“It depends on what you classify as a small mistake,” Alnomany said of the agency's new legal framework. “Maybe not taking a salary is not a small mistake.” 
The entrepreneur said he would now try to appeal the ruling once again, but described his chances of success as “really slim”.
“It's not Migrationsverket's fault. They're just applying the rules blindly, so we just need to put some momentum so people can say maybe these rules need to be changed,” he said.
“However, I believe that this is an injustice, so I need to fight it to the end and see where it goes.”

He said it was particularly frustrating that the ruling had come at a time when the company he co-founded along with was looking increasingly close to becoming profitable. 
“Right now we are making progress. Right now we are in a partnership with a Japanese company and starting to sell all over the world,” he said. “It took a lot of effort to secure that partnership, and bear in mind that I was locked in the country. I can't go and meet them there. I had to bring their team, their president, here.” 
With both Alnomany and his co-founder Pau Mallol now well established in Sweden and the company growing fast, he said he still hoped to stay in the country somehow. 
“There's not many companies in the world who are doing such things. It's deep tech. I really want to keep it in Swedish borders so that the wider community can benefit,” he said.

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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.