Swedish business leaders warn Brits risk work permit rejections after no-deal Brexit

Sweden's largest business federation has warned of the problems that could face British workers in the country and their employers if the government does not introduce special legislation to counter the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit.

Swedish business leaders warn Brits risk work permit rejections after no-deal Brexit
Companies have been advised to ensure their British employees have the working conditions and insurance policies required for non-EU work permits. File photo: Pontus Lundahl / TT

The government has put forward a proposal that would allow British citizens a grace period of one year in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which would allow them to stay in Sweden and give them time to apply for necessary residence and work permits without experiencing any change to their rights.

But the government has not yet clarified whether it will introduce special legislation and new permits to deal with British citizens, or if they would be subject to existing permit regulations.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, the country's biggest business federation, said that the year-long exemption was “necessary” but suggested that this be increased to 18 or 24 months in order to “better allow for the necessary time to arrange the target group's applications and permits”.

This comes after the Migration Agency, which would be responsible for processing and granting permits, said it could not guarantee that it would be able to process permits for all those affected within 12 months.

What's more, the confederation warned that many Brits risked not having their permits approved if these were processed under existing legislation. 


Work permit laws require employers to meet certain conditions when employing non-EU workers, including having advertised the position in a certain way and offering the employee terms (such as salary, benefits, and insurances) either in line with collective agreements or, if no collective agreement exists, in line with the national standard for the field.

Currently, British citizens are able to move to and work in Sweden without needing to meet these conditions, due to the freedom of movement within the EU. This means that many of them may work for employers who don't offer them the conditions required for non-EU workers, particularly when it comes to the required insurance policies.

“For the Brits who work at companies which have signed collective bargaining agreements, the new handling probably won't mean any changes regarding the possibility to [receive] a continued residence permit and employment,” said the confederation.

But for those working in companies without such agreements, it warned that “practical problems with a risk of [permit] rejection” were likely.

“Brits who today work in Sweden under employment conditions that deviate from kollektivavtal (collective agreement) and who apply for residence permits based on their existing employment conditions run a high risk of having their application rejected,” it said.

The confederation's advice to companies employing British citizens was to ensure that those employees' conditions fulfilled the same requirements as those set out in the existing law regulating work permits. This would include introducing comprehensive insurance policies for all employees, since it is not possible to do this for individual workers only.

It also raised the question of whether Brits' applications would be treated as first-time permit applications or as extensions, and warned that the latter would be “especially problematic”.

This is because work permit extensions can only be granted if the employment conditions have been met throughout the worker's time in Sweden, and some necessary insurance policies cannot be applied retroactively.

OPINION: 'Don't be afraid of foreign workers. We are a key part of Sweden's future'

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Foreigners trapped by Swedish work permit delays call for visa relief

Work permit holders in Sweden have launched a petition asking the Migration Agency to issue special visas allowing those affected by long renewal times to leave Sweden and return.

Foreigners trapped by Swedish work permit delays call for visa relief

After just a day, the petition has already been signed by 2,700 people at the time this article was last updated, indicating just how many are being affected by the long processing delays at the agency. Some foreigners in Sweden are currently having to wait for as long as 15 months to have their work permits renewed, leaving them unable to visit relatives and loved ones back home. 

Fredrik Bengtsson, the director at the agency responsible for work permits this week told The Local that the delays were the result of new rules that came into force in June, the need to redeploy staff to handle refugees from Ukraine, and a post-pandemic surge in applications. 

The petition was launched on Thursday by Dina Ahmad, a Lebanese IT professional, who has herself been waiting five months for a renewal.

“I decided to launch this petition because I have seen this affect many people,” she told The Local. “I have heard tragic stories about people who could not go back home to see their relatives before they passed away.” 

She heard of one person who had to wait 23 months for a renewal, which as the permit was only valid for two years, meant they had only one month of validity left when they finally received it, meaning they had to immediately go through the entire process again.

In the petition, she complains about the “incomprehensible” rule that people from countries that require a visa to enter the EU who leave Sweden while waiting for a work permit decision may not be allowed to return to Sweden. 

“It is a huge injustice that residents who are here working and paying taxes are unable to return to the country and resume their jobs should they decide to leave,” the petition states. “Many need to visit their families, deal with paperwork back home, or just take a break.” 

The petition notes that other EU countries do not have this rule, with Denmark, for instance, having a “re-entry permit”, or “tilbagerejsetilladelse”, allowing those waiting for decisions to return home. 

It also notes that the Migration Agency has already started issuing so-called D-visas so that people waiting for work permit decisions can attend business meetings abroad.  

“We ask that a solution can be found wherein residents can travel and be able to come back and resume their work in Sweden while waiting for a decision,” they state.  “Perhaps the D-visa can be extended to allow non-business related travel as well.” 

READ ALSO: Why is it taking so long to get work permits in Sweden?

Moataz Mohamed, one of the signatories, wrote under the petition that the delay in processing his new work permit had prevented him from “going home to get married to the love of my life”. 

“With the increasing time for a decision, we can’t even plan anything or book a venue. At the same time, my father is sick and if something happens to him, I can’t even think of what to do,” he wrote on the petition. “This rule is prejudiced and borderline racist.” 

Hyder Ali Mohamed, another signatory, wrote that despite working for a certified company, he had been waiting for permanent residency for more than 25 months. 

“Last time we visited our families and friends back home was more than four years ago, and we will never see some of our closest family members ever again who passed away last year,” he wrote. “The sad part is that even after informing this multiple times to the case officer, he is not making a decision.”

“Imagine being locked in a place and not allowed to move out of the country for the reason of delayed process for months or even a year,” wrote Suneel Seelam, another signatory. “I know the pain of it myself and have seen friends of mine suffering from it. I like to travel at least once a year, and for some family reasons people have to travel.” 

The Local has approached the Migration Agency to ask if it is considering changing its policy.