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Award-winning Australian coffee entrepreneur told to leave Sweden

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Award-winning Australian coffee entrepreneur told to leave Sweden
Steve Moloney speaks to The Local about his work permit rejection. Photo: Love Coffee Roasters
17:37 CET+01:00
Australian coffee entrepreneur Steve Moloney has three times been named Sweden's best barista and has set up a successful business in his six years in the country. But now he has been told he may have to leave Sweden by the Migration Agency.

Moloney was initially given less than two weeks to arrange to leave the country after the Migration Agency rejected his application for a residence permit as a sole trader (egen företagare), although this has now been extended for an extra week in order to file an appeal.  

The rejection came more than a year after the entrepreneur made the application, and the reason is that his visa application is being treated as a new application rather than an extension of his existing permit, and therefore he should apply from outside the country. But for the Australian, that means huge disruption to his personal life and his business.

He first came to the country on a one-year working holiday, later returning on a partner (sambo) visa to join his girlfriend. During their relationship, Moloney established himself as a sole trader with his company The Barista League, and after his relationship ended, his visa as an employee took over two and a half years to be approved by the Migration Agency, due to the huge increase in processing times.

READ ALSO: 'We are all extremely lucky to be working in coffee here in Sweden'


Photo: Fabian Schmid

"In the meantime, I was headhunted to a company in Gothenburg and applied for a visa based on the new employer and was finally granted residence in July 2017," Moloney tells The Local. Later the same year, he decided to leave that job due to issues with the company management, and because his company The Barista League had grown so significantly, he applied for a visa as a sole trader. 

"I've invested so much in the company and my life here – I've got accommodation, friends, a girlfriend. My life is more here than back in Australia and it feels ridiculous that a bureaucratic technicality could get me thrown out after six or seven years," Moloney explains.

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

"The business is growing super fast and really well, but I need to arrange work for the future and I can't do that when there's this uncertainty. The business is Sweden- and European-centric so moving back to Australia would mean losing the network and systems I'm working with now. And a lot of companies are relying on me to deliver on contracts i have with them."

The entrepreneur has already received several references from business contacts, who have outlined the potential disruption and negative financial impact on their own companies if Moloney were to leave the country.

READ ALSO: What getting deported from Sweden (twice) taught me about life and business

"It's a strange discrimination against people who want to do something for themselves. I obviously feel very stressed, and there's a lot of disappointment."

"It feels as if on a shallow level Sweden is all about startups, attracting talent and getting capital pumped into Stockholm for all these new ventures, but the bureaucracy doesn't work for international business owners that are in Sweden," he explains. "My experience is that it is really difficult to be a small business owner, especially if you are trying to do something different, rather than a standard product within the existing system."

Moloney also criticized the agency's lack of clarity, saying applicants are "basically walking in blind" with staff refusing to answer questions. He had been under the impression his new permit would be treated as an extension, rather than a new application, until he reached the decision in February.

Sweden's strict legislation around work permits and long processing times have caused difficulties for hundreds of internationals working in Sweden, including employees and entrepreneurs. In October, The Local spoke to American entrepreneur Peter Lincoln who was told to leave the country despite having launched a successful brewery.

In Lincoln's case, he had fallen foul of rules requiring foreign workers to earn a minimum salary, because he and his Swedish business partner had chosen to live off savings and invest their profits back into their business for faster growth. Earlier that year, another foreign entrepreneur was threatened with deportation for giving himself a pay cut, a decision he made in order to allow his company to grow. 

Sweden's strict rules in the area are designed to stop workers being exploited, but have led to thousands of foreign workers being forced to leave the country. In addition to entrepreneurs, the legislation has hit the tech sector particularly hard, with numerous cases of foreign workers deported over minor errors in their paperwork.

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