Half of foreigners with work permit issues tell survey they studied in Sweden

More than half of those who answered a survey on struggles with Swedish work permits had studied at a Swedish University.

Half of foreigners with work permit issues tell survey they studied in Sweden
15 percent of the foreign workers who answered the survey studied at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Photo: Jann Lipka/KTH
Of those surveyed for Diversify Foundation's Kompetensutvisning Baseline in collaboration with the Work Permit Holders' Association, 52 percent had studied in Sweden, while 51 percent held a master's degree, 33 percent a bachelor's degree, and three percent a doctorate. 
“Make it easier for those who have studied in Sweden, paid for by the taxpayer, to stay here and develop in their careers,” one of those affected told the foundation. 
“It should be made easier for those who have education and experience in professions where there is a shortage to remain and work in Sweden.” 
A total of 46 percent told the survey they originally came to Sweden to study, and 36 percent to work.
The respondents had studied at some of Sweden's most elite technical universities: 15 percent at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, 11 percent at Stockholm University, 8 percent at Linköping University and 7 percent at Chalmers Institute of Technology. 
Under the agreement struck with the Centre and Liberal Parties in January, Sweden's Social Democrat-Green coalition government has committed to stop so many highly-educated and skilled foreign workers having their work permit renewals rejected, often due to errors out of their control. 
A third of those who responded to the survey worked in the IT industry, and 46 percent came from Southeast Asia, 16 percent from Pakistan, 16 percent Bangladesh and 14 percent from India. 
The threat of deportation had a negative effect both on respondents' themselves and on their feelings towards Sweden, with 81 percent saying their health or their family's health had been affected. 
Those who responded to the survey had been waiting 15 months on average for a decision from Sweden's Migration Agency, with some waiting as long as 35 months. 
Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would not recommend other foreign workers to come to Sweden. 
According to the foundation, 1,495 people took part in the survey, with 571 of those responses defined as qualified and vetted for statistical analysis.
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What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Many foreigners living in Sweden need to have a residence permit to live in the country legally. Permits are issued for two years at a time and can be renewed 30 days before expiry, at the earliest. But with waiting times exceeding 8 months for many applicants, just what are your rights while you wait to hear back?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Can I keep working in Sweden?

It depends. If you have a residence permit which allows you to work in Sweden, have held that residence permit for at least six months and apply for an extension before your old permit expires, you still have the right to work in Sweden while you wait for the Migration Agency to make a decision on your permit application.

You can apply for a new residence permit 30 days before your old permit expires, at the earliest, and you can’t get a new residence permit before your old one has run out.

Can I leave Sweden?

Technically you can, but it might not be a good idea. This is due to the fact that if you leave Sweden after your residence permit has expired, it can be difficult to enter Sweden again before your new permit is granted, even if you can prove that you’ve applied for a new one.

In the worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to Sweden at the border and forced to wait in another country until your new residence permit is granted. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in some cases, apply for a national visa allowing you to re-enter Sweden. These are only granted under exceptional circumstances, and must be applied for at a Swedish embassy or general consulate in the country you are staying in. If you are not granted a national visa to re-enter Sweden, you can’t appeal the decision, meaning you’ll have to wait until your residence permit is approved before you can re-enter Sweden.

The Migration Agency writes on its website that you should only leave Sweden while your application is being processed “in exceptional cases, and if you really have to”.

It lists some examples of exceptional cases as “sudden illness, death in the family or important work-related assignments”, adding that you may need to provide proof of your reason for travelling to the embassy when you apply for a national visa to re-enter Sweden.

What if I come from a visa-free country?

If you come from a visa-free country, you are able to re-enter Sweden without needing a visa, but you may run into issues anyway, as visa-free non-EU citizens entering Schengen are only allowed to stay in the bloc for 90 days in every 180 before a visa is required.

If you are a member of this group and you stay in Schengen for longer than 90 days without a visa, you could be labelled an “overstayer”, which can cause issues entering other countries, as well as applying for a visa or residence permit in the future.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “a visa-free person waiting for a decision in their extension application can leave Sweden and return, as long as they have visa-free days left to use”.

“However, an extension application usually requires the individual to be located in Sweden,” the Agency wrote. “Travelling abroad can, in some cases, have an effect on the decision whether to extend a residence permit or not, in a way which is negative for the applicant, but this decision is made on an individual case basis (it’s not possible to say a general rule).”

“The right to travel into the Schengen area for short visits is not affected, as long as the person still has visa-free days left.”

The Local has contacted the Migration Agency to clarify whether days spent in Sweden count towards the 90-day limit, and will update this article accordingly once we receive a response.

Does this apply to me if I have a permanent residence permit?

No. This only applies to people in Sweden holding temporary residence permits. If you have a permanent residence permit and your residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort or UT-kort) expires, you just need to book an appointment at the Migration Agency to have your picture and fingerprints taken for a new card.

How long is the processing time for residence permit renewals?

It varies. For people renewing a residence permit to live with someone in Sweden, for example, the Migration Agency states that 75 percent of recent cases received an answer within eight months.

For work permit extensions, it varies. In some branches, 75 percent of applicants received a response after 17 months, others only had to wait five.

This means that some people waiting to extend their residence permits could be discouraged from leaving Sweden for almost a year and a half, unless they are facing “exceptional circumstances”.

You can see how long it is likely to take in your case here.