Family ordered to leave Sweden after six years over employer’s error

In the latest example of foreign workers being penalized under Sweden's strict work permit laws, a family of five has been ordered to leave the country after the father's employer paid him too little holiday pay.

Family ordered to leave Sweden after six years over employer's error
A Migration Agency office in Småland, southern Sweden. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

The Hoxha family from Albania have lived in Lenhovda, Småland, since 2013, but have now been told to leave the country after Gentian Hoxha's work permit extension was rejected.

“The company didn't pay out my holiday compensation in time because they had problems with money, and that's not my fault,” Gentian Hoxha told SVT Småland. “My youngest son was born in Sweden, why shouldn't he grow up here? I haven't done anything wrong, it's unfair.”

Sweden has strict rules around holiday entitlement, and employees with 25 days' holiday may only save five of these days to use in a future year; any further days must be converted to money and paid out as semesterersättning.

Hoxha had 58 outstanding vacation days, which he had earned over a three-year period, which his employer did not compensate him for in time. Even though the company paid out the missing semesterersättning just days after the Migration Agency decision, that did not change the outcome. 

After laws about work permits were tightened and came to apply retroactively in 2015, the Migration Agency began judging such cases more strictly, and the number of permit rejections rose dramatically.


In December 2017, 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.

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. 

But a Migration Agency spokesperson told SVT Småland that three years of unpaid vacation pay could not be considered to be a minor mistake.

In order to apply for a new work permit, Hoxha must reapply from Albania, meaning he would need to leave his job and the home he owns. 

The family has reportedly appealed the decision to multiple bodies, so far without success, and is currently waiting to see if the Migration Court will approve an exemption to the requirement to be outside Sweden when making a new work permit application.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about annual leave in Sweden

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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.