Deported work permit holders may have to wait years before returning to Sweden

If a foreign worker's permanent residence in Sweden is rejected, they could face several years of waiting before they are allowed to return to Sweden on a new work permit, according to new guidelines by the Migration Agency.

Deported work permit holders may have to wait years before returning to Sweden
The Migration Agency has clarified the rules regarding work permits, but it may not be good news for all. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

That's what the Swedish Migration Agency states in a new legal position paper, outlining when a new work permit can be granted after an employee returns to their home country.

“Normally a new work permit may not be granted until seven years after the first one,” reads a statement referring to the paper, which is a document meant to help guide case officers in their decisions.

“The legislation states that a work permit may be granted for a total of four years. Following that period, the employee may apply for a permanent residence permit,” continues the statement.

“If the permit is not granted, the employee must return to their country of origin. If the employee wishes to reapply for a temporary work permit, they must wait seven years after having received their first one.”

This means that an international employee who has had a Swedish work permit for the past four years, but gets rejected when they apply to renew their permit and is therefore told to leave the country, will have to wait at least three years before being able to reapply for a new work permit in order to return to Sweden.

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.

Some of The Local's readers who were forced to leave Sweden have been able to return by applying from scratch for a new work permit; others have been told they need to wait longer before applying anew.


Many have told The Local it is unclear how long they have to wait before they can come back to Sweden, and the Centre for Justice has previously accused the Migration Agency of applying an informal “six-month rule” which it argues is not supported by law or precedent, and putting workers in a “talent quarantine” abroad.

The centre's lawyers are currently appealing the case of Ali Omumi – an Iranian sales engineer who got deported from Sweden and then blocked from returning – to the Migration Court, whose judgment will address the same issues.

Fredrik Bergman, head of the Centre for Justice, did not wish to comment specifically on the Migration Agency's new legal position paper before analyzing it, but told The Local in general: “It is important that the Migration Agency's internal rules do not stop competent workers from coming to Sweden. It is also important that whose who have been wrongly expelled are not prevented from returning to work here.”

READ ALSO: What's the difference between being a resident and a citizen of Sweden?

The Migration Agency said it had issued the new instructions to clarify the rules for case officers.

“It does not say in the legislation or preparatory work if or when it should be possible to obtain a new work permit after having been granted temporary work permits for a maximum of four years and thereafter denied permanent residence permits,” a Migration Agency spokesperson told The Local.

“The legal position paper is the Migration Agency's interpretation of the rules and forms new legal support for how case officers and decision-makers should assess such cases.”

Sweden's strict rules are designed to stop workers from being exploited but have led to thousands of foreigners being forced to leave over minor paperwork errors. Many have also slammed the overly strict interpretation of the rules, and The Local's coverage of the issue has even sparked debate in parliament.


Sweden's government last year stopped working on a long-awaited new law to prevent talented international workers from being denied permits for minor administrative errors.

It justified this decision by arguing that a 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 the bureaucratic regulations and long processing times are still causing difficulties for many of internationals working in Sweden, including employees and entrepreneurs. The Local's readers have called on Sweden to streamline the work visa process or introduce fast-track options for skilled workers.


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How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years.