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‘Sweden’s pain is the UK’s gain’: Other countries target entrepreneur set to be deported

A dealmaker for the UK's Department for International Trade is seeking to bring a drone entrepreneur and his business to Britain after he had his Swedish work permit extension refused for paying himself too little salary.

'Sweden's pain is the UK's gain': Other countries target entrepreneur set to be deported
Ahmed AlNomany shows off one of his drones in a mine. Photo: Inkonova
Anthony Sheehan said he had approached Ahmed AlNomany, the founder of drone company Inkonova and IoT company Batonics, after reading about his problems on The Local
 
“He's a really strong entrepreneur who's onto his second company already and the reason he's been asked to leave is a bit ridiculous,” Sheehan, who is himself an entrepreneur, told The Local.
 
“In some ways Sweden's pain is the UK's gain.” 
 
Sheehan said he was advising AlNomany, who is now an 'Entrepreneur in Residence' at Swedish tech giant Ericsson, on how to apply for one of the new Innovator visas launched by the UK at the end of March. 
 
With the Innovator visa, entrepreneurs must first get a letter of endorsement from one of 26 Innovator endorsement bodies, primarily startup hubs, accelerators and regional development bodies. Sheehan said the endorsement system reduced the risk that immigrants would set up a company simply as a ruse to gain residency. 
 
“What we did with the previous entrepreneurs visa was to have a financial bar, and it was just a way for rich kids to get here,” he said. “The idea now is a two-phase process, the government can't decide who is a good entrepreneur, so they've handed it out to experts in the entrepreneur ecosystem. It's a smart way forward.” 
 
Alternatively, he said, he was advising AlNomany to apply for a special talent visa. 
 
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AlNomany, who was born and grew up in Dubai, arrived in Sweden in 2015, setting up a mining drone company Inkonova, based at Stockholm's THINGS startup hub at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
 
But in 2017 he had his work permit extension refused because he had paid himself too little in the company's early years. He lost his final appeal at the start of this month. 
 
He told The Local he was also in talks with the University of Luxembourg and the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia about relocating there.
 
Sheehan said Sweden was not alone in struggling to tailor its work permit and visa system for international entrepreneurs. “It's not a problem that's unique to Sweden. We see it in different countries and we're not immune from it ourselves,” he said.
 
“If you're a native Swede, it's a great place to start a business,” he added. “We see a few Swedish entrepreneurs come to the UK, but not many.” 
 
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He said Sweden's startup scene was so strong that it would be easy to mimic the UK's Innovator visa and give accelerators a say over who should be granted a work permit. 
 
“There are plenty of groups in and around Stockholm and Sweden who could play that role. It could work.”
 
Sheehan, who has his own company developing drone-transported defibrillators, works for a few days a month as a 'deal maker' in the UK Department for International Trade's Global Entrepreneur Programme.  
 
The Global Entrepreneur Programme had brought about 1,000 companies to the UK, primarily from Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.
 
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WORK PERMITS

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.

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