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Foreign talents reveal: How we fought Sweden's work permit bureaucracy

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Foreign talents reveal: How we fought Sweden's work permit bureaucracy
Three people who were told to leave Sweden after problems with their work permits told The Local what happened next. Photo: Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se
13:51 CET+01:00
Over the past few years, thousands of skilled international workers have been ordered to leave Sweden, many because of minor mistakes in their paperwork. So what happened next?

Today, The Local speaks with Taiwanese biomedicine professional Jin-yu Lu, who was forced to leave Sweden because of her employer's job advertisement error, after six years studying and working here. Read the full interview with Lu here.

In the article below, for Members of The Local, we also catch up with three non-EU workers who were victims of so-called 'kompetensutvisning' (literally 'talent deportation') to find out the results of their permit rejections, where they are working today, and whether their experiences changed their view of Sweden.

Here's what they have to say.

Syed Latif, originally from Bangladesh, was forced to leave Sweden in 2016 because his employer advertised his role via LinkedIn. His was one of the first kompetensutvisning cases to gain national attention, and he returned to Sweden the following year, where he now works as a project manager at an NGO in Vrigstad, Jönköping.


Syed Latif. Photo: Private

My job is to help newcomers and refugees to integrate into the Swedish society, and I help them to find jobs and start businesses in Sweden. I am working with social integration, equality, human rights and in the area of anti-racism, and recently started a YouTube channel where I teach Swedish.

My six years in Sweden, (where I studied, took my degree, never took any loans or grants, learned the language, found a job and paid taxes) ended in May 2016 when I left with only one bag. l left everything, a permanent job, my voluntary work in Skåne and the language cafes I started to help others. No one can imagine how painful it is if they do not go through this situation themselves.

Migrationsverket told me to go back and apply for jobs in Sweden from Bangladesh, but it was not easy to find a job in Sweden from Bangladesh. When recruiters asked me when I could join their companies, I did not have an answer, because I know the Swedish Migration Agency sometimes takes forever to give a decision. Finally I managed to find a job, applied for a work permit visa, waited for more than five months and then came back to Sweden.

Many companies are afraid to employ non-EU workers because of all the bureaucracy and paperwork it requires. They do not want to suddenly lose their competent employees because of small mistakes. At the end of the day, the company loses, the country loses and the people lose. People may have spent more than five years working in Sweden, but have to uproot their lives all because of a small error from years ago that could have been solved easily, but instead results in all this.

As a result of the deportations, now many competent students outside the EU do not want to come to Sweden because they know how insecure the situation will be for them after graduation. They go to other developed countries instead and use their talent to contribute to the development there. Sweden is missing out.

Rameez Hussain, originally from India, left Sweden after seven years in 2017 after his work permit was rejected due to a small error committed by a previous employer. He is now back and working at the same company.


Rameez Hussain. Photo: Private

I am currently in Stockholm, working for Dynamo AB, who was also my employer before my deportation. They helped me come back to Sweden and obtain a new work permit. My current title is Mobile Application Developer.

I went back to India and was asked to wait for six months before applying for a new work permit. The six-month waiting period wasn’t a rule, but was a "practice". I applied after this time had passed and waited another two months to receive my new work permit. I came back to Sweden in May 2018 and rejoined Dynamo. I plan to live and work in Sweden long-term and eventually obtain citizenship.

The experience was very off-putting. I understand there are laws and procedures, but I got the impression that a lot can be improved and some leniency can be shown to tax-paying professionals like myself. To be clear, this is my opinion only in the case of migration. In other areas I find Sweden very suitable for me. This is why I chose to come back and settle down here.

Award-winning barista Steve Moloney was initially given two weeks to leave Sweden in February this year, but successfully appealed his work permit rejection following international media coverage of his case.


Steve Moloney. Photo: Photo: Love Coffee Roasters

I am currently self-employed running the same company that I was when I applied for the visa. I have a temporary work visa for two years and after that I can apply for permanent residence, but as I understand it is very unclear exactly when I can apply for that and what the process is. The positive ruling came in the middle of March after I engaged a lawyer and we submitted an appeal to Migrationsverket with a lot of supporting evidence and documentation. I also received some publicity in various online publications, including The Local and in an Australian newspaper - I am not sure how much of a bearing this had on the case, but people have told me that it can be effective, unfortunately.

My company is growing quickly and I look forward to continuing to grow it over the coming years here in Sweden. Despite the pain around the whole deportation thing, I still feel like Sweden is my home and I really enjoy living here. It feels a bit frustrating and disappointing that the system is so unclear and seems to be quite unfair to many applicants who live here, pay taxes and have established a life and network here in Sweden. I am cognisant that i am one of the lucky ones and that there are many others in much worse situations than I that have been deported due to either small administrative mistakes or things outside of their control. I hope for and look forward to when these issues are solved the process for immigrants is more clear and cases are solved quicker.

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