For members


Foreign residents reveal: How we fought Sweden’s work permit bureaucracy

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?

Foreign residents 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/

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.

Member comments

  1. As a native Swede having lived abroad for more than 15 years, Swedish bureaucracy often makes me want to scream – loudly – out of frustration. It is very dehumanising in ways different from so many other countries.

    I mean – what is even the logic behind punishing the employee for small mistakes made by a previous employer? The official narrative is that it’s “for their own protection”, but strangely none of those affected feel that way.

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For members


EXPLAINED: How do you apply for Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

From June 1st, non-EU citizens can apply to come to Sweden on the new talent visa or "resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons". These are the latest details on how to apply.

EXPLAINED: How do you apply for Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

Sweden’s “resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons to look for work or start a busi­ness” was voted through parliament in April as part of a set of changes to the country’s new work laws in April.

The visa was brought in as part of the January Agreement between the economically liberal Centre and Liberal Parties and the Social Democrat government. 

The basic form for the new talent visa was published when parliament voted it through: The visa allows non-EU citizens with a higher-level degree to apply for a visa of between three to nine months, which they can then use to stay in Sweden while they look for work or research setting up a new business.  

But the Migration Agency on June 1st published the details of what exact educational requirements are required to be eligible for the new visa, how much money applicants need to show they have to support themselves, and how and where to apply. They also published the form that needs to be filled in

What counts as an advanced-level degree and how do I prove it? 

The bar is set pretty low. To be eligible for the talent visa, applicants need to have a degree corresponding to at least a 60-credit Master’s degree, a 120-credit Master’s degree, a professional degree worth 60-330 credits, or a postgraduate/PhD-level degree.

You need to send copies of any examination certificates along with your application, as well as copies of the official transcript of your academic record, that shows the courses included in your education. 

If these documents are in a language other than English, French, Spanish, German, or a Nordic language, they have to be translated into Swedish or one of the above languages by an authorized translator.

You also need to print out, sign, scan, and send a letter of consent to the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR), allowing them to contact the educational institutions where you studied for your higher-level degree.

What financial assets do I need to show and how do I prove them? 

You must need to show that you have enough money (or a source of regular income) to support yourself during the time that you will be in Sweden, as well as enough to pay for your journey home. The Migration Agency judges that you need 13,000 kronor per month, so you need a lump sum of 117,000 kronor (€12,000). 

Source: Migration Agency

To prove that you can support yourself, you must either submit copies of your bank statements (plus a translated version if necessary). If you have another source of regular funding, you can explain in the ‘other’ box on what you intend, and enclose documents to support this.

What insurance do you need? 

You need to confirm that you have signed a comprehensive health insurance on the form, and also name the insurance company and the dates between which the insurance policy is valid. 

The insurance needs to cover the costs of emergency and other medical care, hospitalisation, dental care, and also the cost of repatriation for medical reasons. You need to enclose a copy of a document setting out the terms of your insurance policy. 

Source: Migration Agency

What do you need to write about your plans for Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, the visa is for people living outside the EU who “plan to seek employment or explore the possibilities for starting [their] own business”, but the form gives few guidelines as to what will count. 

In the form, there is a space for a few sentences in which you can say what sort of business you plan to start, or which sort of job you intend to look for, as well as whether you intend to leave Sweden, or apply for residency in another way if you fail to secure a job. 

Carl Bexelius, the Migration Agency’s Head of Legal Affairs, said that there was no requirement in the legislation that those with the new talent visa seek jobs that require them to be highly qualified. 

“The crucial part is that you have you are talented in a legal sense, that you have the appropriate education to qualify. If they find work, they can then apply for for a work permit, but that work does not need to require high qualifications.”

Other requirements? 

The other requirement is to have a passport that is valid for the full period in which you will be in Sweden. In the application you need to send copies of all the pages that show your personal data, photo, signature, passport number, issuing country, period of validity, entry stamps, and also if you have permission to live in countries other than your country of origin. 

How to apply? 

You need to send the application form, with the attached documents to the Swedish embassy or consulate-general in your country of residence, or, if that is not possible, at the embassy or consulate-general in the closest country. 

You should contact the embassy for information before applying, and to learn how large an application fee you will need to pay. 

What sort of permit will I get? 

If you get a permit valid for more than three months, you will get a residence permit card which features your fingerprints and a photo.

If you need an entry visa to come to Sweden, you will need to be photographed and have your fingerprints scanned at the Swedish embassy or consulate-general in your country of residence before leaving to come to Sweden.

If you do not need an entry visa, you can apply for a residency card, and have your photo taken and your fingerprints scanned, after your arrival in Sweden. 

What happens if I get a job or start a business while in Sweden? 

If you get a job while in Sweden, you can apply for a work permit from within the country. You cannot start work until the work permit is granted, though (which may not happen until after your talent visa has already expired). 

If you start a business in Sweden, you can apply for a residence permit as a self-employed person. You can start setting up and running your business even before the Migration Agency has made its decision.