The Migration Agency has said that it will in general continue to process applications during the coronavirus crisis, and that it is too early to say whether the situation will impact waiting times.
“The Swedish Migration Agency is monitoring the situation closely and continuously, and that means that we always need to consider what is reasonable or not in our examination of applications for residence permits,” it says in a statement on its website, up-to-date and accurate as of March 26th.
“All examinations of applications for residence permits are based on laws that the Swedish Migration Agency must comply with. These laws do not consider any extraordinary events, and in a situation like this the Swedish Migration Agency may have a dialogue with the legislators about the consequences that current legislation has based on the effects of the spread of the coronavirus.”
Sweden has already fast-tracked a series of law changes intended to help for example businesses, entrepreneurs and unemployed people face the financial shockwaves of the coronavirus crisis. But no emergency legislation is being planned specifically to help foreign workers at risk of losing their residence permit.
“At present, changing the rules for labour immigration is not on the table, but the government has appointed a broad inquiry which will look at the Swedish system. The purpose is to make it easier for highly skilled people to work in Sweden, while at the same time dealing with the problems of abuse and exploitation,” justice ministry spokesperson Sofie Rudh told The Local via email.
The government inquiry is unrelated to the coronavirus crisis and was launched in February as part of a deal between Sweden's centre-left coalition and the Centre and Liberal parties. Its recommendations are to be presented in part by the start of February 2021, at the latest, and the final report by November 2021.
The coronavirus is already hitting workers hard. More than 18,000 people have been given notice in March, according to Sweden's Public Employment Agency. This is the first step of the process and does not mean that all of them will lose their job, but it's a huge increase on the 3,300 warnings of layoffs last March.
If you are a non-EU/EEA worker in Sweden on a work permit, you have three months to find a new job before you lose your right to stay. Those rules are still in place, the justice ministry confirmed:
“It is correct that someone who has been granted a work permit and is made redundant can stay in Sweden for three months and apply for a new job. If the person does not find new work within three months the permit can be recalled, but that is a question of how the rules are applied, which is handled by the Migration Agency.”
Many readers have asked The Local what happens if you lose your permit, or if your extension is rejected, and you are unable to leave Sweden due to an unprecedented shortage of flights and border closures.
“Someone who can't travel home when their work permit runs out can apply for a residence permit for a visit,” said Rudh. “Such a permit can then be approved for three months.”
Thousands of people have been temporarily laid off in recent weeks, or have had to reduce their work hours. In many cases they are able to keep their salary, or a significant part of their salary, because of measures by the government. But it may not be possible for all, and if you reduce your hours, there is a risk that foreign workers may fall below the threshold for how much you need to earn to keep your permit.
“It is important that the income is not so low that the person needs benefits to cover living costs. Being able to support yourself on your employment is therefore a precondition for being granted a work permit. However, the matter of how to apply this rule is handled by the Migration Agency,” said Rudh.
The Migration Agency has answered several frequently asked questions about how the coronavirus affects work permits, other residence permits, and asylum applications on its website.