Thousands of foreign students wait for news on Swedish residence permits

International students face an anxious wait to find out whether or not they can stay in Sweden this autumn, as some coronavirus measures may affect their right to a residence permit.

Thousands of foreign students wait for news on Swedish residence permits
Many international students have told The Local of the stress they are experiencing due to the corona pandemic. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

Around 4,000 international students are currently waiting to find out whether or not they can keep their Swedish residence permit, reports Swedish public radio, SR. As The Local has previously reported, this all depends on whether or not – and how much of – their courses will be taught remotely.

Swedish law only permits the Migration Agency to give student residence permits if more than 50 percent of their course will be conducted on campus. The Swedish government in May told universities they could reopen to students, but many universities have warned that they may still need to continue teaching remotely, or at least a mix of on-campus and distance teaching.

It is still not entirely clear at some Swedish universities what the coming academic year will look like, and thousands of non-EU students may be rejected for a new residence permit or for a permit extension if they are unable to show that the majority of their courses will be taught on campus.

“The government would need to step in and give new directions to the Migration Agency so that no students fall between the cracks,” Patrik Höstmad, acting deputy principal of undergraduate courses at Chalmers University, told SR on Monday.

The Migration Agency states that it expects studies to be conducted on campus in spring, so if you intend to study a full academic year in Sweden, “you only need to have a small part of the teaching on campus during the autumn semester in order to be able to receive a permit for the entire time”.

It also advises students whose situation is currently unclear to wait as long as possible before they extend their residence permit, as long as they apply before the current permit expires. Its legal experts have previously said that they will “try to make as generous an assessment as possible”.

Many foreign students have told The Local of the stress they have experienced due to the coronavirus situation. We have shared some of their stories in these articles:

If you have a story to share, you are always welcome to get in touch with our editorial team at [email protected]. As a student, you may also be entitled to a discount on membership of The Local, including unlimited reading and an exclusive weekly newsletter. Read more here.

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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”