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Deported engineer loses court case against Sweden over work permit rejection

An Iranian sales engineer who was forced to leave Sweden over a former employer's error, has not been successful in his attempt to sue the Swedish state for damages.

Deported engineer loses court case against Sweden over work permit rejection
Ali Omumi at Stockholm District Court. Photo: Rikard Samuelsson/Centrum för rättvisa

Stockholm District Court rejected the claims and considered that the authorities were “justified” in expelling ABB engineer Ali Omumi for an insurance defect committed by his former employer. The verdict will be disputed at the Court of Appeal. 

“I am disappointed and do not understand how the district court can come to the conclusion that it was right to force me to leave my job at ABB and deport me and my family. But I look forward to appealing the verdict and continuing the fight against deportations,” says Ali Omumi.

Omumi was expelled from Sweden in the summer of 2018 due to an insurance error made by his former employer.

The deportation took place despite the fact that his existing employment with ABB in Ludvika met all the conditions for a work permit.

A few months after Ali Omumi had been forced to leave Sweden, he applied for a new work permit. But the Migration Agency rejected his application because the authority thought it had come too early, despite the fact that there is no such rule.

After a long court process, Omumi returned to his work at ABB in the autumn of 2019. 

His case became one of the most high-profile out of a series of claims from employees that their work permit renewals were rejected over minor administrative errors. The problem grew so ubiquitous that it became known under its own name as 'talent deportation', or kompetensutvisning in Swedish.

Omumi's situation was even debated in the Swedish parliament after an MP said he read about the engineer in The Local and was also brought up by organisations such as the Diversify Foundation.

Represented by the Centre for Justice, Omumi is the first deported labour migrant to try to sue the state and demand responsibility for the Migration Agency's talent deportations.

But in its judgment on October 12th, 2020, the Stockholm District Court concluded that the authorities were “justified” in their assessments. It explained that the fact a court or agency makes a decision that is then overturned by the appeals court, does not provide enough grounds that the agency has been unjust and therefore warrants compensation.

Alexandra Loyd, lawyer at the Centre for Justice, disagrees. “The talent deportations have caused personal tragedies for those who were deported incorrectly and have been harmful to Sweden. We will appeal this ruling, it is important that the state is held responsible for the Swedish Migration Agency's unreasonable deportation practice,” she said.

EXPLAINED:

In 2017, more than 1,800 people had their work permit extensions rejected by the Migration Agency, after Sweden tightened its rules with the intention of cracking down on dishonest employers taking advantage of foreign labour.

It's not possible to say how many of these rejections were due to minor administrative errors like in Omumi's case, but the number was well over double the figures for previous years, after a 2015 decision from the Migration Court of Appeal led to Swedish authorities interpreting cases on an increasingly strict basis.

But campaigners, media and politicians have been raising awareness of the issue, and in December 2017, the Migration Court of Appeal ruled that work permit renewals should be based on an overall assessment of each case (helhetsbedömning), rather than allowing single, small errors to derail an application.

This was hailed a landmark ruling for work permit holders and on the whole the number of rejections has fallen significantly.

In 2018, 664 people had their work permit renewals rejected, followed by 550 between January 1st and December 8th in 2019, according to figures given to The Local by the Migration Agency. That is a return to the levels seen before 2017, when the issue first started making major headlines in Sweden.

Member comments

  1. Sweden tightened its rules with the intention of cracking down on dishonest employers taking advantage of foreign labour. But in this case the foreign employee is penalized. What happened to that Swedish employer who is actually at fault?

  2. My British-born son’s employer breaks the law by offering no meal or hot drinks preparation area in the workplace.

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For members

WORKING IN SWEDEN

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

In the new work permit law which comes into force on June 1st, Sweden is launching a new nine-month 'talent visa', which will allow “some highly qualified individuals” to get temporary residency while they look for jobs or plan to launch a business. What do we know so far?

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

When was the law passed and when does it come into force? 

The parliament passed the new law on April 21st, and the final text of the change in the law was published on May 5th. It will come into force on June 1st. 

What does the new law say about the ‘talent visa’? 

It says that “in certain cases”, a temporary residency permit can be granted to a foreigner who wants to “spend time in the country to look for work or to look into the possibility of starting a business”. 

To qualify the applicant must: 

  • have completed studies equivalent to an advanced level degree 
  • have sufficient means to support themselves during their stay and to cover the cost of their return trip 
  • have fully comprehensive health insurance which is valid in Sweden 

How long can people initially stay in Sweden under the talent visa? 

The residency permit will be valid for a maximum of nine months.

Which agency will assess applications for the talent visa? 

The government has decided that applications should be assessed by the Migration Agency. The Migration Agency will publish more details on the requirements, such as what qualifies as an advanced degree, what documents need to be submitted, and how much capital applicants will need to show they can support themselves, in the coming weeks. 

The Migration Agency is also likely to develop a form for those wishing to apply for the talent visa. 

What level of education is necessary? 

What is meant by an “advanced degree” has not been set ou in the law, but according to Karl Rahm, who has helped draw up the law within the Ministry of Justice, a master’s degree (MA or MSc), should be sufficient. 

How much capital will applicants need to show that they have? 

According to Rahm, the amount of money applicants will need to show that they have is likely to be set at the same level as the minimum salary for those applying for a work permit, which is currently 13,000 kronor a month. If he is right, this means that someone applying for a nine-month visa would have to show that they have 117,000 kronor (€11,259) in saved capital, plus extra for their trip back to their home country.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

Can applicants bring children and spouses? 

“You will not be able to bring your family with this kind of visa, since the idea is that it’s for a relatively limited amount of time,  just to see if there is employment for you, or if there is a chance of starting a business,” says Elin Jansson, deputy director at the Ministry of Justice, who helped work on the new visa. “And if you do decide to stay in Sweden, then you apply for a regular work permit for starting up a business, and then you can bring your family.” 

Where will detailed information on the requirements for a talent visa be published? 

The Migration Agency will publish detailed requirements on the talent visa on its Working in Sweden page when the law starts to apply on June 1st. 

What is the reason for the talent visa? 

Those searching for a job or researching starting a new business in Sweden can already stay for up to 90 days with a normal Schengen visa. The idea behind the talent visa is to give highly educated foreigners a little longer to decide if they want to find a job or set up a business in the country before they need to go the whole way and launch a company. 

How many people are expected to apply? 

In the government inquiry on the new work permit law, experts estimated that about 500 people would apply for the new talent visa each year, but it could end up being either much more, or less. 

“It’s really hard to tell. There could be a really big demand. I don’t think it’s anyone can really say before this comes into effect,” Jansson said. 

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