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WORK PERMITS

Australian to be deported from Sweden over ‘world’s most boring admin error’

An Australian marketing professional will be deported from Sweden at the start of next month, over what she describes as "the world's most boring administrative error", showing the Migration Agency is still deporting talented foreigners for minor administrative slip-ups.

Australian to be deported from Sweden over 'world's most boring admin error'
Sheona Urquhart Smångs at Gotland Créperie. Photo: Private

Sheona Urquhart Smångs, who has lived in Sweden for nearly six years, is leaving to return to Australia in two weeks’ time, after a court in Malmö confirmed a Migration Agency decision to reject her request for a work permit extension. 

Last year, she married her Swedish husband, Victor, an elite runner with a dedicated online following.

Until the court’s decision last week, she was working as Marketing and Communications Manager for the driving school app, My Driving Academy, but she has had to resign since losing her work permit. 

“My intention is to apply for a family visa, but as you know, these visas take a year and a half to get, and Victor has to keep his job because he has to show he can support me and be my sponsor, so we have a creative year ahead of us.” 

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After Sweden announced proposals for changes to work permit regulations, there was cautious optimism that the new rules could help improve foreign workers’ stability in Sweden, but criticism that a proposed ‘talent visa’ was not innovative enough.

The Local’s team discussed ‘talent deportations’ and Urquhart Smångs’ case in our latest edition of the Sweden in Focus podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

In its decision, the Migration Agency said that the insurance Smångs’ employer had bought for her was only for an ordinary “worker” or arbetare, when it should have been tjänsteman or “executive” level. 

“This was all approved by the Migration Agency in 2018,” she says. 

But after she applied to extend the visa in August 2020, a new handler ruled that the insurances that had been ruled adequate in 2017, in fact, were not. 

“They sent a letter saying they intended to reject me because, according to them, these insurances – livsförsäkring and sjukförsäkring — were not at the right level for my role, and should be tjänsteman not arbetare. My role had not changed. It was just that the person extending my work visa said that the insurance was not sufficient, even though they had approved these insurances back in 2017.” 

Her boss immediately reinsured her at the slightly more expensive tjänsteman level but this was not enough for the Migration Agency, which refused to extend her work permit and ordered her to be deported. 

“The crazy thing is that although this particular insurance company differentiates between arbetare and tjänsterman, not all of them do,” she continued. “There’s barely any price difference between these insurances. The fact that my boss had insured me clearly shows his intentions were to do the right thing by Migrationsverket”.

Sheona Urquhart Smångs married her husband Victor in Nacka, Stockholm, last year. Photo: Per Henning

She and Victor now plan to spend the next year partly in Australia — where he can stay for 90 days — and partly living nomadically, so they can spend as much of the year together as possible. 

Urquhart Smångs’ case shows that despite repeated attempts by Sweden’s government to push the Migration Agency to stop so-called kompetensutvisningar, or “talent deportations”, the deportation of skilled workers for minor mistakes made by their employers, they continue to happen. 

On April 20th, Sweden’s parliament is due to vote through a new law on Tightened and Improved Work Permit Rules which specifically calls on the Migration Agency to forgive minor mistakes. 

“A time-limited work permit does not need to be revoked in the event of minor deviations or if a revocation does not appear to be reasonable in view of the circumstances,” the bill reads, as it stands. 

But it remains to be seen if that language will be enough to solve the problem, seeing as the Migration Agency criticised the uncertainty of the language in its response to the consultation, and warned that employees were at risk even if they lacked the correct insurance for a short, limited period, as they might have an accident while they had inadequate cover. 

Sheona Urquhart Smångs has been working as a digital marketing executive. Photo: Private

Urquhart Smångs disagreed that the Migration Agency’s strict interpretation of the laws was in the interests of foreigners living in Sweden on work permits. 

“My lawyer says that all these rules were designed to help migrants, to stop them being abused by Swedish employers, but they’re being completely used against us,” she said. 

She says that she feels very integrated in Sweden. 

 “I’m so embedded here, I’ve got a band here which has performed all around the country. I’ve performed with Swedish artists, including singing in Swedish.  I’ve launched two podcasts (here and here) about how great life is here in Sweden – I feel I’ve definitely thrown myself into the community.”

 “Victor’s family are so shocked. It’s crazy that they’re willing to separate the marriages of their own citizens.”

“They even said in my initial rejection letter, that they “acknowledge that she’s engaged to a Swedish citizen, but they think that that’s not enough to show that she’s established a life in Sweden.”

Urquhart Smångs is flying back to Australia on Saturday.  

Member comments

  1. They should also be looking into the court in Malmö that confirmed a Migration Agency decision, as that was the place the decision should have been overturned.

  2. Absolute madness. I guarantee if you denied that Migra­tions­verket case handler ANYTHING, no mater how trivial and small, in their life (even on a temporary basis) over an extraordinarily minor technicality they would squeal so loud they could be heard across the Baltic in Tallinn.

    This is a continuance of of a long line of ‘let’s make Sweden a laughingstock of the EU’ level buffoonery.

  3. Mr. Orange and the Local write the the “Migration Agency is still deporting talented foreigners”

    But what makes her so “talented” and in need of special coverage in this newspaper?
    She has a very ordinary, some might even say sub-ordinary, job. She works for a very mediocre business doing surprisingly pedestrian work.

    She’s not writing specialised AI software. She’s not developing new algorithms. And she isn’t on the leading edge of biochemical research changing the world with new pharmaceuticals.
    Where’s the talent? I ask this sincerely as it seems that the Local and Mr. Orange believe that everyone who has a job, no matter how ordinary that job might be, should be recoginised as a special talent and granted exceptions to the rules.

    I think Sweden needs to be clear about what it means by “talent” and who should be admitted.
    Marketing managers like this are a dime-a-dozen.

    And there is a legitimate administrative error in her paperwork. And, frankly, she seems like the type who just might make such an error. Is she a nice person and someone who would be great to socialise with? almost certainly. But wothly of the title “talented” and an article dedicated to her sitaution? Doubtful.

  4. Mr. Orange and the Local write:
    “Migration Agency is still deporting talented foreigners”

    But what makes her so “talented” and in need of special coverage in this newspaper?
    She has a very ordinary, some might even say sub-ordinary, job. She works for a very mediocre business doing surprisingly pedestrian work.

    She’s not writing specialised AI software. She’s not developing new algorithms. And she isn’t on the leading edge of biochemical research changing the world with new pharmaceuticals.
    Where’s the talent? I ask this sincerely as it seems that the Local and Mr. Orange believe that everyone who has a job, no matter how ordinary that job might be, should be recoginised as a special talent and granted exceptions to the rules.

    I think Sweden needs to be clear about what it means by “talent” and who should be admitted.
    Marketing managers like this are a dime-a-dozen.

    And there is a legitimate administrative error in her paperwork. And, frankly, she seems like the type who just might make such an error. Is she a nice person and someone who would be great to socialise with? almost certainly. But wothly of the title “talented” and an article dedicated to her sitaution? Doubtful.

  5. This is sad indeed , not sure what is the rationale behind this. It seems counter intuitive by all means. I do not understand why something aimed at protecting employees turns out to be so disadvantageous for the them.

  6. It seems to me that in this case it was not the employer who made the mistake, but the Migration Agency, which misinformed the employer. If anyone should be penalized, it should be the Agency employee who gave the wrong information in 2017, NOT the company or the employee, who both properly followed the instructions given by the Agency.

  7. With all my experience as an employee with work permit struggles I’d say she probably chose a bad lawyer for her case. I think it could be possible to win this case

  8. Interesting comment Kio. You sound very bitter and upset.
    Have you considered Canada? The door is wide open for educated immigrants such as yourself. You might want to tone down the attitude a little though. Not every rejection is based on racism. But regardless, your best bet in life as a person of colour is Canada. It’s an advanced nation, with the most lax immigration policies on Earth and a leftish PM who is pouring favours on people of colour such as yourself. You should give it a shot. It is a great country.

    Oh – and please ignore any comments from “An academic in Sweden” and “Another Academic in Sweden” on this. They are a both rather bigoted and are unable to deal with helpful advice that I offer on the topic of immigration and nationality. Completely unwilling to take positive advice and suggestions, and attempting to shut down constructive dialogue. I sincerely believe Canada would be a better place for you. Especially Toronto, which has a relatively large financial sector and is well integrated with New York and Chicago. It’s also highly diverse.

  9. @kio
    What do you mean by “amount of indians is too much to handle”? If you take the immigration statistics they are by far well educated, hardworking, silent, almost 0% crime and “mind their own business” community when you compare with other immigrants.

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RESIDENCY PERMITS

EXPLAINED: What’s the current status of Sweden’s planned migration laws?

There are a number of migration-related laws and policies in the pipeline in Sweden, including changes to work permits, citizenship and permanent residency requirements, and plans to tighten up permanent residency and asylum applications. Here's a quick overview.

EXPLAINED: What's the current status of Sweden's planned migration laws?

Raising the salary threshold for work permits

What will the proposal do?

It would set a new salary threshold of around 33,000 kronor a month, meaning that anyone earning below this figure would not qualify for a work permit. The exact figure hasn’t been set yet, but the Sweden Democrats and government proposed setting it at the average Swedish salary – 33,000 kronor a month – in the Tidö coalition agreement after the election.

What’s the status of the proposal?

It was passed as law by parliament in late November 2022. The bill stated that the new salary threshold would be introduced by a date to be decided by the government, with Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard saying in late November that the government would decide on the exact amount and introduce the bill “as soon as possible”.

Introducing labour market testing for work permits

What will the proposal do?

It would reintroduce labour market tests for work permits, meaning that work permits will only be granted for jobs in sectors experiencing a shortage.

Denmark has had a similar system, dubbed the Positive List, for a number of years, which is updated twice a year and comprises two lists: one for people with a higher education and one for other skilled workers.

You can read more about labour market testing here.

What’s the status of the proposal?

It is at the directive or inquiry stage, the first stage of the legislative process.

The directive is an order from the government, or more rarely the parliament, for a proposed law or change to be investigated and analysed.

The directive summarises what proposal or idea needs to be analysed, lists the key proposals that should be answered, and sets a date by which the conclusions should be published, normally at least a year into the future.  

The deadline for this inquiry to be complete is July 31st 2023. After that the government would have to decide how and whether or not to move forward with the proposal.

Having said that, the proposal was originally put forward by the previous Social Democrat government, and it is unclear if the current government are in favour, so it could well be dropped, altered (for example, to only apply to jobs earning less than the salary threshold) or paused once the inquiry is complete.

Language and culture tests for citizenship

What will the proposal do?

It would introduce a language and culture test for citizenship applications, which would apply to those aged between 16 and 66.

An inquiry into bringing in the language requirement concluded in January 2021 that applicants for citizenship should be able to listen to and read Swedish at B1 the second of the six levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), equivalent to having completed level D, the fourth-highest level in the Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course. 

This is a fairly high level of Swedish. It’s enough to get the gist of what’s in Swedish newspapers, listen to the radio, or to follow a lecture without too much difficulty.

When it comes to speaking or writing Swedish, the inquiry suggested requiring a lower level, A2. This is equivalent to SFI level C.

This is the same level which the government has suggested for those applying for permanent residency for reading and listening as well as speaking and writing.

With regards to the culture test, the law proposes a digital test of “basic knowledge needed to live and function in Swedish society focusing on democracy and the democratic process”, which would be based off the contents of a book produced specifically for test purposes.

What’s the status of the proposal?

This law is at the remiss, or “consultation”, stage. The inquiry report and its proposals are sent for consultation to the relevant government agencies or organisations, municipalities and other stakeholders, who can submit remissvar, or “responses”

It is the government department responsible for the proposed law that gets to decide which organisations or individuals are invited to submit responses, so sometimes organisations who believe they should have a say do not get one. It is possible for these organisations to send a response uninvited, but the government is not required to read them or take their arguments on board. 

Indeed, the answers given in consultation responses are purely advisory, meaning the government can, and often does, ignore the views of agencies and other stakeholders. If the responses are extremely critical, or raise insuperable obstacles, however, the proposed law can also be abandoned at this stage. 

Despite not yet going through a parliamentary vote, if it does go ahead, the law has a proposed introduction date of January 1st 2025.

Language and culture tests for permanent residency

What will the proposal do?

This would, similarly to the law on citizenship above, introduce a language and culture knowledge requirement for permanent residency applications.

There are not yet any official guidelines for how good your knowledge of Swedish language and culture will need to be in order to pass, but they are likely to be similar to or slightly lower than the requirements set for citizenship.

What’s the status of the proposal?

This law is at the inquiry stage (launched in June 2022), with a deadline for this stage set for May 21st 2023.

Strengthened system for coordination numbers

What will the proposal do?

This law will make the Swedish Tax Agency wholly responsible for awarding coordination numbers, the numbers given to people living in Sweden who are not yet eligible for a personal number, personnummer

This should make it easier to keep track of which numbers are held by real people and which are dormant. The bill will also create a new category of “supported identity” coordination numbers, where the holder goes to a Tax Agency office in person with a passport or other identity document and has their identity confirmed.

These should meet a sufficiently high security threshold to allow holders to access BankID, opening the way for them to access a host of services in Sweden. 

What’s the status of the proposal?

It was passed as law on November 30th 2022, and is due to come into force on September 1st 2023 (January 1st 2023 for affected staff at foreign embassies).

Crackdown on work and residence permit abuses

What will the policy do?

The government in December 2022 ordered the Migration Agency to “develop its handling processes”, “create a clear division of responsibility for recalling work and residence permits”, and carry out an analysis into whether an “automated system and other types of case-handling support” could be used to a greater extent.

In addition, it told the agency to “step up its work on recalling residency for studies in higher education, where there are indications that residency permits are being misused”. 

What’s the status of this policy?

The agency has been asked to submit a written account on how it is enacting the government’s requests by June 30th 2023. 

Tighten asylum legislation to ‘minimum level’ allowed in EU

What will the policy do?

The government wants to tighten asylum legislation to the “minimum level” allowed under European Union law or other international treaties to which Sweden is a signatory.

It could withdraw residency from asylum seekers “if the original grounds for asylum no longer apply”, abolish permanent residency for asylum seekers in favour of temporary residency permits, and reduce the scope for family reunion for those with residency in Sweden to the minimum circle of relatives allowed under EU law: a spouse or domestic partner and any children under 18 years.

It could also establish transit centres either in Sweden or overseas, if possible under the Swedish constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

What’s the status of this policy?

This policy was included in the government and Sweden Democrats’ coalition document, the Tidö Agreement, but has not been formally proposed yet. However, in the Tidö Agreement, the parties stated that an inquiry into changes to asylum and immigration law would be launched “in spring 2023”, with the aim of passing a new law in parliament before the mandate period comes to an end in 2026.

Extending residence requirement for citizenship and other changes to citizenship

What will the proposals do?

They would extend the time it takes to qualify for Swedish citizenship from the current limit of five years (three years for spouses or cohabiting partners of Swedish citizens) to eight years “in the normal case”.

It’s not clear what, if any, exceptions there will be for citizenship applications, or whether those married to a Swede or with Swedish children will have a reduced wait. 

On top of this, the government and Sweden Democrats want to introduce a demand that anyone applying for Swedish citizenship can support themselves financially, investigate the possibility of introducing a new obligatory ceremony, such as an oath of loyalty or a citizenship interview which would act as the final stage in citizenship process, and look into the possibility of withdrawing citizenship from dual citizens who carry out “system-threatening crimes”, or whose citizenship was granted on false premises. 

What’s the status of these proposals?

These policies were also included in the Tidö Agreement but have not yet been formally proposed. The Tidö Agreement does not list any specific deadline or goal for passing such laws either, although it is likely that a directive would be issued (the first stage of the legislative process) before the current mandate period ends in 2026.

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