After just a day, the petition has already been signed by 2,700 people at the time this article was last updated, indicating just how many are being affected by the long processing delays at the agency. Some foreigners in Sweden are currently having to wait for as long as 15 months to have their work permits renewed, leaving them unable to visit relatives and loved ones back home.
Fredrik Bengtsson, the director at the agency responsible for work permits this week told The Local that the delays were the result of new rules that came into force in June, the need to redeploy staff to handle refugees from Ukraine, and a post-pandemic surge in applications.
The petition was launched on Thursday by Dina Ahmad, a Lebanese IT professional, who has herself been waiting five months for a renewal.
“I decided to launch this petition because I have seen this affect many people,” she told The Local. “I have heard tragic stories about people who could not go back home to see their relatives before they passed away.”
She heard of one person who had to wait 23 months for a renewal, which as the permit was only valid for two years, meant they had only one month of validity left when they finally received it, meaning they had to immediately go through the entire process again.
In the petition, she complains about the “incomprehensible” rule that people from countries that require a visa to enter the EU who leave Sweden while waiting for a work permit decision may not be allowed to return to Sweden.
“It is a huge injustice that residents who are here working and paying taxes are unable to return to the country and resume their jobs should they decide to leave,” the petition states. “Many need to visit their families, deal with paperwork back home, or just take a break.”
The petition notes that other EU countries do not have this rule, with Denmark, for instance, having a “re-entry permit”, or “tilbagerejsetilladelse”, allowing those waiting for decisions to return home.
It also notes that the Migration Agency has already started issuing so-called D-visas so that people waiting for work permit decisions can attend business meetings abroad.
“We ask that a solution can be found wherein residents can travel and be able to come back and resume their work in Sweden while waiting for a decision,” they state. “Perhaps the D-visa can be extended to allow non-business related travel as well.”
The Migration Agency’s press office told The Local that the introduction of the D-visa had been part of the package of work permits reforms which came into force in June, and was not a decision taken by the agency.
“That’s regulated in the law and nothing we have decided,” Lisa Danling said. As the D-visa only applies to work trips, the agency has no power to issue a visa for other journeys outside Sweden.
Moataz Mohamed, one of the signatories, wrote under the petition that the delay in processing his new work permit had prevented him from “going home to get married to the love of my life”.
“With the increasing time for a decision, we can’t even plan anything or book a venue. At the same time, my father is sick and if something happens to him, I can’t even think of what to do,” he wrote on the petition. “This rule is prejudiced and borderline racist.”
Hyder Ali Mohamed, another signatory, wrote that despite working for a certified company, he had been waiting for permanent residency for more than 25 months.
“Last time we visited our families and friends back home was more than four years ago, and we will never see some of our closest family members ever again who passed away last year,” he wrote. “The sad part is that even after informing this multiple times to the case officer, he is not making a decision.”
“Imagine being locked in a place and not allowed to move out of the country for the reason of delayed process for months or even a year,” wrote Suneel Seelam, another signatory. “I know the pain of it myself and have seen friends of mine suffering from it. I like to travel at least once a year, and for some family reasons people have to travel.”