Swedish agency finds thousands have wrongly kept permanent residency permits

The Local Sweden
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Swedish agency finds thousands have wrongly kept permanent residency permits
Passport control at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The Swedish National Audit Office has called for tighter enforcement of permanent residency rules, after finding that thousands of people may have wrongly kept permits.


The audit uncovered what it described as "severe shortcomings" in the system, saying that in 2020 it had identified 13,000 cases where there were "strong reasons to investigate whether the person was living up to the requirements for their residency permits".

The investigation found that 9,000 people had managed to retain Swedish permanent residency in 2020 despite having moved out of the country. 

It also found that one in four people with a residence permit for higher education was not registered as studying, while one in ten people with a work permit had no registered work income. 

"These shortcomings are due, among other things, to the fact that the government and the Migration Agency have not given this enough priority," Helena Lindberg, Sweden's auditor-general, said in a press release. "This is hardly compatible with the agency's duties under the law."



The investigation found that the failure to recall permanent residencies had come at a considerable cost, with people who had left the country receiving 430 million kronor (€37 million) in undeserved welfare benefits between 2013 and 2020.   

People with permanent residence permits can leave Sweden for up to a year and keep their permit, and for up to two years if they notify the Migration Agency before moving.


The study blamed the previous government for not prioritising the recall of permits, noting that between 2013 and 2022, the government had not given the agency a single goal or task on recalling permits, or asked for it to report any information on the number of recalls.    

The Migration Agency, on the other hand, had also not launched any coordinated process around initiating, investigating or taking decisions on recalls, it added. 

According to the Migration Agency, 9,438 residency permits have been recalled so far in 2023, which is already nearly double the 4,478 permits recalled in 2022. It is still, however, behind the 13,933 permits recalled in 2021 and the 11,728 recalled in 2020.


In its conclusions, the report said that part of the explanation for the problem came down to the limits on what information government agencies can share with one another, with Sweden's social insurance and pensions agencies registering that people have left Sweden without informing migration authorities. 

On the other hand, Sweden's migration agency often failed to communicate with other agencies the fact that it had recalled a permanent or temporary residency, allowing people who have had permits revoked to continue receiving benefits and other services. 

"This leads to people being able to continue travelling to and visiting Sweden, and to be able to apply to receive services and benefits which they no longer have the right," Tommi Teljosuo, who led the investigation, said in the statement. 


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