The delays in the Migration Agency’s processing of work permit renewals are causing huge disruptions to the lives of people working in Sweden who come from countries outside the European Union.
In a sit-down interview, The Local asked Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard if the government is planning on introducing a travel visa which would enable work permit applicants to leave Sweden and return, as countries such as Denmark and Germany have done.
“Yes, I will consider it,” she said.
“I’m well aware of this problem, which also affects people who would like to go to seminars and so on abroad who are refused [the ability] to do so. So it is truly a problem.”
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“And, of course, this is linked to the very long waiting times,” she added. “So if we cut the waiting times for prolongation, then it won’t be such a big problem.”
For those from nationalities that require a visa to enter Sweden, it has meant that while they are free to leave Sweden, they risk being refused entry at the border if they try to return. Thousands of workers on whom Sweden’s economy relies have as a result been effectively trapped in the country.
A petition to the Migration Agency calling for it to find ways to “allow Non-EU residents to travel back home”, has had over 11,000 signatures since it was launched in October 2022, with many of the signatories sharing how long they’ve been stuck in Sweden while they wait for their applications to be renewed.
Readers have told The Local they have missed weddings or funerals, postponed their own weddings, or been unable to visit elderly parents for months or even years, in some cases, while their applications are processed.
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Malmer Stenergard explained in the interview that the government is trying to combat the long waiting times by ordering Swedish migration authorities to “promote highly-skilled labour migration”, which will present a plan for a “new organisation” designed to focus only on highly-skilled labour migrants.
“Hopefully, that will lead to shorter handling times and make it more attractive for foreigners to come here to work in skilled and highly-skilled professions,” she said.
“I am extremely worried that those who would like to come to Sweden choose not to do so because there is such an uncertainty, and there are such long waiting times.”
“We cannot afford that in Swedish industries or Swedish companies, because they are so dependent on finding the smartest people all over the world in order to be able to compete.”
The Local’s full interview with Maria Malmer Stenergard, discussing topics including a salary threshold for work permits, waiting times at the Migration Agency, and post-Brexit deportations will feature in the next episode of The Local’s podcast, Sweden in Focus, out this Saturday.
Source: the local