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WORK PERMITS

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

WORK PERMITS

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Many foreigners living in Sweden need to have a residence permit to live in the country legally. Permits are issued for two years at a time and can be renewed 30 days before expiry, at the earliest. But with waiting times exceeding 8 months for many applicants, just what are your rights while you wait to hear back?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Can I keep working in Sweden?

It depends. If you have a residence permit which allows you to work in Sweden, have held that residence permit for at least six months and apply for an extension before your old permit expires, you still have the right to work in Sweden while you wait for the Migration Agency to make a decision on your permit application.

You can apply for a new residence permit 30 days before your old permit expires, at the earliest, and you can’t get a new residence permit before your old one has run out.

Can I leave Sweden?

Technically you can, but it might not be a good idea. This is due to the fact that if you leave Sweden after your residence permit has expired, it can be difficult to enter Sweden again before your new permit is granted, even if you can prove that you’ve applied for a new one.

In the worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to Sweden at the border and forced to wait in another country until your new residence permit is granted. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in some cases, apply for a national visa allowing you to re-enter Sweden. These are only granted under exceptional circumstances, and must be applied for at a Swedish embassy or general consulate in the country you are staying in. If you are not granted a national visa to re-enter Sweden, you can’t appeal the decision, meaning you’ll have to wait until your residence permit is approved before you can re-enter Sweden.

The Migration Agency writes on its website that you should only leave Sweden while your application is being processed “in exceptional cases, and if you really have to”.

It lists some examples of exceptional cases as “sudden illness, death in the family or important work-related assignments”, adding that you may need to provide proof of your reason for travelling to the embassy when you apply for a national visa to re-enter Sweden.

What if I come from a visa-free country?

If you come from a visa-free country, you are able to re-enter Sweden without needing a visa, but you may run into issues anyway, as visa-free non-EU citizens entering Schengen are only allowed to stay in the bloc for 90 days in every 180 before a visa is required.

If you are a member of this group and you stay in Schengen for longer than 90 days without a visa, you could be labelled an “overstayer”, which can cause issues entering other countries, as well as applying for a visa or residence permit in the future.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “a visa-free person waiting for a decision in their extension application can leave Sweden and return, as long as they have visa-free days left to use”.

“However, an extension application usually requires the individual to be located in Sweden,” the Agency wrote. “Travelling abroad can, in some cases, have an effect on the decision whether to extend a residence permit or not, in a way which is negative for the applicant, but this decision is made on an individual case basis (it’s not possible to say a general rule).”

“The right to travel into the Schengen area for short visits is not affected, as long as the person still has visa-free days left.”

The Local has contacted the Migration Agency to clarify whether days spent in Sweden count towards the 90-day limit, and will update this article accordingly once we receive a response.

Does this apply to me if I have a permanent residence permit?

No. This only applies to people in Sweden holding temporary residence permits. If you have a permanent residence permit and your residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort or UT-kort) expires, you just need to book an appointment at the Migration Agency to have your picture and fingerprints taken for a new card.

How long is the processing time for residence permit renewals?

It varies. For people renewing a residence permit to live with someone in Sweden, for example, the Migration Agency states that 75 percent of recent cases received an answer within eight months.

For work permit extensions, it varies. In some branches, 75 percent of applicants received a response after 17 months, others only had to wait five.

This means that some people waiting to extend their residence permits could be discouraged from leaving Sweden for almost a year and a half, unless they are facing “exceptional circumstances”.

You can see how long it is likely to take in your case here.

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