For members


EXPLAINED: Why is it taking so long to get work permits in Sweden?

The Migration Agency is currently taking much longer than its target to process work applications for foreigners employed by so-called "certified operators". What's going on and when will the situation return to normal?

EXPLAINED: Why is it taking so long to get work permits in Sweden?
The Migration Agency's offices. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

How long are work permits taking at the moment? 

The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in the first half of September the average work permit decision for those who have been hired by so-called certified operators — basically a fast-track for big and trustworthy companies — had taken an average of 105 days, while under its agreement with these companies, it is supposed to take only ten. 

The agency told The Local that this number, though correct, was misleading as the number and timing of applications varies so much from month to month, which is why it prefers to take an average over a longer period. 

According to tables provided to The Local by the agency, it has so far this year taken an average of 46 days to handle a first-time application for a work permit by an employee who has been hired by a company that is part of the certified operator scheme. This is nearly three times as along as the average of 19 days it took in 2021. 

Work permit extensions for employees at certified companies have taken 108 days so far this year, up from 43 days in 2021. 

First time work permit applications outside the certified employer scheme have taken 121 days so far this year, which is actually less than the 139 days it took in 2021. Extensions outside the scheme have so far this year taken an average of 327 days, up from 277 in 2021. 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications for people in industries that are not considered high risk are currently completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

For first-time work permit applicants who have been given jobs by or through a certified company, the agency also estimates that 75 percent of applications are processed “within three months”. 

What’s the problem? 

According to Fredrik Bengtsson, the agency’s director for Southern Sweden, who is also responsible for processing work permits, the agency has received far more applications in 2022 than it had predicted at the start of the year. 

“So far this year we have already received 10,000 more applications than our prognosis,” he told The Local. 

New rules which came into force on June 1st have also significantly increased the workload, particularly a new requirement that those applying for work permits already have a signed contract with their future employer. 

“That meant that tens of thousands of ongoing cases needed to be completed,” Bengtsson said.  

The new law also meant that instead of simply having to simply meet a minimum income requirement to bring over spouses and children, work permit applicants also needed to prove that they could support them and supply adequate housing. 

“With the new law, we need to do a much more fundamental analysis of the employee [‘s financial situation], if they want to bring their family,” he added. 

Although the agency has reduced the number of its employees from around 9,000 immediately after the 2015 refugee crisis to about 5,000 today, Bengtsson said this was something decided on by Sweden’s government in the annual budget, and was not directly linked to the current staff shortages, or to the pandemic as some have reported. 

Wrong-footed by war in Ukraine 

While the agency had been aware of these changes in advance, warned about them in its responses to a government white paper, and recruited more staff in anticipation, Bengtsson said that that the war in Ukraine had diverted resources, meaning that at the time the new law came into effect in June, the work permit division lacked sufficient staff to handle the additional workload. 

What is the agency planning to do? 

The agency is still recruiting and moving more staff to the division processing work permits.

It is also increasing the use of digitalisation, or automated systems, to process work permit applications, although there are limits under the law meaning that parts of a work permit decision still need to be made by case officers. 

The new requirement to assess applicants’ ability to support their families has made digitalisation more complicated, Bengtsson said: “As soon as we need to make judgements, we can’t digitalise”. 

He stressed that the agency was still managing to process work permits within the four-month time limit given to it under law. The ten-day goal was just “a service we offer companies”, he added, and was not something the agency was mandated to achieve. 

“We are working full out to bring down the processing time again, but it is possible that we won’t be able to return to the processing times that we had before,” he said. “We may have to say, we can only do it in a month, but we will have to see how it is with the new laws for a few more months, and then we’ll take a decision.” 

In the longer term, Bengtsson predicted that if the labour market test or a much higher minimum salary for work permit applicants is brought in, as seems likely in the coming years, this would speed up processing times. 

“There will be fewer applicants, and it will be easier for those big companies hiring people with a higher education level to get work permit,” he said. 

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For members


What happens to Brits in Switzerland when their work permits expire?

Ever since the UK ‘Brexited’ from the EU, its citizens have faced various restrictions in Switzerland (as elsewhere in Europe). But what happens to those already living here?

What happens to Brits in Switzerland when their work permits expire?

Since January 1st, 2021, Brits fall under the category of “third-country” nationals, a term used to describe people who are not citizens of either the EU or EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein).

This means that they have lost their pre-Brexit right to an almost limitless access to Swiss jobs and residency granted to EU / EFTA nationals.

So what hurdles can UK nationals already in the country expect when time comes to renew their permits?

Much depends on when they arrived in Switzerland.

If they moved here before January 1st, 2021, they are in luck.

That’s because according to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), they benefit from “acquired rights” – the ones they obtained pre-Brexit.

In other words, if you are a longtime resident, and have either a residence permit B or – even better – C, then you are in the clear.

For all intents and purposes, these Switzerland-based Brits are still free to enjoy the same perks as their EU / EFTA counterparts, including being able to work in Switzerland for the duration of the validity of their permit, as well as freedom to change jobs and move from one canton to another. 

Also, in case of a job loss, a pre-Brexit UK citizen doesn’t have to leave Switzerland immediately.

Instead, they may stay in the country for at least six months to seek new employment. 

However, they will have to apply for a permit as a job-seeker with the cantonal migration authorities while looking for a new position. 

Another perk is that if you are living in Switzerland as an EU / EFTA citizen, you can purchase property – indeed, you have the same rights in this regard as Swiss citizens do.

What happens to Brits who came to Switzerland after their country left the EU?

They are now considered to be third-country nationals, and must comply with all the restrictions imposed by this status.

They will likely “feel” these limits when time comes to renew their permit.

If their permits are “tied” to their jobs – as is often the case with non-EU nationals – and their employer no longer needs them, then in all probability they will have to leave the country.

One exception would be if the person in question has some specialised skills that Switzerland’s labour market badly needs but can’t find in a Swiss or EU / EFTA candidate.

In such a case, the permit might be extended, provided that there is a sufficient number of third-county permit quotas left at a given time.

Out of the total of 12,000 permits set aside each year for citizens of third countries, Brits benefit from 3,500: 2,100 B and 1,400 L permits are set aside just for them.

READ ALSO: How UK citizens can obtain a Swiss work permit set aside for Brits 

And there is another exemption as well…

If you arrived in Switzerland post-Brexit but are a dual citizen of the UK and an EU / EFTA country, then the latter passport will take precedence for the purpose of employment.