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SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

REVEALED: The truth about waiting times at Sweden’s Migration Agency

A new report from Sweden's Parliamentary Ombudsman has found that a number of cases at Sweden's Migration Agency were "not actively processed for the majority of the processing time", despite waits of more than three years.

REVEALED: The truth about waiting times at Sweden's Migration Agency
New Swedish citizens hold up their diplomas at a citizenship ceremony in Sundbyberg, outside Stockholm, this summer. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

What is this report?

The report, which came out on December 13th, addresses complaints to the Parliamentary Ombudsman about long processing times at the Migration Agency for citizenship, asylum and residence permit applications.

In the report, Parliamentary Ombudsman Per Lennerbrant said that the Migration Agency must make “special efforts” to address the long waiting times faced by those applying for asylum, permanent residency, or citizenship in Sweden.

Lennerbrant stated that it is “unacceptable” that the Migration Agency, year after year, has unreasonably long processing times for a large range of cases.

He further criticised the Migration Agency for “slow and passive” processing in all cases which were a subject of the investigation.

How long did these applicants have to wait?

The report, which assessed five cases reported by applicants for Swedish citizenship, asylum and residence permits, concluded that, in all cases, processing times “exceeded what is considered acceptable”.

The five cases are described as follows:

  • “AA”, who applied for Swedish citizenship on May 21st, 2020. In January 2021, a Migration Court concluded that the Migration Agency must conclude “AA”‘s case “as soon as possible”. The case was concluded on February 1st, 2022. Waiting time: 1 year, 8 months, 11 days
  • “BB”, who applied for Swedish citizenship on July 30th, 2018. The case was concluded on March 16th, 2022. Waiting time: 3 years, 7 months, 16 days
  • “CC”, who applied for Swedish citizenship on June 27th, 2018. The case was concluded on March 3rd, 2022. Waiting time: 3 years, 8 months, 4 days
  • “DD”, who applied for asylum in Sweden on January 9th, 2020. The case was concluded on February 18th, 2022. Waiting time: 2 years, 1 month, 9 days
  • “EE”, who applied for a residence permit as a family member (a so-called ‘sambo’ permit), on November 29th, 2020. The case was concluded on March 28th, 2022. Waiting time: 1 year, 3 months, 28 days

What did the Ombudsman say about these cases?

The report concluded that, in all cases, processing times “exceeded what is considered acceptable”.

The report further concluded that all five cases were subject to “long periods of passivity”, stating that four cases were “not actively processed for the majority of the processing time”. One of these cases was concluded after “roughly a week” once a Migration Agency case officer finally started processing it.

In the fifth case, it states, processing “was initially carried out”, with “more than a year” passing before further action was taken, and then “a further ten months” before the case was concluded.

How has the Migration Agency responded?

The Parliamentary Ombudsman demanded a response from the Migration Agency, as well as answers to a number of questions, which it received on June 8th, 2022.

In its response, the Migration Agency stated that it “works to conclude received applications within the dates stipulated by law in all types of case”. It further stated that it “calculates that the goal of being able to conclude asylum and family reunification cases within legal deadlines […] will be reached during 2023,” and that the goal of concluding citizenship cases within six months will also be reached the same year.

It further states that a “new structure to provide support to employees working to conclude cases” was established at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, which introduced a “case concluding support network” for each part of the process.

In March 2022, the Agency continues, “a new process was introduced for cases addressing residence permits due to family reunification, meaning, for example, that all new family reunification cases are handled by a central function which sorts out those cases which should be processed quickly”.

In 2021, the Agency states, an additional centre for handling citizenship cases was opened to “increase recruitment and lower vulnerability”.

It also stated that issues for the Agency which can cause delays include decisions from the Migration Courts demanding that cases should be concluded quickly, which affects the order in which different cases are prioritised, as well as outside factors such as war in Ukraine, which can cause bottlenecks.

The Agency agreed with the Parliamentary Ombudsman that processing times had “not been satisfactory” in any of the five cases addressed by the report.

Does that really mean people applying for citizenship next year will have an answer within six months?

The Parliamentary Ombudsman doesn’t seem to think so. It stated that the investigation shows that “the Migration Agency still has major issues with processing times”, and that it “concludes that it will take years before they reach an acceptable level”.

“In my previous assessment,” Ombudsman Per Lennerbrant said, “I spoke of a fear that the agency’s long processing times would become the norm if serious measures were not taken,” he said.

“I am now forced to confirm that my fears appear to have been valid. The Migration Agency must make special efforts to address the long processing times.”

The Parliamentary Ombudsman has also sent a copy of the decision to Sweden’s governmental offices, as the long waiting times are also in part due to a lack of resources.

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For members

VISAS

Which European countries offer a ‘digital nomad’ visa?

With the world of work rapidly changing, digital nomad visas are now in high demand as a way to experience life in another country while continuing to work remotely. Here are the European countries that you can obtain one for, and what’s involved.

Which European countries offer a 'digital nomad' visa?

Many countries have introduced digital nomad visas as a means to attract visitors and boost their economy. 

Generally, to obtain one, those applying need to be able to conduct their work online, to have a contract with a company based outside the country they’re applying to, and to meet a monthly salary level. 

Additionally, applicants will need to prove that they have a minimum level of health insurance, means to support themselves and accommodation organised. 

It’s also important to note that if you are a citizen of an EEA/Schengen country, you may not be able to apply for these visas – you already have the right to live and work in these countries. 

Germany, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland do not currently have offer a ‘digital nomad visa, although there are alternatives. 

France and Denmark also have options for those wanting to work remotely. 

Several European countries, however, now do offer these visas. 

Albania

Albania’s new Unique Permit scheme allows digital nomads to apply for a Type D visa, which is valid for a year, and which can be renewed for up to five years. 

While there are no explicit requirements for a monthly or yearly salary, it has been suggested that a minimum yearly income of €9.024,33 would result in an approval. 

Applications can take up to twelve weeks, and the costs for the visa will vary, based on your country of origin. 

Croatia

Croatia introduced their Digital Nomad Residence Permit in 2021, and it is becoming a popular option for remote workers. 

This visa is valid for a year, and can be renewed – although you’ll have to leave the country for six months before you can reapply. 

A minimum monthly salary of €2.446,69 is required for a successful application. 

The cost of this visa will vary, depending on the country from which you apply. 

Cyprus

Cyprus has an appealing Digital Nomad Visa program, albeit one that is capped – only 500 are available per year. 

Applicants will need to be able to prove a minimum monthly income of €3,500 to receive a visa, and it is valid for one year – renewable for a further two. 

Applicants will need to pay €140 – €70 for the application fee, and €70 for the Alien Registration Certificate. 

Estonia

A trailblazer in attracting remote workers, Estonia’s Digital Nomad Visa is one of Europe’s most desirable. 

This is due to the country’s excellent online infrastructure and support for remote workers, through its E-Residency Card program. 

Applicants can also expect a response to their application within a month – a much shorter waiting period than for several other countries. 

Applicants must pay a €60 application fee, and be able to show evidence of a €4,500 monthly salary. 

Greece

Greece’s Digital Nomad Visa is valid for two years, renewable for another two years.

It costs €75, and you’ll need to be making at least €3,500 a month to be successful when applying. 

Hungary

Hungary’s ‘White Card’ was introduced in 2021 to attract remote workers to the central European country. 

The ‘White Card’ is valid for one year, and can be extended once for a further year. 

Applicants need to be able to show that they’re earning the equivalent of €3,000 a month, and costs €110 to apply for. 

Iceland

Iceland also has a digital nomad visa, although it’s slightly different to many others. 

The country’s Long-term visa for Remote Work is only valid for up to 180 days, although it can be applied for again 90 days after leaving the Schengen zone.

It costs €80.96 to apply, and you will need to be making at least €6.636,13 a month to be successful. 

Italy

Italy’s digital nomad visa is Europe’s newest, effective from April 4th. The initial visa is valid for a year, and there is no upper limit on renewals, as long as the applicant still meets the criteria.

It’s important to know that applicants will need to be earning €28,000 a year to be successful. The visa must be applied for at the nearest consulate, and costs €116.

Malta

Malta’s Nomad Residence Permit is valid for one year and can be renewed a further three times, for a maximum stay of four years. 

Applicants need to show that they are making at least €42,000 a year and the application fee is €300.

Norway

Norway’s digital nomad visa offering is rather unique. 

First, the Digital Nomad Visa is valid for up to two years, and can be reapplied for. Applicants must show an annual income of €35,719 and the application costs €600. 

Then there’s the Svalbard Digital Nomad Visa. While it has much the same requirements as the regular digital nomad visa, successful applicants must also reside within the Svalbard archipelago, within the Arctic Circle. 

Amazingly, there is no expiry date for the Svalbard visa  – it has a lifetime duration. However, you will have to pay Norwegian taxes. 

Both of these visas can be applied for through the official Norwegian government website.

Spain

Although it was only introduced last year, Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa programme has already proved successful. 

The initial visa is valid for one year, and it can be renewed for up to five years. 

It costs €80 to apply, and applicants need to show that they’re making a minimum of €2,646 a month

Portugal

Portugal’s digital nomad visa program is one of Europe’s most well-known.

Two specific visas specifically cater towards digital nomads. The Temporary Stay Visa is valid for three months and can be renewed up to four times – the maximum stay being a year. 

This visa costs €75 to apply for, and applicants have to show a monthly salary of €3,280.

The Residency Visa is valid for four months, after which it can be reapplied for, lasting two years. 

It costs €80 to apply for, and the income threshold is increased to €3,304. 

Family members can accompany those on a Residency Visa, while on a Temporary Stay visa, they cannot.

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