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IMMIGRATION

Sweden increases refugee forecast again

Sweden's Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has increased its forecast to 31,000 for the number of people expected to seek asylum this year. It has also requested an additional 60 million kronor ($7.86 million) in 2010 to cope with the increased pressure.

“There has been a sharp upward revision. This is the second time this year we have increased the projection,” said Dan Eliasson, the director general of the Migration Board.

Previously, the Migration Board estimated that there would be 25,000 asylum seekers in 2010, but in February, it increased its forecast to 28,000 and asked for an additional 50 million kronor for its budget. It has also increased its projection for next year by 1,000 to 28,000.

The spike in asylum seekers is largely because more people from Serbia and Kosovo are seeking refugee status following the abolition of visa requirements.

“Many European countries have been surprised by so many now coming from Serbia,” said Eliasson. “Among others, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland have noticed a similar development.”

However, the likelihood of people from the Balkans being allowed to staying in Sweden is “extremely” small.

“Each case must of course be assessed individually, but generally, it is very difficult to get asylum in Sweden from another European country,” said Eliasson. “Often, the living conditions are very difficult. Many live in extreme poverty. However, Swedish asylum law provides no protection because of poverty and destitution, only to those who are threatened or persecuted.”

The agency now expects that the government will inject extra money as required. If the Migration Board does not receive additional resources, the likely consequence would be longer processing times and increased caseloads. This would result in longer stays for asylum seekers in Sweden, which would mean a substantially increased burden on the government’s budget, according to the estimates.

The agency also pointed out the need for 1,400 new apartments for asylum seekers. In response to the surge, the Migration Board has addressed the need for an increase in resources both for this year and next.

With regard to cases relating to work, visit and residence, the forecast for the number of applications is unchanged, with the exception of the guest student category.

In light of the decision to introduce tuition fees at Swedish universities and colleges for foreigners by Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, the Migration Board estimates that the number of asylum applications will fall by 30 to 40 percent starting in 2011.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question. 

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