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IMMIGRATION

‘Unstable’ firms bringing workers to Sweden

Many of the companies approved to bring foreign workers to Sweden every year have little or no turnover or go bankrupt shortly after the labour migrants arrive, according to a new report.

In addition, dozens of the companies who seek permission from the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) to import foreign workers do so using very shaky grounds, an investigative report by the LO-Tidningen newspaper reveals.

The newspaper, which is affiliated with Sweden’s largest union group, reviewed many of the companies behind the roughly 15,000 work permits issued to foreign labourers by migration authorities between December 2008 and December 2009.

Their investigation revealed that roughly 100 companies offer employment deemed to be “very uncertain” for foreign workers, excluding companies focused on berry harvesting and processing.

Many of the companies reviewed by the newspaper reported having little or no turnover, and several reported having no employees, according to documents submitted to the Swedish Companies Registration Office (Bolagsverket).

One Malmö-based company examined by LO-Tidningen was founded in 2008 and reportedly involved in the book printing business, as well as the sales of household goods.

While the company reported no turnover in its first six months, migration authorities granted a 2-year work permit to man from Turkey to come to Sweden to work for the company.

Shortly thereafter, however, the company was forcibly liquidated by the Swedish Companies Registration Office after failing to submit a mandatory annual report to the agency and the current whereabouts of the company’s Turkish employee remain unknown.

The Migration Board claims that it lacks a mandate to perform thorough checks on the companies that submit applications to bring foreign workers to Sweden.

“The law doesn’t give us the space to say no simply because the company is new,” Alejandro Firpo, head of the Migration Board’s division for labour migration, told the LO-Tidningen, adding that the agency isn’t charged with keeping tabs on whether or not a company goes bankrupt.

“If a foreigner has an employment offer and fulfills other requirements – like having a valid passport, for example, not showing up in any crime registers and having a job offer in line with Swedish collective wage agreements – we’re going to approve it.”

In 2008, Sweden updated its labour migration laws, giving companies more leeway in determining whether or not they needed to recruit workers from abroad.

Previously, the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) made such determinations, which were then used by migration authorities as grounds for issuing work permits.

According to the law, the terms of employment must be equal to or better than those set out in Swedish collective bargaining agreements or what passes for standard practice in a particular industry.

But unions and Swedish border authorities have long expressed concerns that unscrupulous companies abuse the new rules and exploit foreign workers by threatening to withdraw their work permits if they don’t agree to work long hours under adverse conditions.

Speaking with the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper in November, Ingemo Melin Olsson of the Stockholm border police argued that labour migration is the next major area of trafficking.

Shortly thereafter, Sweden’s migration minister Tobias Billström acknowledged that problems do exist, but nevertheless defended the new laws.

“Abusive employers have always existed and always will exist. It has nothing to do with the labour laws,” he said at the time.

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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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