Coronavirus travel chaos: Thousands of foreigners apply for temporary permits to stay in Sweden

Applications to extend a stay in Sweden have increased sharply in the past couple of months, as foreign residents report getting stuck in the country for various reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sweden's Migration Agency received 1,403 applications for a visitor's residence permit in March and April, according to figures reported by Swedish radio broadcaster SR's news show Ekot on Wednesday.

That compares to 292 such applications in the same period last year.

Applications for visa extensions also rose to 2,021 in March and April this year from 518 last year.

The most common home countries among those applying to temporarily extend their time in Sweden are India, China, Ukraine and Thailand, according to Ekot's report.

It is not known how many of these have got stuck in Sweden due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions in their home countries, Sweden or elsewhere, but they are likely to make up a large part of the increase. The figures also do not show how many of these are applications from people who had always intended to leave Sweden during this time, and how many are people whose work permit renewal has been rejected.

The Migration Agency has previously warned that layoffs during the coronavirus economic crisis may adversely hit foreign work permit holders, who would then have three months to find a new job or risk losing their permit. When The Local approached the Swedish government to ask whether any temporary laws were being put in place to mitigate the situation, we were told that there were no such plans in the pipeline.

So what should you do if you are trying to leave Sweden but cannot?

A visitor's visa can be extended for a maximum of 90 days, but due to the uncertain travel situation, the Migration Agency writes on its website that it advises people who are unable to travel home due to the corona situation to first apply for a visitor's residence permit instead of extending your entry visa.

“This means you do not have to first extend your entry visa and then possibly also have to apply later for a visitor's residence permit,” it writes. “If you apply for a visitor's residence permit before your entry visa, your entry visa-free time or your current visitor's residence permit has expired, you have the right to remain in Sweden until the Swedish Migration Agency has made a decision.”

“If you have another permit that is about to expire, do not intend to extend this and have planned to leave Sweden, but cannot leave due to travel restrictions, you can apply for a visitor's residence permit.”


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