American Dirt versus Swedish Dirt

I’m seriously sleep-deprived after a few late nights with the controversial book “American Dirt” written by Jeanine Cummins this last week. It’s not only a thrilling story but it also brings illegal immigration up real close and for an immigration nerd it’s more than fiction.

There’s a lot of “yep, here too” and seeing that the recently invented Swedish word “kompetensutvisning” has a twin sister in the US.

Kompetensutvisning, by the way, means that a highly qualified talent in Sweden is deported for minor mistakes such as taking too little vacation or a job position being advertised on the wrong platform and so on. Oh, yes we do have a labor shortage across the board in our labor market and global mobility relies on reasonable rules for business immigration.

So what is it like for work-related immigration professionals to work in a politicized environment where the ground rules can change quickly and the way people talk about immigration becomes more and more polarized and in some instances aggressive? Well, firstly it depends on where you are located. These days working with work permits and visas in Canada and Ireland seems like a very positive experience while it’s more challenging in other parts of the world.

How do we cope?

Calm, cool and collected are the keywords when your work can at any time be changed by external factors – read politicians. We have over the years learned to roll with the punches, anticipate change and we have prepared for many more scenarios than what has actually happened.

Locally we have gotten fantastic help from the Migration Agency case officers and team leaders while it has been more challenging to anticipate, understand or even tolerate political outbursts. I imagine we share this with quite a few immigration lawyers around the globe.

In 25 years, there have been many changes to take into account and government agencies typically launch a change without forewarning to users OR even their own staff. Hence, it has become second nature to see around corners and anticipate what’s next. We have been successful foreseeing some development and been pleasantly surprised by the Migration Agency and their agility to quickly turn a tanker in a new direction. We are small and hence agile.

So what are the hacks?

Have practical and easy processes. We are here to make the complex understandable to our clients and ourselves which includes our work protocol.

  • Have a process and inhouse implementation that is immediate.
  • Changes must be easy to implement and unless your system requirements can quickly be updated then keep moving parts of the process available for rapid adjustments offline.
  • Mindset – have a lot of patience and stay curious.
  • Allow time for clients to catch up with the new demands that may not always be so easy to understand or to live up to in terms of reporting.
  • Welcome the small changes such as a change in opening hours at authorities, less availability or name changes – this is much preferred compared to bigger changes.
  • Online enhancements are always welcome, so be ready to embrace it
  • Be prepared to kill your darlings and don’t get too attached to processes. It will change, and probably sooner than you think.
  • Question – question – question what you do and be fast to make amendments, decisions and always move forward. You can’t get stuck in an ever-changing world.

How to make it fun!

Read the papers to fully understand what is behind the scenes. It’s not easy for non-politicians to know what is really going on. A hot topic is not seldom a coverup for some kind of negotiation in a completely different area. It’s hard to connect the dots without insight, and it sure makes work more interesting to be alert around what is happening.

Dig deep into every little detail. Focus is fun.

Acceptance is better than resistance, at least for your sanity.

We often get the question from clients about what we do to influence and educate politicians? They would like us to be their extended arm to point out mal-conditions to authorities, etc. We try and have actually been successful in overturning a law that would have been to the detriment for companies that recruit talent from aboard.

Along with the Migration Agency we have to act in accordance with the guidelines of the government. In recent years we have had an immigration debate that has been energetic and a topic where everyone and their grandmother has an opinion of usually with little knowledge. Politicians present hardcore changes as news while a majority of it is already agreed across the board and implemented years ago is noticed only by a few.

Why are some things hard to explain to expats?

Well let’s have some examples here.

  • In China they just built a new hospital to care for Corona victims in 8 days. Why has Sweden had a housing shortage since 1905?
  • In Germany authorities have adjusted to mass immigration also on an administrative level and the politicians are leading the country to live up to the commitment to their residents. In Sweden, the timeline to get the local registration completed has gone up from an average 5-10 days to 12-16 weeks.
  • Ireland has made sure that Irishmen and women that have fallen in love with someone outside the EU should be welcomed home as a couple or family without delay. Why do Swedes with non-EU spouses have to wait for at least 6 months often up to a year to be able to move to Sweden together?

It’s hard to explain the inexplicable, but we try to make some sense of it and most of all accept it.

Aside from the frustrations of the politized environment immigration is one of the most exciting fields imaginably to work in. Just think! Economics, development, politics, challenges and business all rolled into one. It couldn’t be more exciting and that the future is always is a moving target sends a daily reminder.

We are so lucky to be in this field!

If you are interested in learning about the basic FAQs for Swedish Immigration please press here.

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