Students walking outside Stockholm University. Photo: Anders Wiklund/SCANPIX/TT
New rules introduced by Sweden's Migration Agency mean that international doctoral students have a significantly limited time in which to apply for permanent residence permits.
After four years in Sweden with a residence permit, overseas doctoral students are eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit. Previously, it was possible to make this application several months before the student's existing residence permit expired, allowing them plenty of time for the new permit to be processed.
But in spring this year, the Migration Agency announced a new legal position, which meant that these applications may only be made 14 days before the current residence permit expires.
The reason for the change was the agency's legal position that it was not possible to have double residence permits, Migration Agency legal expert David Lindstrand told The Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers' magazine Universitetsläraren.
Because there is no existing option to revoke the initial permit, except when the student fails or stops their studies, this means that the new one can only be issued once the first permit expires.
"The new instructions are a pure service to the applicants. If you have a valid residence permit and apply [for a new permit] several months in advance, you could have the application rejected and then you lose momentum in the application process," Lindstrand told the magazine.
However, the shorter application window could cause problems for those students who need to travel abroad or receive permit-based benefits from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.
The Migration Agency advises overseas doctoral students: "If you are travelling abroad as your permit expires, you may have trouble re-entering Sweden before your new permit is approved. You may need to await your new permit outside of Sweden."
Its advice for any students who end up stranded outside Sweden as a result is to apply for an entry visa at a Swedish embassy or consulate in the country they have travelled to.
Students who have already held a residence permit for study for at least six months and who applied for an extension before the old one expired are able to continue working in Sweden while awaiting processing.
According to the Migration Agency website at the time of publication, the average processing time for extensions of doctoral student residence permits was currently between one and three months if made online.