Award-winning Aussie barista told to 'get out of Sweden'
Advertisement

Award-winning Aussie barista told to 'get out of Sweden'

An Australian coffee entrepreneur and award-winning barista has been told to leave Sweden after getting tangled in bureaucratic red tape while trying to renew his work visa.

Sweden has a reputation for being one of the world's most welcoming countries for migrants, and during the refugee crisis welcomed more asylum seekers per capita than any other European nation including Germany.

Award-winning Australian barista and entrepreneur Steven Moloney.

Award-winning Australian barista and entrepreneur Steven Moloney.

But a series of cases of successful foreign businesspeople being deported is, according to Swedish media reports, working to deter entrepreneurs. The Local Sweden reported this month that thousands of foreign workers had been forced to leave the country.

The crackdown has coincided with a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in Swedish politics.

Advertisement

Steve Moloney, from Brisbane, says he applied for a new work visa - replacing an old one - more than a year ago and has just been told the country's Migration Agency won't even open his case to consider it until he leaves Sweden.

Stockholm, Sweden - a country that is usually welcoming to migrants.

Stockholm, Sweden - a country that is usually welcoming to migrants. Credit:Bloomberg

"It's extremely frustrating," he said. "I've built all this stuff up in Sweden and now everything is sitting on a cliff edge, based on the whims of a very bureaucratic agency."

Moloney is not the only entrepreneur to have fallen foul of the Swedish Migration Agency.

In December, successful digital developer Farzad Ban told The Local Sweden he moved to Sweden at 14 with his family but has twice been deported - most recently in December because he missed a few hundred dollars' worth of insurance payments that came to light when he applied for permanent citizenship.

Loading

Ban said the Swedish Migration Agency's system was "unbelievably broken".

And, in October, US entrepreneur Peter Lincoln was forced to leave the country after nine years, despite running a successful brewery, because he had paid himself too low a salary while his business was getting up and running.

He told The Local that Sweden was not a good place to run a small business.

The Local reported that the Migration Agency's strictness was making life for foreign professionals extremely unstable, with the IT sector hit particularly hard by deportations despite suffering a skills shortage.

According to official figures, the Swedish Migration Agency had a backlog of more than 10,169 work permit applications as of the end of January. The backlog is growing: in January it received 4494 work permit applications but made only 3838 decisions.

Moloney, 28, moved to Sweden in 2012 after meeting a Swedish girl while travelling. He worked a holiday visa, came back to Australia for a year then returned to Sweden on a partnership visa.

He swapped to a working visa when they split up - but it took a "whopping" 2½ years between his application and when he finally received the visa, Moloney said.

In the meantime he started winning competitions in the Swedish barista scene; in 2016 and 2017, he was the Swedish barista champion and he won another competition in 2018.

He set up a consultancy company that promotes barista competitions in Sweden and around the world.

Loading

And a year ago he decided to switch to a sole trader visa, to concentrate on his growing business.

But after a year of "basically no communication", Moloney said, he has just been told the Migration Agency "won't test the application or even open the application for a visa because I'm meant to have applied from outside the country".

But given the time the agency takes to process applications, he knows this means a year or more away from his Swedish business.

"It's not feasible," he says. "If I didn't love living here I'd pack up and go."

He has appealed against the order, but in the meantime faces uncertainty, stress, and a lot of explaining every time he goes in and out of the country.

"I feel for people who don't have the privilege I have, who are waiting to be deported to a country they can't even go to," he said. "In the end, I have a pretty good deal but it's still stressful and frustrating."

The Swedish Migration Agency has been contacted for comment.

Nick Miller is Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

Most Viewed in World

Loading
Advertisement