A Paradox Interactive producer named Vachon Pugh faces deportation by the Swedish government due to a former employer’s error.
While applying for a standard work permit renewal, The Migration Office asked for additional documentation. To her surprise, she received a letter informing her that her work permit was denied. She has just four weeks to leave Sweden.
Paradox is one of the biggest publishers of Strategy Games on PC, with a strong reputation built up over decades. Recruiting from international talent pools has aided them in building up their workforce over the years.
Changes to Swedish Immigration Laws
Since moving to Sweden three years ago, Pugh has been employed by three companies including Paradox. The Migration Agency found no issue with her first or current employer. However, her second employer failed to pay out several workplace and pension insurances during her trial period.
This became an issue because Sweden changed its immigration laws back in 2015 to help workers avoid exploitation. The new laws stated that workers needed evidence of social security and pension insurance payments from employers. Without these payments, The Migration Agency decided to deny her application.
“I don't believe that my previous employer had ill intentions, it was an oversight. I understand that the rules are there to stop people from being exploited, but I wasn't exploited, it was an accident."
The Migration Agency said in the letter to Pugh: “A period of approximately five and a half months of lost insurances, during a period of two years of permits, is long enough to find that the conditions for your previous work permit were not met".
At the moment, Pugh is appealing the decision to the Migration Court, with the advice of a lawyer which Paradox has provided.
“It's really good to know that your employer is fighting for you, but I'm stressed, to say the least. It's scary and I don't know what's going to happen. I keep staring at my stuff, wondering if I'm going to have to pack it? I have two cats that I adopted from a shelter in Malmö, and I'm worried about what's going to happen to them. Also, it's in the middle of a pandemic,” Pugh said when interviewed.
Talent Deportation in Sweden’s Tech Scene
According to The Local, it had been Pugh’s dream to move to Sweden and join the growing tech scene. First she moved to Malmö and then later to Stockholm to join Paradox Interactive where she landed the job of overseeing production on the Hearts of Iron IV game.
Paradox is currently one of Sweden’s largest video game producers and has more than 400 employers. Ebba Ljungerud, CEO of Paradox said that they are lending full support to Pugh.
"It's a personal tragedy, and it's a big loss for us. Vachon develops one of our most popular games. It's a difficult game to develop, and it's a very hard role to find senior people for. We as an employer are also a victim of this. Even if we're not at fault, and Vachon is not at fault, it still affects us.”
The Local reported that these new laws had led to the deportation of hundreds of work permit holders over relatively minor administrative errors. It has become so commonplace, there is a new word for it “kompetensutvisning” which means talent deportation.
Sweden relies a lot on foreign workers to plug skill gaps in industries including the technology industry. "Sweden as a country is trying to build our tech industry and that means we are trying to attract people from abroad. This reduces their willingness to move to Sweden for obvious reasons," Ljungerud told The Local.
Ljungerud is asking the Swedish government to act now. She said, "I wish they would freeze these deportations until they have been properly reevaluated. This problem has been talked about for years, everyone seems to agree that it is not the intent of the law.”