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Award-winning Australian entrepreneur told to leave Sweden for visa to be approved

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Award-winning Australian entrepreneur told to leave Sweden for visa to be approved
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Steven Moloney
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Australia-born barista Steven Moloney is no stranger to the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket).

In his six years living in the country, he has held a working holiday visa, a partner visa, and a job permit.

But now the two-time winner of the Swedish National Barista Championship, who told Euronews he likes living there because of the values of Swedish society, has been asked to leave Sweden while his sole trader is processed.

The Australian entrepreneur set up his own business, The Barista League, while he held a partner visa in 2015 and decided to quit his job in order to give it his full attention in 2017.

The following year, Moloney applied for a sole trader visa believing there was enough time for the application to be approved while he still held a valid residence permit.

Steven Moloney

Moloney only heard back from Sweden's migration services more than a year later, only to be told that he had to leave the country for his application to be considered.

The Brisbane native told Euronews that as far as he was aware, everything in the application was in order.

He went to talk to the migration agency to clarify the application procedure because it "was really difficult to get any information" and he thought he would be able to file his application from inside the country.

"Last week (February 12) I got a letter from them saying they weren't even going to open the application because technically it's a new application, not an extension and I can't apply within the country," he said.

The award-winning barista was given two choices by immigration: either leave the country in two weeks or demonstrate "exceptional circumstances".

Moloney said his business would "disintegrate" if he left the country while authorities processed his application because he has contracts with clients that he had already signed and can't cancel.

"I’ve been here legally for so many years, it’s ridiculous that it’s treated that way [...] They want me to leave the country, proof that I’ve left and then they will open the application," he said.

Moloney hired a lawyer who was able to get him an extension until March 1 to send in more documents proving his "exceptional circumstances".

"We’re saying that I’ve been living here legally already so I had a valid permit to be here and that they could've told me that I had to leave the country before I applied because I’ve already made plans for my business for this year — contracts with customers that would take me through until 2020," he said, adding that a lot of money was at stake should he be thrown out.

What will happen on March 1?

Moloney said that after the migration agency receives his additional documents, they'll inspect them and decide to open his application or insist on him to leaving the country.

Inflexibility over the visa changes

The coffee entrepreneur said there seemed to be a "lack of flexibility" for him to change to a sole trader visa (for self-employed people) as if it were a "blanket rule to not give out that type of visa".

"It’s frustrating and stressful that it’s a period of my life where I don’t have any control over and anything can happen and puts a strain on making decisions for the next few months," said Moloney.

No end in sight

For now, Moloney doesn't know how long he will have to wait for a decision. His lawyer told him that if authorities refuse to open the case after receiving the additional documents, then the decision might come quickly. Otherwise, he might not hear back for weeks or even months.

"If they give a no at any stage we can appeal and that process can take up to a year-and-a-half so it is unlikely that this is going be solved immediately," he said.

The good thing, Moloney said, is that he doesn't have to leave Sweden while they make a decision but in the meantime, he won't have a valid ID, which could limit his travels plans since he would likely experience difficulty when getting back into the country.

The Swedish Migration Agency told Euronews it couldn't comment on the case because it was still open but that they were awaiting more documents in order to make a decision.