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WORK PERMITS

How many people were granted work permits in Sweden in November?

Sweden's Migration Agency reached a decision in 4,186 work permit cases during October. Here's The Local's monthly in-depth look at how many permits were granted, and to whom.

How many people were granted work permits in Sweden in November?
More than 4,000 IT architects, systems analysts and test managers have been granted work permits this year. Photo: Tobias Röstlund/TT

This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more Membership Exclusives here.

A total of 4,217 first-time work permit applications (arbetstillstånd) were sent to Sweden's Migration Agency last month and a decision was reached in 4,186 cases.

Of those, 3,066 people were successful.

In 646 of the approved cases, the applicant was moving to Sweden to work for a certified employer – companies that have already proved to the Migration Agency that they meet certain criteria (including a recurring need for non-EU hires and proof that they have fulfilled legal requirements in previous work permit cases) and for whom processing takes a maximum of 20 days.

So who did the work permits go to?

Most of them were given to family members of workers (1,490), followed by people coming to Sweden to work as employees (1,245). Family members, including spouses or registered partners, are typically included on a partner's work permit if they will also move to Sweden. If the main applicant has a job offer of over six months, their partner is also eligible for a work permit.

Four permits were handed to self-employed applicants, 73 to guest researchers and 245 to “others”, which includes for example international interns or athletes.

EDITOR'S PICK:

Between January 1st and December 1st, most work permits were awarded to berry pickers and planters (6,162), IT architects, systems analysts and test managers (4,088), fast-food workers and food preparation assistants (1,056), cooks and cold-buffet managers (989), and engineering professionals (942).

Most of the applicants came from Thailand (6,488), India (4,695), Ukraine (1,088), China (841), Turkey (839), Iraq (593), United States (459), Iran (382), Brazil (353) and Pakistan (319).

These figures cover permits awarded by the Swedish Migration Agency as well as Swedish Embassies and Consulates, but do not include athletes, artists, au-pairs, self-employed, visiting researchers, trainees, holiday workers or relatives of employees.

In November there were 15,792 people waiting for an answer on their work permit application.

This article, based on the Migration Agency's statistics, is part of a monthly series for Members of The Local, in which we look at the number of Swedish residence permits granted to international workers. Do you find this article useful? Is there anything else we should be looking at? Please let us know.

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For members

WORK PERMITS

EXPLAINED: What do we know about Sweden’s new work permit bill?

Sweden's parliament has voted through a new bill empowering the government to increase the minimum salary for a work permit. This is what we know so far.

EXPLAINED: What do we know about Sweden's new work permit bill?

What is the new bill and where does it come from? 

The new bill, called “A higher subsistence requirement for labour migrants” (Ett höjt försörjningskrav för arbetskraftsinvandrare), was formally proposed by the former Social Democrat government on September 6th after discussions in the social insurance committee. 

The Social Democrat government on February 6th appointed the judge Anita Linder to carry out an inquiry into “improved labour migration”, which was then sent out for consultation and discussed in the parliament’s social affairs committee, before the government submitted the proposal to parliament. 

What does the bill say? 

The bill empowers the government to raise the maintenance requirement for work permit applicants from outside the EU, the Nordic countries and Switzerland above the current 13,000 kronor a month. 

The bill does not specifically state how much higher the maintenance requirement should be, or propose a date for when the changes should come into force.

In the proposal, it states that the new law can be implemented on “the day the government decides”. The new threshold, meanwhile, is to be set by a government directive which is supposed to be issued at the same time the law comes into force. 

How high is the new maintenance threshold likely to be? 

It’s not yet clear. However, the government may choose to follow the Tidö Agreement through which the far-right Sweden Democrats and the three government parties (the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals) agreed to back Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister. 

In this agreement the parties agreed to set the minimum salary for work permits to be awarded at the median salary in Sweden, which is about 33,000 kronor a month.

This is a compromise between the 35,000 kronor minimum salary put forward by the Sweden Democrats and the Christian Democrats, and the proposals from the Moderates and Social Democrats, who wanted to set the rate at 85 percent of the median salary (about 27,540 a month) and the Social Democrats, who have floated a minimum salary of about 27,000 kronor. 

In an interview with Radio Sweden on December 3rd, Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard stated that the 33,000 kronor a month limit was not yet set, and that the government would “look into the exact amount”. She also stated that the government “will also be able to make exceptions for some individual professional groups,” although she did not go into detail on which groups this would include.

The Centre Party and the Liberal Party were both against the proposal in the run-up to September’s general election, arguing that Sweden’s existing liberal labour migration laws have been economically beneficial.

The Liberals are likely to respect the Tidö Agreement now they are part of the government. 

 READ ALSO: How do Sweden’s political parties want to reform work permits?

Who is against raising the salary threshold? 

The Centre Party has been the biggest opponent in parliament, arguing that the hotel, restaurant and retail industries in particular will struggle to find staff if they are not able to hire workers internationally. 

Martin Ådahl, the party’s economics and business spokesperson, told The Local his party was opposed on both practical and principled grounds to the proposal.

“It is clear in practical terms that many businesses rely on persons from abroad that have qualifications which lead to more growth and jobs in Sweden,” he said. “This is dependent on people starting with reasonable wages because they are new and don’t speak the language. It’s a loss for both Sweden and the individuals.” 

But he said the party’s liberal ideology also made supporting the proposal impossible. 

“On principle, it is wrong that authorities and boards staffed by public officials should tell businesses which talents they should hire at what wages,” he said. “This kind of wage regulation and minimum wages is something Sweden is opposed to otherwise.”

A lot of criticism has also come from business. Ann Öberg, the chief executive of Almega, a trade body representing businesses in the IT, telecoms, engineering, architecture, media, private healthcare, train operations, and security industries, wrote an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper at the end of October criticising the move. 

She argued that it was unrealistic to expect unemployed people already living in Sweden to fill the gap created when low-skilled labour migrants can no longer come to the country. 

READ ALSO: Swedish businesses attack work permit threshold

This article was originally published in November 2022 and updated following Malmer Stenergard’s comments in December 2022.

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