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IMMIGRATION

New Swedish government’s plans to tighten work permit rules

Newly-elected Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson spoke about plans to introduce stricter labour migration rules in a speech held at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation’s congress.

magdalena andersson holding a speech in front of a red curtain
Magdalena Andersson at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation’s congress on Wednesday. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Andersson wants to introduce a requirement for employees to have a binding job contract before a work permit can be issued – although it is not yet clear exactly what will feature in the final proposal.

The new proposal would affect non-EU migrants – labour migrants from within the EU do not need to apply for a work or residence permit to work and live in Sweden.

Under the current system, those applying for a work permit in Sweden only require a job offer, which is not legally binding, and means that their conditions for employment can be altered by employers once they arrive in Sweden.

“We need to put an end to employers who tempt foreign employees here only to make them work under slave-like conditions,” Andersson said. “It’s shameful, and it obviously shouldn’t be legal.”

According to Anders Ygeman, newly-appointed Minister for Integration, Migration and Sport, current rules often lead to other groups being out-competed, and left unable to find work.

“We have a large amount of labour migration for unqualified jobs, where we have a huge queue of people who have come to Sweden for asylum reasons who are then out-competed by labour migrants,” Ygeman explained, adding that labour migrants filling these positions makes integration more difficult.

Andersson is aiming to present a bill to parliament before the end of the year, and believes she can convince a majority to vote for the proposal. If not, she said that it would become an election pledge.

In a press conference after her speech, Andersson described the plans as a “step towards” ending the practice, adding that it was “no secret” that the Social Democrats wanted to re-introduce arbetsmarknadsprövning – a system scrapped in 2008 where foreigners wanting to work in Sweden would only have their work permits approved if they could fill a position where there was a national shortage.

If this were to be reintroduced, work permits would be dependent on unions, employers, and authorities confirming that they lack workers in the profession in question.

In an interview with Swedish news agency TT in early November, then-Social Democrat Migration Minister Morgan Johansson described reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning as the “only way” to clean up the system.

“It is unreasonable that we have immigration into positions where we don’t have a shortage, like restaurant workers and cleaners,” Johansson told TT at the time.

Current rules for getting a work permit in Sweden include having a valid passport, a salary offer which is “at least on par with that set by Swedish collective agreements or which is customary within the occupation or industry” and a salary which enables the employee to support themselves – currently classed as at least 13,000 kronor a month, before tax.

In addition, employers must show that they will take out health insurance, life insurance, work injury insurance and pension insurance on behalf of the employee.

Sweden’s work permit rules are relatively generous in comparison to several of its neighbours, with Denmark stipulating that applicants must have a full-time job with a monthly salary equivalent to 50,000 Swedish kronor, or a job in a profession suffering from lack of workers, and Norway requiring that workers are highly educated, in full-time positions with a salary equivalent to at least 33,000 Swedish kronor per month.

Both Denmark and Norway require that work permit holders can financially support any accompanying family members.

However, the Swedish system has also been criticised for bureaucratic rigidity, with words such as kompetensutvisning (competence/talent/skills deportation) being coined in 2017 as a result of a confusing, complicated system difficult for foreign workers to navigate.

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

In the new work permit law which comes into force on June 1st, Sweden is launching a new nine-month 'talent visa', which will allow “some highly qualified individuals” to get temporary residency while they look for jobs or plan to launch a business. What do we know so far?

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

When was the law passed and when does it come into force? 

The parliament passed the new law on April 21st, and the final text of the change in the law was published on May 5th. It will come into force on June 1st. 

What does the new law say about the ‘talent visa’? 

It says that “in certain cases”, a temporary residency permit can be granted to a foreigner who wants to “spend time in the country to look for work or to look into the possibility of starting a business”. 

To qualify the applicant must: 

  • have completed studies equivalent to an advanced level degree 
  • have sufficient means to support themselves during their stay and to cover the cost of their return trip 
  • have fully comprehensive health insurance which is valid in Sweden 

How long can people initially stay in Sweden under the talent visa? 

The residency permit will be valid for a maximum of nine months.

Which agency will assess applications for the talent visa? 

The government has decided that applications should be assessed by the Migration Agency. The Migration Agency will publish more details on the requirements, such as what qualifies as an advanced degree, what documents need to be submitted, and how much capital applicants will need to show they can support themselves, in the coming weeks. 

The Migration Agency is also likely to develop a form for those wishing to apply for the talent visa. 

What level of education is necessary? 

What is meant by an “advanced degree” has not been set ou in the law, but according to Karl Rahm, who has helped draw up the law within the Ministry of Justice, a master’s degree (MA or MSc), should be sufficient. 

How much capital will applicants need to show that they have? 

According to Rahm, the amount of money applicants will need to show that they have is likely to be set at the same level as the minimum salary for those applying for a work permit, which is currently 13,000 kronor a month. If he is right, this means that someone applying for a nine-month visa would have to show that they have 117,000 kronor (€11,259) in saved capital, plus extra for their trip back to their home country.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

Can applicants bring children and spouses? 

“You will not be able to bring your family with this kind of visa, since the idea is that it’s for a relatively limited amount of time,  just to see if there is employment for you, or if there is a chance of starting a business,” says Elin Jansson, deputy director at the Ministry of Justice, who helped work on the new visa. “And if you do decide to stay in Sweden, then you apply for a regular work permit for starting up a business, and then you can bring your family.” 

Where will detailed information on the requirements for a talent visa be published? 

The Migration Agency will publish detailed requirements on the talent visa on its Working in Sweden page when the law starts to apply on June 1st. 

What is the reason for the talent visa? 

Those searching for a job or researching starting a new business in Sweden can already stay for up to 90 days with a normal Schengen visa. The idea behind the talent visa is to give highly educated foreigners a little longer to decide if they want to find a job or set up a business in the country before they need to go the whole way and launch a company. 

How many people are expected to apply? 

In the government inquiry on the new work permit law, experts estimated that about 500 people would apply for the new talent visa each year, but it could end up being either much more, or less. 

“It’s really hard to tell. There could be a really big demand. I don’t think it’s anyone can really say before this comes into effect,” Jansson said. 

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