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WORKING IN SWEDEN

EXPLAINED: How will Sweden’s new work permit rules apply in practice?

Sweden's Migration Agency has now published guidance on the new work permit rules coming into force on June 1st. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How will Sweden's new work permit rules apply in practice?
Two Swedish office workers enjoying a standing 'fika'. Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden’s Migration Agency this week published its first guidance on the new rules coming in on June 1st for those seeking work permits. 

What are the most important new rules to know about as an applicant? 

  1. Work contract requirement. From June 1st, there is a new requirement to supply a copy of a signed employment contract (with some exceptions). Previously, you simply needed an offer of employment.
  2. Family support. From June 1st, there is a new requirement to show you can support any accompanying family members you bring to Sweden.
  3. Unlimited work permit extensions. You can now apply for a theoretically unlimited number of work permit extensions. Previously, if you had been issued a work permit for four out of the past seven years, you would be considered for permanent residency instead. 
  4. Visas for business trips. From June 1st, those waiting to have their work permits approved will be able to apply for a visa for business trip abroad. Previously, they were effectively trapped in Sweden. 
  5. Talent visa. The new rules include a new permit for highly educated people who want to come to Sweden to apply for work or start a business. 
  6. More leniency for employers’ mistakes. The new law requests that the Migration Agency refrain from revoking work permits if their employers’ have made minor mistakes that would make it unreasonable to do so. 

What are the most important rules to know about as an employer? 

  1. Obligation to report changed terms. Under the new rules, employers have a duty to report negative changes to the terms and conditions of employees awarded work permits. If they fail to do so they risk a fine. 
  2. Spot checks from Migration Agency. The agency is empowered to check that the terms of employment are followed. 

READ ALSO: Sweden’s new work permit law and the seven-year rule 

What effect will the new rules have on the waiting time to receive a permit? 

The Migration Agency in a press release warned that the new rules would increase demands on the agency by requiring it to handle more elements in its processing and control, which it said would increase the already long time it takes to handle permit applications. 

“We see that these are extensive changes that will require us to navigate more work steps and a more complex legislation. This is likely to affect our processing times for work permits,” Carl Bexelius, the agency’s head of legal affairs, said in a statement. 

The Swedish Migration Agency is currently hard at work on the preparations required to start applying the new rules and the increased controls on 1 June.

Do the new rules apply retroactively? 

Yes. The new rules will apply also to those who have already applied for a work permit or an extension. This means that even those applying before June 1st will need to meet all the new requirements. 

On the plus side, this means that if you are waiting for a response and expect a refusal because you have had two work permits and do not meet the requirements for permanent residency (the so-called seven-year rule) you will now probably be given an extension. 

On the downside, those who have already sent in applications may have to supplement their application by sending in a signed employment contract. 

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

How much more lenient will the Migration Agency be of “minor deviations”? 

There have been many high-profile cases of talented workers in Sweden being expelled because of minor mistakes their employees have made, most often regarding insurance. The new law contains language saying that a temporary residence permit for work should not be revoked in “minor cases of deviations” or if a revocation appears unreasonable.

A big question has been how the Migration Agency will interpret this, and what they will count as “minor deviations”. 

“Already today, the practice developed in court gives us some room to deal with minor errors based on an overall assessment, but now we are getting legislation that makes it clear that minor deviations should not have to lead to decisions to expel people who are established in the labour market,”  Bexelius says. 

How high will the family maintenance requirement be? 

In a press release, Bexelius says that the rules on maintenance will be “similar to the rules that apply to other family immigration – but without a requirement for housing of a certain size and standard.

The maintenance requirement for family reunion in 2022 is that the person in Sweden should demonstrate that they have “regular work-related income” of  5,157 kronor for a stand-alone adult, 8,520 kronor for a spouse or sambo, 2,736 kronor for each child up until the age of six, and 3,150 kronor a month for each child over the age of seven. 

“Work-related income” can come from a salary, sickness benefit, an income-related pension, or unemployment insurance payments from an A-kassa. 

Does everyone need a work contract? 

No. The following do not need to present signed employment contracts: 

  • Holders of an EU Blue Card (a card for high-skilled and high-paid workers from outside the EU). 
  • Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT) permits. Those employed by a non-EU country who are moving internally to work at the company’s Swedish offices do not need a new contract. 
  • Researchers.
  • Professional athletes.
  • Seasonal workers. For example, the berry pickers who travel from Thailand and other countries to work in Swedish forests. 
  • Au pairs. 
  • Trainees.
  • Volunteers under the European Solidarity Corps.
  • Summer jobs for young people (so-called Working Holiday visa).

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For members

2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

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

Sweden's ruling Social Democrats enacted the first stage of their work permit reform plan on June 1st, and have announced further plans to tighten up the work permit system. But where do Sweden's other political parties stand on labour migration?

EXPLAINED: How do Sweden's political parties want to reform work permits?

The Social Democrats

As Sweden’s ruling party, the left-wing Social Democrats’ position is the most clear. In their first work permit reforms, which came into effect on June 1st, they introduced a new talent visa for certain highly-educated workers, as well as a new rule stating that work permit applicants must have a signed work contract in order for their application to be accepted.

Aside from these reforms, they have also called for a reintroduction of arbetsmarknadsprövning – a system scrapped in 2008 where prospective labour migrants wanting to work in Sweden would only have their work permits approved if they were filling a position where there is a national shortage. If this were to be approved, work permits would be dependent on unions, employers, and authorities confirming that they lack workers in the profession in question.

Social Democrat migration minister Morgan Johansson, has previously stated that reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning is the “only way” to clean up the system.

In addition to this, the Social Democrats announced plans to propose raising the salary threshold for work permits from the current 13,000 kronor limit to around 27,000 kronor, although the final figure will be decided following negotiations in parliament.

The Moderates

The right-wing Moderates do not want to reintroduce arbetsmarknadsprövning or the requirements suggested by the Social Democrats, but suggest instead that the should be a lower salary threshold should be raised to 27,540 kronor per month, which is 85 percent of the average Swedish salary (32,000 kronor per month). Seasonal workers such as berry pickers would be exempt from this requirement.

The Christian Democrats

The Christian Democrats want to see this lower limit raised to 35,000 kronor (they had previously stated that it should be 30,000 kronor), with exceptions for professions facing a shortage of staff, such as seasonal workers and certain healthcare staff.

In addition to this, both the Moderates and the Christian Democrats pushed for the new requirement which came in in June for workers to have to financially support any family members who accompany them to Sweden, as well as banning labour migration for personal assistants.

Their argument is that low-salaried jobs should be filled by unemployed people already in Sweden, rather than by bringing in workers from abroad. They also believe that it will make it harder for people to abuse the system.

The Sweden Democrats

The Sweden Democrats have previously proposed introducing a 35,000 kronor salary limit, alongside the Christian Democrats. This proposal suggested the reintroduction of arbetsmarknadsprövning for anyone earning under 35,000 kronor, with free labour migration over that figure.

The Centre Party

The Centre Party describes itself as “one of few parties in the Swedish parliament who protect the current system”, stating that it believes that individual companies know best when it comes to the kind of skills they need.

The party are against both arbetsmarknadsprövning and the introduction of a higher salary threshold, believing that introducing both policies would lead to a national skills shortage in Sweden.

The Liberals

The Liberals, like the Centre Party, are positive towards the current work permit system and are not in favour of increasing the salary threshold for work permit applicants. Similarly, they – like the Centre Party – do not want to stop labour migration for personal assistants.

The Liberals also believe that foreign students in Sweden should automatically be given a one-year residence permit after finishing their studies in order to look for work in the country.

The Green Party

The Greens have previously stated to Arbetet magazine that they “are not entirely against raising the 13,000 kronor salary threshold somewhat”, but that it must still be possible for those here on a work permit to, for example, work part-time alongside their studies.

They are not in favour of reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning, as they believe that employers should decide which skills they need rather than the state.

The Left Party

The Left Party is in favour of reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning as well as a requirement that immigrants coming to Sweden on a work permit must work full-time.

The Left Party does not want to introduce a requirement that workers must be able to support their families, and are against proposals to introduce a 35,000 kronor minimum salary for work permits.

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