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WORKING IN SWEDEN

EXPLAINED: How do you apply for Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

From June 1st, non-EU citizens can apply to come to Sweden on the new talent visa or "resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons". These are the latest details on how to apply.

EXPLAINED: How do you apply for Sweden's new 'talent visa'?
Workers in Sweden share ideas using post-it notes on a window. Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/Imagebank Sweden

Sweden’s “resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons to look for work or start a busi­ness” was voted through parliament in April as part of a set of changes to the country’s new work laws in April.

The visa was brought in as part of the January Agreement between the economically liberal Centre and Liberal Parties and the Social Democrat government. 

The basic form for the new talent visa was published when parliament voted it through: The visa allows non-EU citizens with a higher-level degree to apply for a visa of between three to nine months, which they can then use to stay in Sweden while they look for work or research setting up a new business.  

But the Migration Agency on June 1st published the details of what exact educational requirements are required to be eligible for the new visa, how much money applicants need to show they have to support themselves, and how and where to apply. They also published the form that needs to be filled in

What counts as an advanced-level degree and how do I prove it? 

The bar is set pretty low. To be eligible for the talent visa, applicants need to have a degree corresponding to at least a 60-credit Master’s degree, a 120-credit Master’s degree, a professional degree worth 60-330 credits, or a postgraduate/PhD-level degree.

You need to send copies of any examination certificates along with your application, as well as copies of the official transcript of your academic record, that shows the courses included in your education. 

If these documents are in a language other than English, French, Spanish, German, or a Nordic language, they have to be translated into Swedish or one of the above languages by an authorized translator.

You also need to print out, sign, scan, and send a letter of consent to the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR), allowing them to contact the educational institutions where you studied for your higher-level degree.

What financial assets do I need to show and how do I prove them? 

You must need to show that you have enough money (or a source of regular income) to support yourself during the time that you will be in Sweden, as well as enough to pay for your journey home. The Migration Agency judges that you need 13,000 kronor per month, so you need a lump sum of 117,000 kronor (€12,000). 

Source: Migration Agency

To prove that you can support yourself, you must either submit copies of your bank statements (plus a translated version if necessary). If you have another source of regular funding, you can explain in the ‘other’ box on what you intend, and enclose documents to support this.

What insurance do you need? 

You need to confirm that you have signed a comprehensive health insurance on the form, and also name the insurance company and the dates between which the insurance policy is valid. 

The insurance needs to cover the costs of emergency and other medical care, hospitalisation, dental care, and also the cost of repatriation for medical reasons. You need to enclose a copy of a document setting out the terms of your insurance policy. 

Source: Migration Agency

What do you need to write about your plans for Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, the visa is for people living outside the EU who “plan to seek employment or explore the possibilities for starting [their] own business”, but the form gives few guidelines as to what will count. 

In the form, there is a space for a few sentences in which you can say what sort of business you plan to start, or which sort of job you intend to look for, as well as whether you intend to leave Sweden, or apply for residency in another way if you fail to secure a job. 

Carl Bexelius, the Migration Agency’s Head of Legal Affairs, said that there was no requirement in the legislation that those with the new talent visa seek jobs that require them to be highly qualified. 

“The crucial part is that you have you are talented in a legal sense, that you have the appropriate education to qualify. If they find work, they can then apply for for a work permit, but that work does not need to require high qualifications.”

Other requirements? 

The other requirement is to have a passport that is valid for the full period in which you will be in Sweden. In the application you need to send copies of all the pages that show your personal data, photo, signature, passport number, issuing country, period of validity, entry stamps, and also if you have permission to live in countries other than your country of origin. 

How to apply? 

You need to send the application form, with the attached documents to the Swedish embassy or consulate-general in your country of residence, or, if that is not possible, at the embassy or consulate-general in the closest country. 

You should contact the embassy for information before applying, and to learn how large an application fee you will need to pay. 

What sort of permit will I get? 

If you get a permit valid for more than three months, you will get a residence permit card which features your fingerprints and a photo.

If you need an entry visa to come to Sweden, you will need to be photographed and have your fingerprints scanned at the Swedish embassy or consulate-general in your country of residence before leaving to come to Sweden.

If you do not need an entry visa, you can apply for a residency card, and have your photo taken and your fingerprints scanned, after your arrival in Sweden. 

What happens if I get a job or start a business while in Sweden? 

If you get a job while in Sweden, you can apply for a work permit from within the country. You cannot start work until the work permit is granted, though (which may not happen until after your talent visa has already expired). 

If you start a business in Sweden, you can apply for a residence permit as a self-employed person. You can start setting up and running your business even before the Migration Agency has made its decision. 

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

How will Sweden’s Employment Act reform impact foreigners?

The long-awaited reforms to Sweden's Employment Act, pushed by the Centre and Liberal Parties, come into force this month. The Local spoke to Sofie Rehnström, a lawyer at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, about how they will affect foreigners in the country.

How will Sweden's Employment Act reform impact foreigners?

What’s the background to the reforms? 

Sweden’s Social Democrat-led government in 2019 agreed to “modernise the Employment Protection Act” as part of the January Agreement it struck with the Centre and Liberal Parties. 

The Left Party then threatened to topple Prime Minister Stefan Löfven if the reforms went through, while Social Democrats risked losing the support of the Centre and Liberal Parties if they reneged on the deal. 

In the end, the government squirmed out of this seemingly impossible situation by getting Sweden’s unions to agree to a new set of laws with employer organisations. 

This so-called LAS-avtalet, or Employment Act deal, significantly weakened and watered down the initial proposals, but were accepted by both the Left Party and the Centre Party.  

How do the new reforms change Sweden’s last-in, first-out labour laws? 

Under the new rules which come into force this month, employers will be allowed to exempt up to three employees from the “last in, first out rule”. That is more than under current regulations, which allow small companies with no more than ten staff to exempt up to two employees.

Under the government’s original proposal, five employees would have been exempted and companies with less than 25 employees would not have had to follow the “last in, first out rule” at all. 

For foreigners working in Sweden, the new rules will nonetheless still make your employment a little less secure if you are one of the longer term employees at a small to medium-sized company, as it will give your employer leeway to retain three employees who have been employed more recently than you, while letting you go. 

On the other hand, if you are a more recently hired employee (which foreigners are perhaps more likely to be) it may make your position more secure, as you have a chance of being selected as one of the three essential employees the company wants to retain. 

According to Sofie Rehnström, under the new law, it’s not possible for employees who are made redundant while staff employed after them are retained to challenge this decision. 

“It’s not possible for the union to have a dispute in the Labour Court [arbetsdomstolan], because it’s up to the employer to decide,” she says.  

Sofie Rehnström is a lawyer at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO). Photo: LO
 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the ‘biggest reform of the Swedish labour market in modern times’

What is the background to Sweden’s Employment Protection Act? 

Sweden’s Lagen om anställningsskydd, or Employment Protection Act, imposes strict controls on how employees can be sacked or made redundant, requiring employers to give a minimum notice period, and only to sack staff with good reason (such as misconduct or simply being bad at their jobs), or for business reasons, such as a market downturn or a change in company strategy. 

In the latter case, the law requires workplaces to fire their staff according to a list of seniority (Swedish: turordningslista).

Given similar tasks, the last employee to be hired will be the first to be fired. Among employees hired at the same time, priority is given to older employees.

“One category is when it’s for organisational reasons, maybe you want to change the company structure, and then you have the other category, which is when they want to actually get rid of you because you have underperformed,” Rehnström explained. 

Laying off workers for organisational reasons is normally referred to as “shortage of work”, or arbetsbrist, under the law. 

How will the last-in, first-out principle work now? 

If a company is scaling back on the number of employees doing a certain task because of lower demand for its products, under the Employment Protection Act, the more junior employees would always be laid off first. 

The way the new law works is that the employer can select three employees from the seniority list drawn up of staff who they believe are “especially important” for their business. 

“Maybe you have 25 people, and the employer says, I want to terminate ten of them. Normally, you go the ten that is at the bottom of the list,” Rehnström explains. “Now, they can say, “I want to take three of them off the list, because I believe they are especially important for my business”.

The ten that are then made redundant will then be the bottom ten after these three employees have been taken away. 

Which employees will be most affected? 

According to Rehnström, this change will have the most impact on people working in smaller companies. 

“If you’ve got a small number of employees, it’s an enormous difference,” she says. “It’s designed to make smaller employers better able to follow their own wishes, so you will be weakening the protection for workers in a smaller company. Will it make a difference for big employers? Of course not.” 

According to Rehnström, the last-in, first-out principle already only applies in some situations. If a company is shutting down a whole unit or exiting an entire industry, it can already often lay off everyone, regardless of seniority. 

“To be able to stay in your position, you must be able to do the work you are assigned,” she says. “If there’s an reorganisation – maybe your job is doing one thing, and they want to do things a different way – that can change the way the law is applied.” 

Say you are an aluminium welder, and your company decides to exit the welding business, then all welders can lose their jobs, even if they have been at the company longer than specialists in the next door rivet division which the company is retaining. 

“You can divide employees into different groups, and if it’s a whole department, then you can get rid of all of them.”

Employers do in this case have a duty to try to relocate employers to other divisions where their skills can be used, but this, Rehnström notes, is often not possible. It’s often a case, she says, of, “we have a position in the office. Can you do that work? No, you can’t. Ok, then bye bye.”

How does the law change short-term contracts? 

The law replaces the old “general fixed-term employment” or allmän visstidsanställning category of job with a new “special fixed-term employment”, särskild visstidsanställning category

While both are short-term contracts, the new law means that employees will earn the right to a permanent contract more rapidly. 

Whereas before an employee would win the right to a permanent job if they had worked for two years out of a five-year period, they now only need to work for one year. Employees also get a “preferential right to re-employment”, in a new short-term contract with the employer if they have worked for nine months out of the last three years. 

The way the time in employment is counted for this purpose is also changing. If an employee has three or more short-term contracts in a single month, then the entire period from the start of the first contract to the end of the last counts towards getting a permanent contract. 

So, for instance, if you have a short-term contract to work two days between January 2nd and January 3rd, another between January 10th and January 11th, and another from January 29th-30th, then you would count 28 days rather than six. 

“You can earn your days and years until a permanent position faster,” Rehnström argues. “They are not able to use this hour-by-hour employment in the way they used to.” 

This is potentially a significant improvement for foreigners working in short-term contracts in Sweden, although it remains to be seen how it will affect the phenomenon of ut-LASning, in which employers carefully monitor to the amount of days those on short-term contracts are employed so that they are never forced to hire them permanently. 

In certain fields, such as journalism and academia, this has in recent years meant those without full-time employment bounce between short-term contracts with different rival companies, working at each only so long as is possible without earning the right to permanent employment.

How does the new law change what happens in the event of a dispute over loss of employment? 

If an employee who has been sacked or made redundant takes their employer to the Swedish Labour Court for unfair dismissal, employers are now no longer required to continue to either employ them or pay their salaries while the dispute is ongoing. 

The employment ends at the end of the notice period given by the company, regardless of the case, and the court cannot order the employer to continue to employ the person during the court process (as was the case until October 1st). 

The only exception to this is if the person being sacked is a union official who is “of particular importance to union activities at the workplace”, in which case a court can order the employer to take them back for the duration of the case. 

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