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WORK PERMITS

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden
A meeting in a creative office in Sweden. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years. 

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WORK PERMITS

‘Work permit holders will not lose permanent residency’: Swedish Migration Minister 

Sweden's Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard has told Swedish state broadcaster SR that the government's proposed abolition of permanent residency will only affect asylum-related migration cases and not people in Sweden on work permits, or those who have come to study for PhDs. 

'Work permit holders will not lose permanent residency': Swedish Migration Minister 

“The government’s idea is that permanent residency will be phased out for those who are related to asylum immigration. That means asylum seekers and their relatives, for instance, but not for workforce migration,” she told SR’s English language wing Radio Sweden. 

She said the coming inquiry into how to convert existing permanent residencies into citizenships would also only focus on asylum-related migration cases, and not on those here on work permits. 

READ ALSO: What do we know about Sweden’s plans to withdraw permanent residency?

“But I think if you come here and you intend to stay, then there should be an ambition to learn the Swedish language, have knowledge about the society, be able to support yourself, and, after maybe eight to 10 years, become a citizen and become a full part of the Swedish society. And that is an important signal to send.” 

Malmer Stenergard said that she wanted to make handling times shorter for those with work permits. 

“We want to focus on the highly skilled workforce coming to Sweden, and improve the rules to make handling times shorter,” she said. “We know that is a great problem for those who apply for work permits and also for those who apply for a prolongation of work permits. We are set on improving the rules so that it will be more attractive to come to Sweden.”

She said that the new government recognised that the long delays faced by those seeking to secure work permits were a major issue. 

“This is a huge problem and I’m really afraid that talented people will hesitate to come to Sweden because of this,” she said. “I’ve read [in the] news today about a girl leaving Sweden because the prolongations didn’t work. So we will look into how can we make the authorities work in a more effective way. That is one thing we can do. And the other thing we can do is take a closer look at the legislation and see if there are things that we can change in order to improve [things] for those who want to come here as skilled workers.” 

PhD students graduating in Sweden have been severely affected by the requirement that came in in 2021 they need to secure a work contract of more than 18 months in duration to be eligible for permanent residency. 

Malmer Stenergard told SR that the government was “well aware of how the changes have affected these students and of course the universities”, and had agreed in the Tidö Agreement to look into what changes might be needed to make it easier for them to get permanent residency. 

When it comes to the bill passed in the parliament last week to raise the minimum salary threshold for work permits, Stenergard said that it was not yet certain that the threshold would be set at the median wage — about 33,000 kronor — which was mentioned in the Tidö Agreement, and that anyway, the government would exclude some groups from the change.

“I don’t think that they should be worried,” she said.  “We will look into the exact amount, but we will also be able to make exceptions for some individual professional groups.”

However, she said that the government was convinced that raising the threshold would help get unemployed people already living in Sweden into work.

“I think it is important that we focus more on highly qualified workforce migration, and that people who are already in the country actually apply for the jobs that are available in the lower income groups, and therefore we have to create higher incentives in the economical systems for those people to actually apply for the jobs and educate themselves.” 

She pushed back at the idea that Sweden’s new government was anti-immigration, saying that the aim was to slow down immigration so that the country was better able to integrate migrants who have already come. 

“I think that we have a huge job ahead of us to make integration work,” she said. “That is why we say that for now, we have to have asylum immigration at a minimum. But Sweden is relying on immigrants, and the skilled people who come here are extremely important for Swedish society and also for Swedish companies in order to be able to compete in a global market.”

“So I want to be very clear that people who come here and contribute to Swedish society and to Swedish companies and Swedish development are more than welcome.” 

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