For members


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?
Sweden's Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard has yet to say what the new salary threshold will be. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

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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For members


IN DATA: How many residency permits has Sweden recalled?

Sweden's Migration Agency has hit back at criticism of "severe shortcomings" in its work recalling residency permits, claiming to have become much better at uncovering when people no longer meet the criteria.

IN DATA: How many residency permits has Sweden recalled?

A report published by Sweden’s National Audit Office criticised the Migration Agency and the former Social Democrat-led government for not prioritising investigating whether those with residency permits still fulfilled the criteria for them, finding that this had come at a significant cost, for example by allowing benefits to be paid out wrongly. 

But the Migration Agency said in a press release published that it had already increased its focus on recalled residency permits.     

How many residency permits have been recalled in 2023? 

According to the agency, 9,438 residency permits have been recalled so far in 2023, which is already nearly double the 4,478 permits recalled in 2022. 

It is still, however, behind the 13,933 permits recalled in 2021 and the 11,728 recalled in 2020, an increase in recalls that took place under the former Social Democrat led government.  

Figures in the report from the National Audit Office show a similar improvement under the Social Democrats. 

In 2021, 8,890 permanent residency permits and 776 temporary residency permits were recalled, according to a graph in the National Audit Office's report, while in 2020, about 6,116 temporary residency permits were recalled, and 939 temporary permits. 

The number recalled then fell dramatically in 2022, with 1,304 permanent residencies and 733 temporary residencies recalled. 

"That was the result of a campaign that the Migration Agency did in 2019," Tommi Teljosuo, who led the investigation for the National Audit Office, told The Local.

"They received data from the Swedish Tax Agency on people who had moved abroad from Sweden and then they just checked that list against the list of people with permanent residency permits in Sweden, and found some 20,000 people had left Sweden." 

He said that by 2022, this exercise had been completed, leading to the sharp reduction in the number of recalls.  

The number of recalls had increased again in 2023, he said, because the Migration Agency had been told to prioritise revoking permits in tasks set for it that year by the incoming Moderate-led government.  

How the number of residencies being recalled has changed since 2013. Graphic: Swedish National Audit Office

How many people have left Sweden and still kept their permanent residency? 

The Swedish National Audit found that there were 10,000 people who held permanent residency in 2020 despite having moved out of the country. 

But this was a significant improvement on the number in 2019, when more than 15,000 people with permanent residency were estimated to have left Sweden  

The number of people believed to have left Sweden who have nonetheless retained permanent residency. Source: National Audit Office

How many people have work permits without any registered income? 

The number of people holding work permits without meeting the requirements for a work permit also started to fall from 2018, albeit less drastically than permanent residencies.

Over 4,000 people were estimated in 2018 to have had a work permit without fulfilling the requirements, a number that had fallen to about 3,400 by 2020. 

The number of people who no longer fulfil the requirement for a work permit but have not had that work permit recalled. Source: Swedish National Audit Office