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What’s the current status of Sweden’s planned migration laws?

There are a number of migration-related laws and policies in the pipeline in Sweden, including changes to work permits, citizenship and permanent residency requirements, and plans to tighten up permanent residency and asylum applications. Here's a quick overview.

What's the current status of Sweden's planned migration laws?
A Swedish MP votes on a law in parliament. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

New work permit system for high-skilled labour

What will the proposal do?

Sweden’s Migration Agency will by the start of 2024 launch a new work permit model, aiming to speed up waiting times for international talent.

The new system will among other things scrap the current fast-track for certified companies, with an aim to slash processing times for highly-educated applicants to just 30 days.

Instead, all work permit applications to bring highly qualified labour to Sweden, regardless of whether the company is certified or not, will be handled by new “international recruitment units”, or enheter för internationell rekrytering.

These will not only process cases but will also include “service teams”, who will work closely with employers and businesses in the run-up to applications being submitted, so that they are complete.

You can read more about it in The Local’s explainer.

What’s the status of the proposal?

The new model is expected to come into effect at the start of 2024.

Language and culture tests for citizenship

What will the proposal do?

It would introduce a language and culture test for citizenship applications, which would apply to those aged between 16 and 66.

An inquiry into bringing in the language requirement concluded in January 2021 that applicants for citizenship should be able to listen to and read Swedish at B1, the second of the six levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), equivalent to having completed level D, the fourth-highest level in the Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course. 

This is a fairly high level of Swedish. It’s enough to get the gist of what’s in Swedish newspapers, listen to the radio, or to follow a lecture without too much difficulty.

When it comes to speaking or writing Swedish, the inquiry suggested requiring a lower level, A2. This is equivalent to SFI level C.

This is the same level which the government has suggested for those applying for permanent residency for reading and listening as well as speaking and writing.

With regards to the culture test, the law proposes a digital test of “basic knowledge needed to live and function in Swedish society focusing on democracy and the democratic process”, which would be based off the contents of a book produced specifically for test purposes.

What’s the status of the proposal?

The consultation stage (remiss) of this proposal concluded in April 2021. This is the stage where the inquiry report and its proposals are sent for consultation to the relevant government agencies or organisations, municipalities and other stakeholders, who can submit their comments.

The next step is for the government to decide whether or not to push ahead with the law, then draft a bill which would first be sent to Sweden’s Council on Legislation.

If it does go ahead, the law at the time of writing has a proposed introduction date of January 1st 2025.

Language and culture tests for permanent residency

What will the proposal do?

This would, similarly to the law on citizenship above, introduce a language and culture knowledge requirement for permanent residency applications.

In a press conference on May 29th, it was announced that the language test would consist of two 50 minute listening tests with a ten minute break, at CEFR level A2, and the culture test would be the same length and would test applicants on a range of topics related to living in Sweden.

More information on what we know about the content of the tests and who will have to take them here.

What’s the status of the proposal?

The consultation stage (remiss) of this proposal concluded in September 2023. The next step is for the government to decide whether or not to push ahead with the law, then draft a bill which would first be sent to Sweden’s Council on Legislation.

The suggested date of implementation according to the proposal is July 1st, 2027.

Extending residency requirement for citizenship and other changes to citizenship

What will the proposals do?

They would extend the time it takes to qualify for Swedish citizenship from the current limit of five years (three years for spouses or cohabiting partners of Swedish citizens) to eight years “in the normal case”.

It’s not clear what, if any, exceptions there will be, or whether those married to a Swedish citizen or with Swedish children will have a reduced wait. 

On top of this, the government and Sweden Democrats want to introduce a demand that anyone applying for Swedish citizenship can support themselves financially, investigate the possibility of introducing a new obligatory ceremony, such as an oath of loyalty or a citizenship interview which would act as the final stage in citizenship process, and look into the possibility of withdrawing citizenship from dual citizens who carry out “system-threatening crimes”, or whose citizenship was granted on false premises. 

What’s the status of these proposals?

The government has launched an inquiry into tightening up citizenship, proposing an extension to the residency requirement, as well as a civics test and self-sufficiency requirement.

In the inquiry directive, judge Kirsi Laakso Utvik has been tasked with providing suggestions for future policy on a number of different citizenship-related points.

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • propose extending the residency requirement for citizenship
  • propose what knowledge about Swedish society and culture should be required to be eligible for membership
  • propose extra requirements that applicants have a heder­ligt levnadssätt, or “upstanding way of life”
  • propose what requirements for self-sufficiency prospective citizens should have to meet
  • take a position on whether a citizenship interview, oath of loyalty, or other ceremony should be instituted as the final point in the citizenship process
  • decide on whether the procedure for considering the release of children from Swedish citizenship should be changed and submit the necessary constitutional proposals.

You can read more about the proposed changes to citizenship here.

Utvik has been assigned just over a year to work on her proposal, which has a deadline of September 30th, 2024. After that, she will publish her slutbetänkande or final report, then the proposed law will be set out for consultation to relevant organisations or individuals.

After this step a draft bill will be sent to the Council on Legislation, which will analyse the law from a legal standpoint, then it will be sent to parliament for scrutiny before finally being put to a vote. It’s hard to say exactly when it could become law, but the government will almost certainly make it a priority that it is complete before their mandate period ends in 2026.

Raising the salary threshold for work permits

What is this proposal about?

The proposal, which came into force on November 1st, set a new salary threshold of 27,360 kronor, 80 percent of Sweden’s median salary, meaning that anyone earning below this figure no longer qualifies for a work permit or work permit extension.

Valid work permits issued before the law change to people earning below the new limit will not be affected, meaning people on these permits can stay in Sweden until their permits expire. They will, however, need to earn above the new threshold when they apply for a work permit extension or permanent residency, or if their application submitted before November 1st was not approved before the new law came into effect.

The new limit is 80 percent of the median salary, as calculated each year by Statistics Sweden. This means that the limit will change every year as the median salary changes.

Under rules prior to November 1st, the minimum salary was set at the lowest level at which the Migration Agency estimated it was possible to survive in Sweden without welfare support, just 13,000 kronor a month. 

What’s the status of the proposal?

The new rules came into force on November 1st, 2023.

Going forward, the salary requirement will be based on Statistics Sweden’s last published median salary at the time a work permit application is submitted. This is updated every year, most recently June 20th, and can be found here.

Further reforms of the system are being planned, with an inquiry set to present its conclusions by the end of January 2024.

Tighten asylum legislation to ‘minimum level’ allowed in EU

What will the policy do?

The government wants to tighten asylum legislation to the “minimum level” allowed under European Union law or other international treaties to which Sweden is a signatory.

It could withdraw residency from asylum seekers “if the original grounds for asylum no longer apply”, abolish permanent residency for asylum seekers in favour of temporary residency permits, and reduce the scope for family reunion for those with residency in Sweden to the minimum circle of relatives allowed under EU law: a spouse or domestic partner and any children under 18 years.

It could also establish transit centres either in Sweden or overseas, if possible under the Swedish constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

It could also enable residence permits for asylum seekers to be recalled if the situation in the home countries of those granted asylum changes so that they are no longer at risk, and restrict access to translators so they are only offered in situations where they are necessary for a fair legal process.

What’s the status of this policy?

One part of this policy is a proposal to raise the age limit at which a residency permit based on family reunification may be rejected to 21, which was approved by parliament on November 9th and will come into force on December 1st, 2023.

This proposal will also limit the opportunity for family reunification permit applicants to be exempt from the maintenance requirement if the person they are moving to Sweden to join is an asylum seeker, as well as removing the possibility for a residence permit to be granted due to “particularly distressing circumstances” be removed. It will also allow children to be granted residence permits due to “exceptionally distressing circumstances”, even if these circumstances would not be considered as serious or distressing if the applicant were an adult.

A broader inquiry into changes to asylum and immigration law was launched in February 2023, and the Tidö agreement states that the government aims to pass new asylum laws on these topics before the mandate period comes to an end in 2026.

Strengthened system for coordination numbers

What will the proposal do?

This law makes the Swedish Tax Agency wholly responsible for awarding coordination numbers, the numbers given to people living in Sweden who are not yet eligible for a personal number, personnummer

This should make it easier to keep track of which numbers are held by real people and which are dormant. The bill also creates a new category of “supported identity” coordination numbers, where the holder goes to a Tax Agency office in person with a passport or other identity document and has their identity confirmed.

What’s the status of the proposal?

It was passed as law on November 30th 2022, and came into force on September 1st 2023 (January 1st 2023 for affected staff at foreign embassies).

Travel visas for work permit holders

What will the proposal do?

This is not yet a firm proposal, but in a sit-down interview in February, The Local asked Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard if the government is planning on introducing a travel visa which would enable work permit applicants to leave Sweden and return, as countries such as Denmark and Germany have done.

“Yes, I will consider it,” she said. “I’m well aware of this problem, which also affects people who would like to go to seminars and so on abroad who are refused [the ability] to do so. So it is truly a problem.”

For citizens of countries which Sweden demands an entry visa from, it has meant that while they are free to leave Sweden, they risk being refused entry at the border if they try to return. Thousands of workers on whom Sweden’s economy relies have as a result been effectively trapped in the country.

What’s the status of the proposal?

This has not yet been formally proposed.

Introducing labour market testing for work permits

What will the proposal do?

This was proposed by Sweden’s former centre-left government and has been scrapped by the new conservative coalition. It would have reintroduced labour market tests for work permits, meaning that work permits would only have been granted for jobs in sectors experiencing a shortage.

Denmark has had a similar system, dubbed the Positive List, for a number of years, which is updated twice a year and comprises two lists: one for people with a higher education and one for other skilled workers.

You can read more about labour market testing here.

What’s the status of the proposal?

This proposal was scrapped and was instead been replaced with a proposal to make it harder for low-skilled immigrants to move to Sweden, and easier for highly-skilled immigrants to get work permits in Sweden. See more details on the new proposal here.

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Sweden’s government calls for investigation into cost of immigration

The Swedish government and its supporting party, the Sweden Democrats, have called for an inquiry into the "economic net effects of migration to Sweden in modern times".

Sweden's government calls for investigation into cost of immigration

“It’s important that this becomes a driving force moving forward,” Sweden Democrat party secretary Mattias Bäckström Johansson said.

In recent weeks, the far-right Sweden Democrats and the government have been negotiating an update to their coalition agreement, also known as the Tidö agreement, which some have been referring to as “Tidö 2.0”. Representatives of the coalition parties have been seen at Harpsund, the prime minister’s country residence.

One of the new proposals in the updated agreement is for Sweden’s National Institute of Economic Research (KI) to calculate the “economic net effects of migration to Sweden in modern times”.

“This is something we’ve been calling for since we entered parliament, in our first budget, and out in the municipalities – multicultural accounting,” Bäckström Johansson said.

The institute will be asked to look at how income and costs of immigration have changed historically, while also forecasting the economic effects of immigration in the future, based on factors like the effect on the labour market, tax income and welfare payments.


Bäckström Johansson also mentioned the cost of accepting refugees, welfare costs and gang crime.

Results will also be broken down by country of origin, he said.

“You obviously need to have that as a parameter, immigrants as a group are not a homogenous collective,” he continued.

“It may be relevant to look at that on the back of the number of asylum seekers Sweden has accepted, maybe also linked to those accepted via the UN.”

He added that the result of the investigation should be used when creating future migration policy.

“The closer a country is culturally, the easier it is to become part of society,” he said.

The Sweden Democrats have carried out a similar report previously, making their own prediction of the net tax cost of immigrants between 2007 and 2021. In that report, which was criticised by national economists, the party claimed that immigrants had cost the country 1,397 billion kronor in taxes.

Bäckström Johansson is convinced that KI’s calculations will confirm that immigration costs the country more money than it contributes to the economy.

“In the best case scenario it could be positive,” he said. “But we are convinced, which has been clear, that the large-scale migration to Sweden has cost the country money.”