Swedish Migration Agency asks to pause fast-track scheme for delayed permits

Sweden's Migration Agency has called for a "temporary pause" in the processing of so-called delayed work permit and citizenship cases, which means individuals would no longer be able to request a decision to be made on their case after four or six months have passed.

Swedish Migration Agency asks to pause fast-track scheme for delayed permits
Mikeal Ribbenvik, Migration Agency general director, at a press conference. File photo. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The Migration Agency’s general director Mikael Ribbenvik explained in a press release that the agency had requested the pause in order to cut waiting times.

“We can see that handling these delayed cases takes far too many resources away from normal processing,” he said.

“This leads to longer processing times, which goes against the whole idea of the rule.”

The request, submitted by the Migration Agency, the Swedish courts and the administrative courts in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, proposes that the government pauses the processing of delayed cases for 18 months. This proposal would apply to work permit and citizenship cases, in order to cut processing times.

Despite taking measures to cut waiting times for work permits and citizenship cases, the Migration Agency admits that waiting times are still long, with a growing number of cases – including delayed cases – meaning that resources cannot be used effectively.

The possibility of applying to have a delayed case expedited was introduced in summer 2018 to help those who had been waiting a long time to get an answer on their citizenship or work permit application to speed up the Migration Agency’s decision and thereby cut waiting times.

However, Ribbenvik stated, the agency warned that this could lead to longer waiting times when it was proposed.

“In our response to the consultation stage of the law, we pointed out that this could lead to the opposite – longer waiting times, as our employees have to dedicate their time to these delayed cases instead of responding to applications for citizenship or work permits,” he said.

Facts and figures

Applications for work permits and citizenship increased by 18 percent in 2022 compared with 2018.

In 2022, around 190,000 applications for work permits or citizenship were submitted.

In 2022, around 75,000 applications for a response on delayed cases were submitted.

The average waiting time for work permits is 171 days.

The average waiting time for citizenship is 431 days.

In recent years, between 13,000 and 33,000 decisions on delayed cases were appealed.

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How are non-EU PhD students affected by Sweden’s work permit rules?

Sweden’s work permit salary threshold has increased by almost 120 percent since October last year. How are non-EU PhD students affected by this?

How are non-EU PhD students affected by Sweden's work permit rules?

Students admitted to doctoral studies in Sweden to earn their PhD here

PhD students on a residence permit for doctoral studies are not affected by the work permit salary requirement (currently a minimum of 80 percent of Sweden’s median salary), but they do have to prove that they have enough money to support themselves.

As of January 1st, 2024, this means they must have at least 10,314 kronor a month for a single adult plus 4,297.50 kronor a month for an accompanying spouse and 2,578.50 kronor a month for each child. 

This can be covered by savings, salary or a stipend.

There are discounts if your employer offers you free food or housing: a discount of 2,865 kronor per month if food is provided or 4,584 per month if housing is provided.

You can find more information about the requirements on the Migration Agency’s website.

What about researchers?

A researcher permit is different from a PhD permit, but researchers aren’t directly affected by the work permit salary requirement either.

According to the Migration Agency, a researcher is a person who has a PhD or is qualified to begin doctoral studies and has been invited by a research funding body that is approved by the Swedish Research Council to conduct research in Sweden. A research funding body can be a Swedish university, institution or a company.

Researchers are exempt from the work permit salary requirement, but they still need to show they have sufficient funds in order to be granted a permit. They must have enough money for the duration of their stay in Sweden as well as enough funds to pay for their travel home – defined as at least 9,700 kronor per month.

More information on the requirements for researchers is available in English on the Migration Agency’s website.

What about when I apply for permanent residency?

PhD students who qualify for permanent residency must, among other things, be able to support themselves financially through either employment or self-employment. This is defined as having at least 6,090 kronor a month left over after paying housing costs.

Unfortunately for PhD students, the only type of employment which counts towards this is legal employment as a work permit holder (unless you have an exemption from the work permit requirement, for example if you are in Sweden on a so-called sambo permit as a family member of someone already in Sweden).

This essentially means that the vast majority of PhD students applying for permanent residency need to meet the new salary threshold in order for their application to be granted. There are plans to exempt newly-qualified PhD students or other graduates from this requirement, but it looks like they won’t come into force until June 1st, 2025 at the earliest.