Minister pushes for economic migration reforms

The government is preparing legislation that would enable Swedish employers to recruit workers from anywhere in the world.

The proposed legislation would also permit qualified foreign nationals to obtain a temporary visa in order to seek employment in areas where Sweden has a shortage of workers, such as care for the elderly.

Speaking at a seminar in Malmö, Migration Minister Tobias Billström presented the main points of his proposal.

“This is by far the most important issue that needs to be implemented,” he said, according to newspaper Sydsvenskan.

“This will provide an opportunity for people to come here by means other than asylum immigration. A lot of people today are standing in the wrong queue,” he added.

Under the current system, work visas can only be issued on the recommendation of County Labour Boards, which base their decisions on an analysis of the prevailing labour market climate. These boards will disappear if the new law comes into force, with Billström arguing that individual companies are better placed to judge their own employment needs than government agencies.

“Nor is there any reason to give trade unions right of veto,” he said.

Foreign employees coming to Sweden are to be covered by the same collective agreements and employment protections as their Swedish counterparts.

Billström dismissed the introduction of a points system, such as exists in Canada, as too bureaucratic.

“We want to take full and immediate advantage of immigration,” he said.

It is however uncertain whether Billström has the support he need to push the legislation through parliament.

Billström’s proposal is based on the results of a report presented last October by a parliamentary committee on labour market immigration.

The Social Democrats and trade union confederation LO were joined by some of the minister’s Alliance colleagues in favoring a more restrictive system involving the Labour Market Board.

The minister aims to circulate his report for formal consultation in the near future. If accepted, he hopes for the new law to be implemented in mid-2008.


‘The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,’ Migration minister says

Sweden's Migration Minister has responded to criticism of the government's proposal to abolish permanent residency, telling an interviewer that the hope is that holders will gain full citizenship rather than get downgraded to temporary status.

'The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,' Migration minister says

“The main idea behind the [Tidö] agreement is that we should convert permanent residency to citizenship,” Maria Malmer Stenergard, from the right-wing Moderate Party, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.”You should not be here forever on a permanent residence permit. A clear path to citizenship is needed.”

I envision that you will receive individual plans for how to achieve this,” she continued. “Learn the language, earn a living, and have knowledge of Swedish society, so that you can fully become a Swedish citizen.” 

Malmer Stenergard said it was still unclear whether a planned government inquiry into the possibility of “converting…existing permanent residence permits” would also open the way for those who have been given a permanent right to live in the country to be downgraded to a temporary residency permit. 

“We’ll have to look at that,” she said. “There is a problem with positive administrative decisions and changing them, which the Migration Agency’s director general Mikael Ribbenvik has been aware of. We also state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law shall continue to apply.” 

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

In the Tidö Agreement, the deal between the far-right Sweden Democrats and the three government parties, it says that “asylum-related residence permits should be temporary and the institution of permanent residence permits should be phased out to be replaced by a new system based on the immigrant’s protection status”.

It further states that “an inquiry will look into the circumstances under which existing permanent residence permits can be converted, for example through giving affected permit holders realistic possibilities to gain citizenship before a specified deadline. These changes should occur within the framework of basic legal principles.”

Malmer Stenergard stressed that the government would only retroactively reverse an administrative decision (over residency) if a way can be found to make such a move compatible with such principles. 

“This is why we state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law must apply,” she said. 

She said the government had not yet come to a conclusion on what should happen to those with permanent residency who either cannot or are unwilling to become Swedish citizens. 

“We’re not there yet, but of course we’re not going to be satisfied with people just having an existing permanent residency, which in many cases has been granted without any particularly clear demands, if they don’t then take the further steps required for citizenship.” 

This did not mean, however, that those with permanent residency permits should be worried, she stressed. 

“If your ambition is to take yourself into Swedish society, learn the language, become self-supporting, and live according to our norms and values, I think that there’s a very good chance that you will be awarded citizenship.” 

She said that even if people couldn’t meet the requirements for citizenship, everyone with permanent residency should at least have “an individual plan for how they are going to become citizens”, if they want to stay in Sweden. 

When it comes to other asylum seekers, however, she said that the government’s aim was for residencies to be recalled more often. 

“We want to find a way to let the Migration Agency regularly reassess whether the grounds for residency remain. The aim is that more residencies should be recalled, for example, if a person who is invoking a need of asylum or other protection then goes back to their home country for a holiday.”