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IMMIGRATION

‘Segregation can be a good thing’: study

Segregation isn't necessarily a bad thing, according to a new report critical of policies which try to control where immigrants and refugees settle in Sweden.

“Closeness to fellow countrymen can actually be positive, especially if the group has a relatively strong socioeconomic position,” write economists Oskar Nordström Skans and Olof Åslund in an article published in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

In their presentation of the 2009 report on welfare by the Swedish Centre for Business and Policy Studies (SNS), the authors point out that there is no research to suggest that the ethnic makeup of people in one’s surroundings has a decisive role in how well an individual integrates into the labour market or in school.

While Sweden’s current placement system, based on a strategy of spreading refugees to various locations around the country and providing incentives to move to regions with fewer immigrants, does reduce housing market discrimination, it also makes it harder for immigrants to enter the labour market, according to Skans and Åslund.

“Our conclusion from this review is that a policy which aims to control immigrants’ residency patterns is wrong,” they write.

The authors suggest instead that politicians should focus on the underlying problems such as long-term unemployment and poverty in large immigrant communities.

Skans and Åslund add that it is “self-evident” that immigrants who come to Sweden should live by the same obligations and responsibilities as others when it comes to abiding by Swedish law.

“But with that it follows as well, in our opinion, that society ought to treat those who immigrate as equal members of society with the same rights as others,” they write.

“Even if society neither can nor ought to even out all disparities, such an outlook can hardly allow for the huge socioeconomic differences we now see.”

In the eyes of Skans and Åslund, society ought to accept the choices that immigrants make about their schools, careers, partners, and where they choose to live “just as one obviously accepts the choices of other members of society”.

“We have a hard time seeing how segregation which can occur through voluntary choices can be a bigger problem than the fact that residents of Småland often get married to other people from Småland,” they conclude.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question. 

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