Sweden’s school law hold-up harming young Afghans

Court challenges against a law letting rejected asylum seekers to stay in Sweden till they finish school have left thousands in a “completely debilitating” situation, the charity Save the Children has complained.

Sweden's school law hold-up harming young Afghans
'Ahmad' says he 'takes one day at a time'. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
The so-called ‘gymnasium law’, which came into force on July 1 offered a fast track to a student residency permit for some 9,000, mostly Afghan, students so they could complete their upper secondary studies. 
But two out of Sweden’s four migration courts have refused to accept the law, arguing that it is too poorly framed to be applied, and now Sweden’s Migration Agency is only ruling on those applications under the new law which merit a rejection anyway. 
“They find themselves in a new and completely debilitating situation,” said Eva Harnesk, who runs the charity’s telephone support service. 
“For three year’s we’ve been observing how uncertainty about their future in Sweden affects these youths. The gymnasium law represented a really big hope for many of them.” 
The Migration Court of Appeal is expected to rule on whether the law should stand or be rejected, but no date for the decision has been given. 
Of the 197 calls Save the Children has received on its line for immigrants and asylum seekers since July, the overwhelming majority have been about the law. 
“Every day feels like a year. It’s a pain to have to wait to long,” Ahmad, one of the youths, told TT. 
He said that when he had fled his home in Iran, where he lived as a paperless Afghan migrant, he had little idea of where he was going. 
“I knew, like, absolutely nothing about Europe,” he said. “I thought it was like one country.” 
Harnesk said that several of the youths were homeless and stuggling to feed themselves during the wait, as they no longer quality for support from Sweden’s social services. 
She said there was also “enormous frustration” over the law’s arbitrary cut-off lines, noting that a boy who had to wait 13 months for his first ruling from the Migration Agency was not eligible to apply under the law, but if it had instead taken 15 months, he would have been 
“It’s become, as the youth say themselves, a lottery in the sense of who can stay and who can’t,” she said. 
The law was rushed through Sweden’s parliament by the red-green coalition government with the support of the Left Party and the Centre Party.  

Member comments

  1. Seems like some judges have a SD partybook… This is unacceptable. If you can’t respect democratic decisions by the parliament, then you shouldn’t become a judge.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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.