How many people got a work permit in Sweden last year?

More people moved to Sweden to work for Swedish companies during 2018 than the year before. Here's a look at the jobs these workers do, and whereabouts in the country they ended up.

How many people got a work permit in Sweden last year?
More people applied for work permits in Sweden in 2018 than the year before, but the Migration Agency slightly reduced waiting times for decisions. File photo:

2018 was a challenging year for the Swedish Migration Agency, whose operating budget was decreased by around 11 percent from the previous year, but it reached its goal in terms of the number of cases where it issued a decision.

In total, 48,639 people applied for a first-time work permit in 2018, an increase from around 38,400 the previous year. All non-EU citizens who wish to move to Sweden for work must apply for and receive a permit before they can make the move, and their immediate family including partners can apply to move to Sweden on the same permit.

The Migration Agency reached a decision on 51,430 cases, although not all of these will have been submitted the same year. Of these decisions, almost 80 percent (40,341) were accepted.

This figure includes not only the foreign workers themselves, who made up about half of the total number, but also partners and relatives included on the same permit, and permit applicants who fell into special categories, such as those on temporary permits (including au pairs, visiting researchers, and athletes) and self-employed people.

When considering only the people who received a permit to work for a Swedish company, a total of 20,841 foreign professionals were granted work permits in 2018. The number of permits granted remained fairly steady each month but ranged from 1,055 in February to 3,537 in March.

The most common occupation of those who received a permit to work for a Swedish employer was defined by the Migration Agency as 'specialists'. This category includes a wide range of careers such as architects, legal professionals, health professionals, teachers and vets, who in total made up 7,059 of the permit recipients.

A further 7,036 fell into the category of 'technicians and associate professionals', while 'service, care and sales' was the third most common job category.

When it came to nationality, more Thai citizens (5,148) than any other nationality were granted a Swedish work permit. The next most common home countries were Indian (4,966), Ukraine (1,027), China (928) and Turkey (708), while Iraq (670), the US (554), Brazil (388), Serbia (376) and Iran (373) made up the second half of the top ten.

So where do these people end up?

There were significant differences between different regions, with most people moving to the southern regions home to Sweden's largest cities. That meant 11,749 work permit recipients moved to Stockholm, 3,261 to Västra Götaland, and 1,771 to Skåne.

READ ALSO: What to do if your work permit renewal is rejected

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What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Many foreigners living in Sweden need to have a residence permit to live in the country legally. Permits are issued for two years at a time and can be renewed 30 days before expiry, at the earliest. But with waiting times exceeding 8 months for many applicants, just what are your rights while you wait to hear back?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Can I keep working in Sweden?

It depends. If you have a residence permit which allows you to work in Sweden, have held that residence permit for at least six months and apply for an extension before your old permit expires, you still have the right to work in Sweden while you wait for the Migration Agency to make a decision on your permit application.

You can apply for a new residence permit 30 days before your old permit expires, at the earliest, and you can’t get a new residence permit before your old one has run out.

Can I leave Sweden?

Technically you can, but it might not be a good idea. This is due to the fact that if you leave Sweden after your residence permit has expired, it can be difficult to enter Sweden again before your new permit is granted, even if you can prove that you’ve applied for a new one.

In the worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to Sweden at the border and forced to wait in another country until your new residence permit is granted. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in some cases, apply for a national visa allowing you to re-enter Sweden. These are only granted under exceptional circumstances, and must be applied for at a Swedish embassy or general consulate in the country you are staying in. If you are not granted a national visa to re-enter Sweden, you can’t appeal the decision, meaning you’ll have to wait until your residence permit is approved before you can re-enter Sweden.

The Migration Agency writes on its website that you should only leave Sweden while your application is being processed “in exceptional cases, and if you really have to”.

It lists some examples of exceptional cases as “sudden illness, death in the family or important work-related assignments”, adding that you may need to provide proof of your reason for travelling to the embassy when you apply for a national visa to re-enter Sweden.

What if I come from a visa-free country?

If you come from a visa-free country, you are able to re-enter Sweden without needing a visa, but you may run into issues anyway, as visa-free non-EU citizens entering Schengen are only allowed to stay in the bloc for 90 days in every 180 before a visa is required.

If you are a member of this group and you stay in Schengen for longer than 90 days without a visa, you could be labelled an “overstayer”, which can cause issues entering other countries, as well as applying for a visa or residence permit in the future.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “a visa-free person waiting for a decision in their extension application can leave Sweden and return, as long as they have visa-free days left to use”.

“However, an extension application usually requires the individual to be located in Sweden,” the Agency wrote. “Travelling abroad can, in some cases, have an effect on the decision whether to extend a residence permit or not, in a way which is negative for the applicant, but this decision is made on an individual case basis (it’s not possible to say a general rule).”

“The right to travel into the Schengen area for short visits is not affected, as long as the person still has visa-free days left.”

The Local has contacted the Migration Agency to clarify whether days spent in Sweden count towards the 90-day limit, and will update this article accordingly once we receive a response.

Does this apply to me if I have a permanent residence permit?

No. This only applies to people in Sweden holding temporary residence permits. If you have a permanent residence permit and your residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort or UT-kort) expires, you just need to book an appointment at the Migration Agency to have your picture and fingerprints taken for a new card.

How long is the processing time for residence permit renewals?

It varies. For people renewing a residence permit to live with someone in Sweden, for example, the Migration Agency states that 75 percent of recent cases received an answer within eight months.

For work permit extensions, it varies. In some branches, 75 percent of applicants received a response after 17 months, others only had to wait five.

This means that some people waiting to extend their residence permits could be discouraged from leaving Sweden for almost a year and a half, unless they are facing “exceptional circumstances”.

You can see how long it is likely to take in your case here.