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.