Swedish word of the day: kompetensutvisning

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: kompetensutvisning
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Here's a word that many internationals in Sweden probably wish was totally unnecessary.


Kompetensutvisning literally means 'skill/competence deportation', and is often translated as 'talent deportation. It refers to the phenomenon of the Swedish Migration Agency ordering foreign workers to leave the country.


It is most often used in cases where the person in question is highly qualified and moved to Sweden to work in an in-demand sector such as technology or IT, before later being ordered to leave due to a minor error in their work permit paperwork. This happens a lot more often that you might think, due to laws which were introduced to clamp down on exploitation of foreign workers but which have ended up being close to impossible to follow to the letter.

The term kompetensutvisning was coined by newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in 2017 to highlight the absurdity of Sweden's efforts to attract more international talent while at the same time making it difficult for these people to stay in the country.

Because it's hard to give a concise English translation, the word kompetensutvisning is often used by English speakers in Sweden too. 

But the word itself has generated some controversy.

Some have argued that the term suggests that Swedes view foreigners first and foremost in terms of the benefit they can bring to Sweden, focusing on the potential damage to the Swedish economy rather than the personal cost to those affected.


Kompetensutvisningar are most likely to happen when people apply for a work permit renewal, meaning they will have spent at least three years in Sweden and possibly more if they initially moved to the country on a different kind of visa, for example to study or join a Swedish partner. This means many of those affected have put down roots, made friendships and learned the language.

In 2017, more than 1,500 people had their work permit extensions rejected. It's not possible to say how many rejections were due to minor errors, but the number is well over double the figures for the previous four years.

A Migration Court of Appeal ruling in 2017 stated that case officers should also look at the 'overall picture' and make assessment of whether the errors or shortcomings were likely to continue in future. 

As The Local reported back in 2020, the number of talent deportations fell sharply after this ruling, but you will still hear the term used when describing cases of highly-qualified immigrants being refused work permit extensions for seemingly minor reasons.

Example sentences

Kompetensutvisningar är ett växande problem.

The deportation of skilled workers is a growing problem.

Sverige har inte råd med kompetensutvisningar.

Sweden can't afford to deport skilled foreign workers.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is available to order. Head to to read more about it.

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