For members


How Swedish attitudes to labour migration are changing

The number of people who moved to Sweden for work in 2018 was higher than in any other year since more generous rules were introduced in 2008, and Swedish attitudes towards labour migration appear to be increasingly positive.

How Swedish attitudes to labour migration are changing
Many of The Local's readers moved to Sweden on a work permit. File photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

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More than 20,000 new work permits were issued during the year, a record high since the 2008 law changes. Work permits are required for non-EU citizens who do not have any existing residence permit, for example on family grounds or after being granted asylum. 

“During the past decade, there has been a gradual liberalization of the labour migration policies in Sweden, and several parties have also argued for the positive effects of increased labour migration,” explained Elina Lindgren, the SOM Institute political scientist who carried out the survey, in an email to The Local. “My aim was to see whether these trends are also reflected in the attitudes of the Swedish public.”

Before 2008, the Swedish Employment Agency and unions carried out assessments of labour shortages which determined how many work permits could be granted in a given year. But the centre-right Alliance and Green Party changed this system, so that it now falls to employers to determine whether they need foreign workers to fill jobs, and anyone can move to Sweden for work if they have a job offer that meets certain minimum conditions.

This has led to a gradual increase in labour migrants, although levels of labour migration remain low compared to the OECD average, noted the study by Gothenburg University's SOM Institute, a centre which researches society, public opinion and media.

Another change over the past decade is that an increasing proportion of labour migrants carry out highly-qualified jobs; this category applies to more than half of all labour migrants.


Reader voices: What's it REALLY like working in Sweden?
Younger respondents were more likely to have a positive attitude to labour migration. Photo: Susanne Walström/

According to Lindgren, “the increased public support for labour migration in recent years compared to the early 2000s (2002) follows the political development in Sweden, where we have had several reforms lately that simplify [the process] for people outside of the EU/EFTA to come to Sweden and work”.

She said that one difference has been the fact that political parties have increasingly called for labour policies to be liberalized due to the shortage of labour in Sweden, particularly because of high levels of retirement in the public sector.

The survey showed however that there was still some resistance to labour migration, with 19 percent of respondents saying it would be 'very bad' to increase labour migration, 18 percent saying it would be 'quite bad' and 37 percent 'neither good nor bad'. Only 26 percent believed it would be a good thing.

But this was an increase from 2002, when almost half (49 percent) said increased labour migration would be a bad thing, and just 15 percent were positive towards it. Those figures changed to 41 and 22 percent respectively by 2013, and since then have remained relatively steady, with between 25 and 30 percent saying more labour migration would be a good thing, in the years 2014-2018.

OPINION: 'Don't be afraid of foreign workers. We are a key part of Sweden's future'

The study by the SOM Institute found that younger people (aged between 16 and 29) were more likely to have a positive view of increased labour migration (36 percent, or ten points above the average). Other groups which were more positive than average were highly educated individuals (of which 37 percent said it would be a good thing, compared to just 18 percent of those with lower levels of education) and those who supported the Left Party, Green Party, Centre Party and/or Liberal Party.

At the other end of the scale, people in the over-50 age category, with a lower level of education, and supporters of the Sweden Democrats, Moderate Party, Christian Democrats and Social Democrats were less likely to be positive towards labour migration.

There was also a link between negative attitudes towards labour migration and other views, particularly “individuals who worry about the economy, and who make a negative assessment of how the welfare institutions function”, Lindgren said.

READ ALSO: 10 things Sweden should do to make life better for international talent

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For members


EXPLAINED: How do you apply for Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

From June 1st, non-EU citizens can apply to come to Sweden on the new talent visa or "resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons". These are the latest details on how to apply.

EXPLAINED: How do you apply for Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

Sweden’s “resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons to look for work or start a busi­ness” was voted through parliament in April as part of a set of changes to the country’s new work laws in April.

The visa was brought in as part of the January Agreement between the economically liberal Centre and Liberal Parties and the Social Democrat government. 

The basic form for the new talent visa was published when parliament voted it through: The visa allows non-EU citizens with a higher-level degree to apply for a visa of between three to nine months, which they can then use to stay in Sweden while they look for work or research setting up a new business.  

But the Migration Agency on June 1st published the details of what exact educational requirements are required to be eligible for the new visa, how much money applicants need to show they have to support themselves, and how and where to apply. They also published the form that needs to be filled in

What counts as an advanced-level degree and how do I prove it? 

The bar is set pretty low. To be eligible for the talent visa, applicants need to have a degree corresponding to at least a 60-credit Master’s degree, a 120-credit Master’s degree, a professional degree worth 60-330 credits, or a postgraduate/PhD-level degree.

You need to send copies of any examination certificates along with your application, as well as copies of the official transcript of your academic record, that shows the courses included in your education. 

If these documents are in a language other than English, French, Spanish, German, or a Nordic language, they have to be translated into Swedish or one of the above languages by an authorized translator.

You also need to print out, sign, scan, and send a letter of consent to the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR), allowing them to contact the educational institutions where you studied for your higher-level degree.

What financial assets do I need to show and how do I prove them? 

You must need to show that you have enough money (or a source of regular income) to support yourself during the time that you will be in Sweden, as well as enough to pay for your journey home. The Migration Agency judges that you need 13,000 kronor per month, so you need a lump sum of 117,000 kronor (€12,000). 

Source: Migration Agency

To prove that you can support yourself, you must either submit copies of your bank statements (plus a translated version if necessary). If you have another source of regular funding, you can explain in the ‘other’ box on what you intend, and enclose documents to support this.

What insurance do you need? 

You need to confirm that you have signed a comprehensive health insurance on the form, and also name the insurance company and the dates between which the insurance policy is valid. 

The insurance needs to cover the costs of emergency and other medical care, hospitalisation, dental care, and also the cost of repatriation for medical reasons. You need to enclose a copy of a document setting out the terms of your insurance policy. 

Source: Migration Agency

What do you need to write about your plans for Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, the visa is for people living outside the EU who “plan to seek employment or explore the possibilities for starting [their] own business”, but the form gives few guidelines as to what will count. 

In the form, there is a space for a few sentences in which you can say what sort of business you plan to start, or which sort of job you intend to look for, as well as whether you intend to leave Sweden, or apply for residency in another way if you fail to secure a job. 

Carl Bexelius, the Migration Agency’s Head of Legal Affairs, said that there was no requirement in the legislation that those with the new talent visa seek jobs that require them to be highly qualified. 

“The crucial part is that you have you are talented in a legal sense, that you have the appropriate education to qualify. If they find work, they can then apply for for a work permit, but that work does not need to require high qualifications.”

Other requirements? 

The other requirement is to have a passport that is valid for the full period in which you will be in Sweden. In the application you need to send copies of all the pages that show your personal data, photo, signature, passport number, issuing country, period of validity, entry stamps, and also if you have permission to live in countries other than your country of origin. 

How to apply? 

You need to send the application form, with the attached documents to the Swedish embassy or consulate-general in your country of residence, or, if that is not possible, at the embassy or consulate-general in the closest country. 

You should contact the embassy for information before applying, and to learn how large an application fee you will need to pay. 

What sort of permit will I get? 

If you get a permit valid for more than three months, you will get a residence permit card which features your fingerprints and a photo.

If you need an entry visa to come to Sweden, you will need to be photographed and have your fingerprints scanned at the Swedish embassy or consulate-general in your country of residence before leaving to come to Sweden.

If you do not need an entry visa, you can apply for a residency card, and have your photo taken and your fingerprints scanned, after your arrival in Sweden. 

What happens if I get a job or start a business while in Sweden? 

If you get a job while in Sweden, you can apply for a work permit from within the country. You cannot start work until the work permit is granted, though (which may not happen until after your talent visa has already expired). 

If you start a business in Sweden, you can apply for a residence permit as a self-employed person. You can start setting up and running your business even before the Migration Agency has made its decision.