Sweden expects fewer work permit applications in 2020 due to coronavirus

With the coronavirus expected to impact both international travel and the economy for months if not years to come, the Swedish Migration Agency has said it expects fewer work permit applications than earlier forecast for 2020.

Sweden expects fewer work permit applications in 2020 due to coronavirus
Earlier in 2020, the government announced a plan to overhaul the work permit system in Sweden. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

“Like large sections of society, the Migration Agency is also affected by the ongoing corona pandemic,” the agency wrote in a statement explaining that it had adjusted its forecasts for several categories of cases, including asylum applications and work permit applications.

Overall, it forecast that 51,000 work permit applications would be made in Sweden; 8,000 fewer than last year and 6,000 fewer than an earlier forecast for 2020. 

But this number may reduce further depending on how long the pandemic and its consequences last for. The current forecast was based on the assumption that global travel restrictions will be reduced in summer, and will be adjusted month by month.

“It is not an assessment, but a simplified assumption made in order to handle an uncertain and changing situation in the forecasting process. This assumption may need to be adjusted, which we will return to in our July forecast. We are following the development [of the coronavirus] and are taking measures on an ongoing basis to secure our operations and contribute to a reduced spread of infection,” said the agency's head of planning, Henrik Holmer.

Normally a permit is required for anyone who moves to Sweden to work from outside the EU and without any other kind of visa or permit for Sweden (such as a family visa). 

There is currently a ban on entry to Sweden from outside the EEA and Switzerland, part of an EU-wide travel ban. It doesn't apply to everyone, with Swedish citizens and residents exempted as well as foreign workers whose jobs are deemed important to essential societal functions, a category that includes agricultural workers for example.

However, even workers who are technically able to travel to Sweden for work may find it hard to do so, due to domestic travel restrictions in place overseas making it hard to visit Swedish embassies, and a lack of commercial flights.

The pandemic has also hit the economy, leading to large scale job losses, and several people have spoken to The Local about their experience of losing the job they had moved to Sweden for.


In 2019, almost 60,000 work permit applications were submitted in Sweden, more than the year before and the continuation of an upward trend.

The most common category was “technicians and associate professionals”, which made up 8,414 of all approved permits and primarily included berry-pickers and fast-food workers. This was followed by the 6,547 work permit grantees defined as “specialists”, referring to jobs requiring education beyond tertiary, including architects, healthcare specialists, some teachers, legal professionals, HR specialists, doctors and others.

Earlier in 2020, the Swedish government announced plans to overhaul its work permit system, including by reviewing maintenance requirements for family members of work permit holders, and introducing a special visa for workers with skills that are particularly in-demand in Sweden.

This is in order to both prevent exploitation of foreign workers and address the problem of work permit holder deportations over minor errors.

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EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

In the new work permit law which comes into force on June 1st, Sweden is launching a new nine-month 'talent visa', which will allow “some highly qualified individuals” to get temporary residency while they look for jobs or plan to launch a business. What do we know so far?

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

When was the law passed and when does it come into force? 

The parliament passed the new law on April 21st, and the final text of the change in the law was published on May 5th. It will come into force on June 1st. 

What does the new law say about the ‘talent visa’? 

It says that “in certain cases”, a temporary residency permit can be granted to a foreigner who wants to “spend time in the country to look for work or to look into the possibility of starting a business”. 

To qualify the applicant must: 

  • have completed studies equivalent to an advanced level degree 
  • have sufficient means to support themselves during their stay and to cover the cost of their return trip 
  • have fully comprehensive health insurance which is valid in Sweden 

How long can people initially stay in Sweden under the talent visa? 

The residency permit will be valid for a maximum of nine months.

Which agency will assess applications for the talent visa? 

The government has decided that applications should be assessed by the Migration Agency. The Migration Agency will publish more details on the requirements, such as what qualifies as an advanced degree, what documents need to be submitted, and how much capital applicants will need to show they can support themselves, in the coming weeks. 

The Migration Agency is also likely to develop a form for those wishing to apply for the talent visa. 

What level of education is necessary? 

What is meant by an “advanced degree” has not been set ou in the law, but according to Karl Rahm, who has helped draw up the law within the Ministry of Justice, a master’s degree (MA or MSc), should be sufficient. 

How much capital will applicants need to show that they have? 

According to Rahm, the amount of money applicants will need to show that they have is likely to be set at the same level as the minimum salary for those applying for a work permit, which is currently 13,000 kronor a month. If he is right, this means that someone applying for a nine-month visa would have to show that they have 117,000 kronor (€11,259) in saved capital, plus extra for their trip back to their home country.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

Can applicants bring children and spouses? 

“You will not be able to bring your family with this kind of visa, since the idea is that it’s for a relatively limited amount of time,  just to see if there is employment for you, or if there is a chance of starting a business,” says Elin Jansson, deputy director at the Ministry of Justice, who helped work on the new visa. “And if you do decide to stay in Sweden, then you apply for a regular work permit for starting up a business, and then you can bring your family.” 

Where will detailed information on the requirements for a talent visa be published? 

The Migration Agency will publish detailed requirements on the talent visa on its Working in Sweden page when the law starts to apply on June 1st. 

What is the reason for the talent visa? 

Those searching for a job or researching starting a new business in Sweden can already stay for up to 90 days with a normal Schengen visa. The idea behind the talent visa is to give highly educated foreigners a little longer to decide if they want to find a job or set up a business in the country before they need to go the whole way and launch a company. 

How many people are expected to apply? 

In the government inquiry on the new work permit law, experts estimated that about 500 people would apply for the new talent visa each year, but it could end up being either much more, or less. 

“It’s really hard to tell. There could be a really big demand. I don’t think it’s anyone can really say before this comes into effect,” Jansson said.