Swedish inquiry told to propose new laws to stop ‘talent deportation’

Swedish plans to overhaul the work permit system have been updated to include legal proposals to stop so-called 'talent deportation' – foreign workers deported over minor errors by their employer.

Swedish inquiry told to propose new laws to stop 'talent deportation'
Could law changes solve the situation for work permit holders? Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

As part of an agreement with the Centre and Liberal parties, Sweden's Social Democrat-Green government launched an inquiry in February to review the country's much-debated labour immigration system, with the aim of “attracting international expertise and counteracting the exploitation of labour migrants”.

But it was criticised for being too soft on what has been dubbed in Swedish media as 'talent deportation'. The inquiry was tasked with analysing the issue and only proposing legal changes if needed. 

The inquiry has now been ordered to also include hard proposals for law changes intended to stop deportations caused by “negligible and excusable” mistakes by a work permit holder's employer.

It has also been told to propose law changes that would see sharper punishments for dishonest employers as well as cash compensation for work permit holders who have been exploited.

It is also expected to suggest ways in which an employment contract would have to be submitted when a person applies for a work permit.

The additional directive was requested by the Swedish parliament earlier this year, and opposition parties have previously criticised the government for not implementing it sooner.

Sweden relies on foreign workers to plug skills shortages in the country, including the fast-growing tech sector. But legislation which was intended to crack down on exploitation of foreign workers had the unintended consequence that many workers with legitimate employers had their permit renewals rejected.

This resulted in hundreds of workers being ordered to leave the country due to minor errors in their paperwork, often relating to small discrepancies over holiday pay or insurance policies.

The situation is improving, but slowly. One of the biggest milestones was a landmark court ruling in December 2017. The Swedish Migration Court of Appeal ruling in the case of a pizza baker in Jokkmokk set a precedent for a principle of so-called 'overall assessment', which meant that a small error should no longer be enough to derail an otherwise good application.

The number of rejected permit extensions has declined since then, but there have not been changes to actual legislation, despite several Swedish parties pledging to solve the problem.

Some parts of the ongoing inquiry will result in a report to be presented no later than February next year, with the deadline for the remainder of the inquiry being November 2021. The next steps would include the government putting forward a proposal that would be voted on in parliament.

Swedish vocabulary

talent deportation – kompetensutvisning

overall assessment – (en) helhetsbedömning

inquiry – (en) utredning

work permit – (ett) arbetstillstånd

law – (en) lag

Member comments

  1. It’s too little too late, the Swedish immigration system is fundamentally broken. The reasons why are clear and understandable, but to punish people who have legitimate reasons to be here, and who positively contribute to society is incredibly short sighted. I’m so exhausted by it, the desire to remain in Sweden where my life is on hold for the foreseeable future because it takes an indeterminate amount of time to process a work permit extension is now gone. I also live with the constant fear that it will get rejected, because of one of those stupid administrative errors. So really where’s the incentive? I wait for maybe 6-7 months, if it’s “quick” and then find out it’s denied anyway. I’m one of the lucky ones, I have a great country to go back to with options which my Swedish husband and I have decided to do. I hate to think how much worse this is for those that aren’t that lucky. It’s disappointing when we wanted to stay and build a life here, but what kind of life is this?

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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.