How have people reacted to Sweden’s new work permit proposals?

How have people reacted to Sweden's new work permit proposals?
Here's what politicians, businesses, unions, and work permit holder representatives have said. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT
After Sweden announced proposals for changes to work permit regulations, there was cautious optimism that the new rules could help improve foreign workers' stability in Sweden, but criticism that a proposed 'talent visa' was not innovative enough.

What do the government's partners and opposition say?

The government ordered the inquiry after its governing agreement with the Centre and Liberal parties included commitments to “stop the deportation of talented workers”.

Three of its proposals are intended to tackle this, including removing the limit on the number of times workers can receive a temporary work permit before needing to apply for a permanent one; introduce clearer regulations about the circumstances in which a permit can be extended; and ensure that minor bureaucratic errors do not lead to rejections of an application and therefore the worker's deportation. 

In particular, errors committed by a former employer should not lead to an application's rejection if the paperwork for the worker's current job is correct.

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The Centre Party's migration policy spokesperson, Jonny Cato, said he believed the proposals put forward would “finally and once and for all” put a stop to the phenomenon caused by rigid migration legislation which has meant thousands of workers have been ordered to leave Sweden due to errors, often minor ones, committed by their current or previous employer.

Cato praised several parts of the deal, including the introduction of a 'talent visa' allowing highly qualified people to move to Sweden for up to nine months even without a job offer, but said his party would have liked to seen more support for people moving to Sweden to set up a business.

And he told the TT newswire: “We are getting a well-balanced maintenance requirement.”

The government proposed that for a family of two adults and two children to move to Sweden, the work permit applicant would need a monthly salary of at least 30,000 kronor, but there would be no requirement for housing of a specific size or standard.

This did not go as far as policy proposals put forward by the opposition Moderate Party hours before the government announced its proposals. The Moderates had proposed a minimum salary requirement of 31,700 kronor per month (the median salary in Sweden) for all non-EU workers moving to Sweden, as well as a requirement for housing of a certain size and standard, as is the case for people moving to Sweden on a family permit.

What do trade unions say?

Sweden's blue-collar trade union confederation LO was positive towards the Moderate proposal of a minimum salary for non-EU workers.

But LO's top request is to introduce regulation of which specific roles or careers people can move to Sweden to perform, to ensure that worker migration is permitted for in-demand roles without over-saturating the market for other workers.

What do businesses say?

The Swedish Federation of Business Owners (Företagarna) said the government's proposals were “a good effort, but not the whole way there”.

In particular, it said that the proposed talent visa – a nine-month visa for highly qualified people to look for work – would not do enough to attract skilled workers to Sweden. Applicants would not be able to work while in Sweden on the talent visa; they would need to apply for a work permit first, and the federation described the visa as “in practice a new type of tourist visa”, instead suggesting a system like Canada's Global Talent Stream.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise was mostly positive towards the proposals, but said that it too would like to see proposals going further in making Sweden an attractive country for foreign workers, including increasing opportunities for people to move to Sweden to start businesses. The inquiry did not propose any changes to this legislation.

“We had higher expectations of the proposal to introduce a new permit basis, so-called talent visa,” its summary of the proposals state. The confederation argued that basing such a visa on having a Master's level qualification was arbitrary and too high a requirement, and that professional experience should be taken into account.

Almega, an organisation that supports service companies in Sweden, said that the proposals to put an end to so-called talent deportations were “positive”, and that if put in place earlier, “many personal tragedies could have been avoided”. However, the organisation said that the minimum 30,000 kronor salary for applicants bringing family to Sweden was too high and risked preventing the service industry from recruiting needed staff.

What do the people affected say?

The Local contacted the Work Permit Holders Association for comment, which responded that their team was still looking into the full report, which is over 300 pages long.

The association was positive towards aspects of the proposals, including the talent visa and the requirement for employers to submit a copy of an employment contracts along with work permit applications to help ensure they stick to legitimate working conditions.

However, the organisation's general secretary Rafiqul Islam said that the proposals related to talent deportations were confusing, and on the maintenance requirement, noted: “Living expenses is different for different people”. He called for clarity on what would happen to people already living in Sweden on a work permit with family who do not meet the threshold.

“These proposals are linked to the future but not current problems. People are still limited by regulation and thus they are more dependent on the employers,” said Islam. Further legislation the organisation would like to see includes policies aimed at work permit holders who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus, and how probational periods (common in Swedish work contracts) should be treated in permit applications.

If you are a work permit holder or prospective applicant, please email us at [email protected] to let us know your thoughts.

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