Sweden’s migration rules tightened as new law comes into force

Sweden's migration rules tightened as new law comes into force
Sweden's migration laws change on July 20th, 2021. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT
Sweden's new migration legislation comes into effect on July 20th, replacing temporary legislation introduced five years ago.

The bill, which was put forward by the Social Democrat-Green government in late April, was approved by the Swedish parliament last month.

The background is that a new set of laws was needed to replace temporary legislation which was introduced in 2016 to bring down the unprecedented number of asylum requests at the time.

One part of the new law, for example, makes residence permits for refugees time-limited as a rule of thumb rather than permanent. Since the temporary law was introduced temporary permits have been the norm in Sweden, but before that permanent permits were the default since 1984. It also brings in exceptions from family maintenance requirements for Swedish and EU/EEA citizens who wish to bring their partner to Sweden.

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No transitional legislation has been introduced for the initial period, so if you have not received a decision on your application for permanent residency before today, it will be judged based on the new laws regardless of when you submitted it, according to the Migration Agency.

A requirement for Swedish language skills in order to receive a permanent residence permit was floated as part of the legislative work on the migration bill, but this hasn’t made it into law. The original proposal states that these should be introduced at some point, but they are not yet an official requirement, so it is unclear how these skills will be tested and measured, or when (and if) they will actually come into effect. 

Initially, the plan was to pass a law that had a broader political consensus behind it.

A Migration Committee was set up with representatives from each party and a mandate to come up with ideas for a “humane, legally certain and effective” migration policy to replace the temporary laws introduced in 2016. 

But the talks were fraught, with immigration a core issue for most of the parties and widely disparate views on the best way forward. So the proposals brought forward by the committee were less extensive than expected; after cross-party talks broke down, the final report was made up of more than 20 proposals rather than a comprehensive policy, each one supported by a different combination of parties. 

The junior government coalition partner, the Green Party, was not happy with many of the proposals, in particular a proposed cap on the number of asylum seekers who can enter Sweden each year.

So the government put forward a new bill, based on the committee’s suggestions but with some notable differences, including no cap on asylum seeker numbers. The Green Party also pushed through rules that mean that people who are not eligible for asylum may in some cases be allowed to stay in Sweden on compassionate grounds.

The law will now apply from July 20th, 2021, onwards.

Member comments

  1. Seems like a generally reasonable and fair step in the right direction, although the law should be clear and firm to be effective. Maybe it is a bit to wishy-washy, but I guess only time will tell.

  2. The radical 4-percent Green Party manages yet again to put a spanner in the works of important legislation. Both Emma and Catherine said the other day in the podcast that this new legislation is in parts difficult to understand. But the confusion is probably deliberate because Morgan Johansson is the minister behind it, and Johansson is a master at doing and saying nothing while trying to give the impression that he’s fully in control. Plus the inevitable manoeuvering to appease the Green Part once again. It’s no mistake at all that this new migration law is unclear and incomplete. All that it has done is to buy the Government more time and keep lawyers busy trying to decipher how the legislative text should be interpreted.

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