For members


KEY POINTS: Sweden’s latest proposals to revamp the work permit system

A new Swedish inquiry has presented a series of proposals to crack down on dishonest employers who exploit work permit holders.

KEY POINTS: Sweden's latest proposals to revamp the work permit system
A new inquiry proposes blacklisting dishonest employers of foreign workers. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

The inquiry, which was launched after several reports of exploitation of immigrant workers in Sweden, was handed over to Justice Minister Morgan Johansson this week.

It confirmed that although everything usually looks good on paper – which makes it harder for authorities to discover individual problems – many workers are ruthlessly exploited by dishonest employers, who often force them to pay some of their salary back to the employer.

In 2019, as many as 40 cases of exploitation of immigrant workers were investigated by police, of which two led to employers being prosecuted in court and only one led to a conviction.

Industries that require a lower level of education, such as the construction, cleaning, hotel and restaurant sectors, are among the worst offenders, report author Anita Linder told the TT newswire. She said the inquiry did not find any cases of work permit holders being exploited in, for example, the engineering or IT industries.

The inquiry proposes several measures, including introducing two new criminal offences.

One of these would include jail of up to two years for anyone who exploits a foreigner at work under “obviously unreasonable conditions” – even if the worker agrees to them, for example because they think they are acceptable or they don’t want to lose their permit.

The other one would ban “selling” a work permit to an employee by making them pay for the job offer. The employer could if found guilty be locked up for up to two years.

Particularly serious offences could in both cases lead to jail sentences of up to four years.

The inquiry also proposes blacklisting dishonest employers, by making it easier for the Migration Agency to check their criminal and tax records and refuse to grant work permits if the employer has previously exploited or committed crimes against immigrant workers.

If the employer provides housing, the inquiry proposes they must also ensure that the living conditions are adequate, to prevent situations where the employees are forced to pay rent to the employer and get no more than a mattress at the workplace to sleep on in return.

The proposals will now be sent out for consultation, which means that relevant agencies and authorities will give their feedback. During this process, the agencies can warn of any risks for unintended consequences or negative effects of the changes, and to give input on how feasible they would be to carry out. After any edits as a result, the next stage is to put the proposals to a parliamentary vote.

This was the second out of two reports into the Swedish work permit system. The last one was released in February 2021, with one of the proposals being to introduce a talent visa for highly qualified foreign workers. This is still being debated by decision-makers.

In fact, labour migration is expected to become a talking point ahead of Sweden’s general election in September next year, with several political parties calling for stricter rules – although they have different ideas as to how best to do this. This article by The Local gives you a rundown of what some of the main parties have been saying lately.

Member comments

  1. A talent visa sounds like a good idea – so long as the measure of talent isn’t simply about having a Ph.D. (which can be totally useless depending on the field of study), and as long as the talent visas only apply to fields where there is an identified shortage or workers. But it seems like a good idea as long as it is written properly.

  2. More importantly something that is always ignored in the proposal is a family of talent workers!

    You can not promote Sweden as a place to work for talent and at the end do not give permanent residency to his wife and just expecting someone to just ignore his family and just be a headless talent without emotion!

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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.