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New job-seeker visa in Swedish government’s bid to overhaul work permits

The Swedish government is pushing ahead with new proposals to tighten work permit rules, including measures to crack down on "talent deportation" and a new visa for highly educated job-seekers.

New job-seeker visa in Swedish government's bid to overhaul work permits
Sweden's new Integration and Migration Minister Anders Ygeman. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

In a draft bill, the government suggests introducing a new residence permit of up to nine months for well-qualified international talent to look for work or explore starting a business in Sweden.

The applicant should have completed the equivalent of a degree at “advanced level” – which in Sweden counts as studies beyond a Bachelor’s degree – and have enough means to support themselves while they look for work in Sweden.

They also need to have enough funds to cover their return journey, as well as health insurance.

The proposals were presented by Integration and Migration Minister Anders Ygeman at a press conference on Wednesday morning, but had not yet been published in full at the time of writing.

According to the government’s statement outlining the key points, the draft bill also proposes introducing new measures to clamp down on so-called “talent deportation” – which became an issue in 2017 when many work permit holders got their permit renewal rejected over relatively minor administrative mistakes, often committed by their employer and often in good faith.

The government states that “work permits should not have to be revoked in the event of minor deviations or if revoking it does not appear reasonable in view of the circumstances”. No further examples of such deviations or unreasonable rejections were immediately available.

In order to prevent exploitation of immigrant workers, Ygeman said the government also proposes that a binding contract has to be signed in order for workers to be granted a permit. If the conditions change for the worse, the employer will have to report it to the Migration Agency.

The Migration Agency should also be able to fine employers who don’t submit information.

The government also wants to introduce a new maintenance requirement for work permit holders’ families, and make permits issued on false premises punishable as human trafficking.

The proposals are based on previous inquiries into overhauling Sweden’s labour migration laws, which the government is now moving forward with. The bill will first get sent to parliament’s Council on Legislation for comment before it can be put to a vote and come into force.

The new rules are, if approved, set to come into effect on June 1st 2022.

Ygeman said they were the first in a series of new bills to revamp labour migration.

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What do we know about Swedish language tests for residence permits?

Sweden's ruling party, the Social Democrats, has proposed bringing in Swedish language tests for residence permits. When could these come into effect, and just how good will your Swedish need to be?

What do we know about Swedish language tests for residence permits?

How good will your Swedish need to be?

The government is proposing that applicants for permanent residence will need to show an ability in Swedish equivalent to level C at SFI (Swedish for Immigrants), the third and penultimate level of the SFI programme. This means they will need to have reached a fairly high ability, and be able to speak, listen, read and write Swedish in the “ordinary situations” they will meet in everyday life, while studying and at work.

Children or very old people who cannot be expected to learn what is needed will be exempted from the new rules.

How can I prove I speak Swedish?

If you went to a Swedish school and passed Grade 9 or upper secondary school, this will count as sufficient proof of your Swedish skills, as will the same level of education at a Norwegian or Danish school. 

For those who moved to Sweden as adults or those who did not attend Swedish school, proof that you have completed SFI level C would be sufficient. Passing the TISUS test, which is used to show you have a good enough grasp of Swedish to study at university, will also be accepted under the proposals.

If you didn’t have any of those qualifications, there will be the option of taking a specific language test for a residence permit, which currently does not exist.

Is this for all residence permits?

No, this is just for permanent residence permits, also referred to as PUT from the Swedish permanent uppehållstillstånd.

In 2019, the government appointed an inquiry into similar requirements for becoming a Swedish citizen.

The suggested details of that proposal were announced in 2021 and are still under consultation, but under those rules, applicants would need to complete SFI level D, the highest level of the SFI course.

Are there any other tests you’ll need to pass?

Yes – the government are also proposing making those applying for permanent residence pass a so-called “citizens test”, making sure they have a basic knowledge of Swedish society and culture. 

It’s not clear exactly what this test will entail, but Sweden’s migration minister, Anders Ygeman, said when announcing the proposal that those seeking residence would be tested on their “basic knowledge on the laws and principles which are the foundation of Swedish society”.

When would the test be introduced?

It is likely that it will take at least a year, perhaps longer, for the new language requirement proposal for permanent residence permits to come into force.

This is due to the length of the process a proposal must go through before it is formally introduced.

The proposal is currently in the first stage, where the government launches an inquiry, or utredning, into what the language and knowledge requirements should be for those seeking permanent residence permits in Sweden. The deadline for this stage is May 22nd 2023.

After the results of this inquiry are announced, the government will send the proposal out for consultation from the relevant authorities. A bill, taking these responses into account, will then be submitted to parliament. This could take months or even years, meaning that the proposal would not become law until at least a year from now.

For context, the separate 2019 inquiry into the introduction of language tests for citizenship is still under consultation from relevant authorities, with a suggested implementation date of January 1st, 2025, meaning it will have taken six years to be implemented from the time it was first proposed.