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UKRAINE

EXPLAINED: How can Ukrainians seek asylum in Sweden?

Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion are leaving their country and looking for shelter in other countries in Europe. But what are the rules for Ukrainians arriving in Sweden?

A sign at an office of the Swedish Migration Agency.
A sign at an office of the Swedish Migration Agency. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

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There are a number of different options available to Ukrainians arriving in Sweden. These include standard entry under Schengen rules, entry under the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, and seeking asylum in Sweden.

Entry under Schengen rules

Sweden is in the Schengen area, which means that Ukrainian citizens are able to stay here for 90 days without a permit or an entry visa, so long as they have a valid biometric passport, adequate funds to live on, and adequate funds for their home journey. This rule has been in place since 2017 and has not changed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

If you are entering Sweden via this route, you do not need to contact the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) once you arrive.

Ukrainians entering Sweden via this route will not be seeking asylum status or refugee status in Sweden.

In order to qualify for this rule, you must fulfil the following requirements:

  • a passport that is valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave Sweden
  • a return ticket for a date within the next 90 days
  • a written invitation from the person that you will be staying with, or a booking confirmation if you are staying at a hotel
  • enough money for living costs and the trip home, or a document from someone else stating that they will cover these costs

According to the Migration Agency, those entering Sweden via this route must have at least 450 kronor per person for each day you plan to stay in Sweden. This amount can be lower for children, or if you have paid for accommodation in advance or are staying with someone else.

Sufficient funds can be documented via a bank account statement or a document from the person you will be staying with, stating that they will cover your costs during your visit.

If you are a Ukrainian citizen without a biometric passport, you can enter Sweden and stay for 90 days, but will need a Schengen visa.

If you already know you want to stay in Sweden for longer than 90 days, you should apply for a visitor’s permit.

If you choose to apply under these rules, you will not be granted the same benefits that you would be granted under the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, such as the right to medical care, the right to work, and the right to housing.

The EU’s Temporary Protection Directive

A special meeting of European interior ministers on March 3rd agreed to apply a little-used measure known as the Temporary Protection Directive to any Ukrainians who want to come to an EU country.

The activation of the Temporary Protection Directive means that Ukrainian citizens can stay in Sweden for a year without having to apply for a visa or make a claim for asylum.

During that time you will be permitted to work and children can access education.

The status applies immediately and covers both Ukrainians who have already arrived and those who come in the days or weeks to come.

If you choose to apply under these rules, you will qualify for benefits such as help with finding a place to live, the right to work and basic healthcare, the right to education for any children you are applying with, and limited financial support.

The following people can apply under this directive:

  • Ukrainian citizens who were resident in Ukraine prior to February 24th 2022
  • people holding residence permits as refugees in Ukraine, or people with subsidiary protection status in Ukraine
  • family members of the above

You must also have left Ukraine after February 24th, must not have committed criminal acts such as war crimes, and must not otherwise pose a threat to Sweden’s security.

Applicants must also be able to present Ukrainian identity documents – this does not have to be a biometric national passport, although these are accepted. You apply for this status at a National Service Centre. There are ten of these across Sweden. See here for a list (choose “Service Centre” in the menu).

Apply for asylum

If you want to, you can apply for asylum upon arrival in Sweden. You cannot do this before you enter the country. You should tell border police at your point of entry that you wish to apply for asylum, or contact the Migration Agency directly if you are already in the country. You can apply for asylum at a Migration Agency application unit in Stockholm, Malmö or Gothenburg.

In order to apply for asylum, you must:

  • provide identity documents such as a passport to prove your identity
  • be photographed and have your fingerprints taken by the Migration Agency
  • meet with an investigator for an interview into who you are, why you want to apply for asylum, and information on the rights you have while you wait for your application to be considered

If you seek asylum in Sweden, you have a right to accommodation, financial support, health care and education for your children, and are allowed to remain in Sweden while your application for asylum is being considered.

Member comments

  1. Ukraine are not members of the EU nor are they members of NATO , so they will have to line up just like the other Refugees , because if special treatment is given it will a case of White Privilege and nothing less . Of course they can issue the same 50 Visas the Uk has found fit to issue to the Ukrainians .

  2. While the treatment of refugees fleeing from other countries in conflict is deserving of criticism, there is an element of practicality to issuing the Temporary Protection Directive. Ukraine borders 3 EU countries, and it has a population of 44 million. Now that we see Poland is demanding help with managing the refugee influx, processing aslyum claims would have dramatically increased the burden, and even less people would have been helped.

    The best we can do is use this as an example of how to manage future refugee inflows and campaign for the better treatment of all refugees in the future. If it takes this war to change the prevailing mindset, then I am all for it.

    I am not for condemning people to suffer just because others have suffered in the past. Let’s use this moment to change the EU for the better when it comes to treating refugees.

  3. kio, there is another aspect to the Temporary Protection Directive that you are missing here. The fact is that multiple EU countries border Ukraine, and Ukraine is not a small country with a population of 44 million. In fact, Poland is struggling with the amount of refugees that are coming through, and adding additional bureaucratic requirements would have made the situation worse.

    Instead of punishing the people currently fleeing war, we should use this as an opportunity to push for better policies for refugees for all current and future conflicts.

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IMMIGRATION

One year on: How Sweden’s new permit rule for PhDs has upended lives

In July last year, Sweden's new migration law tightened residency rules for PhD students, sending the future plans of thousands into disarray. The SACO union spoke to three of them about how their lives had been changed.

One year on: How Sweden's new permit rule for PhDs has upended lives

Chen, 31, from China.

PhD on non-pesticide methods to reduce insect damage in newly-planted forests.

Chen, who came to Sweden from China in 2017 to study a the Swedish Agricultural University, says that she has felt trapped in Sweden since defending her thesis in November, as the Migration Agency does not normally allow those applying for a residency permit to travel 

“I feel like I’m under house arrest,” she complains. “I haven’t been able to take a vacation outside Sweden since my permanent residency application is pending, and I can’t go back to China to visit my family for the same reason — two years since the first Covid outbreak at the beginning of 2020.” 

Now the exemption from residency permit requirements for PhD students has been removed, PhD students generally need to get a job as soon as they graduate to show that they can support themselves, but Chen says she was so deeply engaged in her studies that it was near-impossible to send off job or research applications. 

“There are many days I woke up at 8am and left my office at midnight,” she remembers. “I ate for only one meal during the day in order to finish my thesis in time. I could barely spare any time to look for jobs or send job applications even though I knew I had to get a job offer for at least two years to get a positive decision on my permanent residency application. “

“After my defence, there was no time to celebrate my achievement but I instead started to search for jobs immediately.”

Before the change in the rules, Chen had planned to look for post doctoral studies in another European country, but the new rules makes that difficult. 

“My plan was to do a one or two year postdoc in another country to strengthen my competence and then come back to Sweden,” she said. It is rather common to do a postdoc in a new country and then come back to the PhD country for a more stable academic position,” she said. “By doing so we could broaden our vision, establish collaboration and bring back new insights.

“When we got permanent residency, returning to Sweden was easier, without having to go through all the energy-consuming stuff, like getting a job offer and applying for a work permit, getting a personal number, Swedish ID, bank account, Bank-ID and insurance.” 

She believes that the Swedish government should acknowledge that the impact of the new alien act on PhD students is a mistake and take steps to reverse the changes.

“Do not be afraid to admit that you made wrong decision, be open-minded and listen to different voices,” she tells the Swedish authorities. “There are ways to fix the mess and regain people’s trust.”

Now she’s considering whether to carry on seeking work and waiting for the Migration Agency to take its decision, or whether to take her expertise to another country, probably The Netherlands or Germany. 

“The way to regain my freedom is either to get a job that fulfils the new requirement or to leave Sweden to build my life and career somewhere else.” 

READ ALSO:

Melissa, from Australia. Photo: private

Melissa, 36, Australia

PhD on riparian ecosystem science

“It’s brought a big, dark shadow of insecurity into mine and my partners’ long term plans,” says Melissa, who decided to do her PhD in Sweden partly because her partner is Swedish, and partly because she knew she would be “a better researcher and scientist” if she spent time researching in another country. 

When she arrived, she wasn’t necessarily planning to continue her research in Sweden, but as she began to realise she perhaps wanted to, the change in the law came in, making it more difficult. 

“Turns out, I really like it here and I like the research environment! I do want to stay in Sweden to pursue a career here. I knew that an academic career was already very unpredictable but I had hoped that after finishing my PhD I could continue branching out from the research I’ve been doing in boreal forests in the form of postdoctoral positions with some of the Swedish researchers I really admire.”

That is now all looking more and more unlikely. 

“It’s almost like there’s this atmosphere of uncertainty that’s with me when I think about life after my PhD,” she says. “It’s already stressful to think about what I will do when I finish my doctoral studies, but adding in the stress of possibly not being able to stay in Sweden is massively draining, especially when the Aliens Act seems to ignore, or not care to consider, the realities of an academic career.”

She believes that the Swedish government should at least adapt the Aliens Act to reflect what she calls “the realities of academic careers”. 

“It is virtually unheard of for a young researcher to gain a position that fulfils the support requirements for 18 months and by not adjusting the Aliens Act to account for this you are discouraging really talented and passionate young researchers from coming.”

Although she wasn’t set on staying in Sweden for the long term when she started her PhD, she’s finding the new barrier to residency is putting her off, pushing her to consider positions in Australia or the US. 

“I’m more hesitant about pursuing an academic career in Sweden because the added feeling of ‘temporary-ness’ in everything I do,” she says. “It even just manifests itself in little things like abandoning our plans to get a dog, buy a house, or have a more long term career goal in Sweden because permanency isn’t so much of an option anymore.” 

Tuser Biswas, from Bangladesh, is researching textiles at Borås Högskola. Photo: private

Tuser Biswas, 34, Bangladesh 

PhD on sustainably printing biological materials onto textiles which can fight bacteria and viruses

Tuser Biswas has also  had his plans to work as a postdoc outside Sweden thrown into chaos by the new law, which came out four months after he’d applied for permanent residency. 

After I finish my PhD in Sweden, I would like to go work somewhere else as a postdoc. When I started my PhD, I knew that if I want to go somewhere else, I could always come back to Sweden (and I probably would) but know I am not sure what I would do,” he says. 

Also, like Chen, he has been stuck in Sweden as a result of the law. 

“I’ve had to cancel attending conferences and still can’t plan work related trips outside Sweden. My family is very stressed for not being able to travel to home country for a long time now.”

He says that the change in labour laws has changed his views on Sweden. 

“The total political environment is getting unfriendly for international mobility. I came to live in an open-minded society, but it seems like a mirage now.” 

He believes that the government should better tailor its migration laws to fit researchers. 

“Don’t make a ‘one size fits all’ type law. The working conditions for PhD researchers and other employees are not the same. How can you judge them all under the same law?”. 

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