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KEY POINTS: What Sweden’s new border controls mean for cross-border commuters

Just weeks after Covid-19-related checks on travellers crossing the Danish-Swedish border were removed, Sweden plans to re-introduce ID-checks on travellers in order to monitor refugees entering the country. Here's how it will affect commuters.

KEY POINTS: What Sweden's new border controls mean for cross-border commuters
The Öresund Bridge photographed from Limhamn on the Swedish side of the strait. Photo: News Øresund/Johan Wessman/Flickr

When will border checks start?

The proposal to bring in new border checks has been sent out for consultation and the government expects parliament to pass the new law quickly, so that it can come into effect as early as next month.

The new law will be valid for three years, from April 8th this year until April 8th 2025. Under the law, a period of ID checks will be limited to a maximum of six months. 

Will it definitely happen? 

Carl Sonesson, the chair of the local government in the Skåne Region, and Henrik Fritzon, who leads the Social Democrats in the region, have both called for ID checks not to be brought in, so there is a small chance the government will decide not to bring in the legislation, or if they do pass the law, that they will not use it to launch ID checks. Privately, though, local politicians admit they see little chance of stopping the legislation. 

Who will be affected?

ID checks will be required on all passengers entering Sweden by train, ferry or bus. 

The biggest impact will be in delays for those travelling from Copenhagen to Malmö and beyond by train or bus over the Öresund Bridge.

In 2016, the requirement to change trains at Kastrup typically added at least half an hour to commuters’ return journeys from Copenhagen. 

For travellers travelling by ferry from Denmark, Poland, Germany, or Finland, the disruption is likely to be significantly less, as ferry operators typically stop each passenger to check their tickets anyway. 

What will the transport companies have to do? 

According to the proposal sent out for consultation, “the responsibility in practice requires the transport company to check identity documents before the transport arrives in Sweden, probably at the point at which the traveller gets enters the vehicle or vessel.” 

When applied to travel across the Öresund bridge, this will require passenger’s IDs to be checked before trains leave Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport, which is the last stop before Sweden. 

The train operator could opt either to mount the train and then check the documents of every passenger, or require passengers to leave the train, move to another platform that they can only access by showing identity documents, and then take a second train over the bridge to Sweden. 

According to the proposal, companies will have to be able to demonstrate that they have carried out the controls by showing a “passenger list with identity information”. They will then face spot checks on arrival in Sweden to check that they have done this.

The Swedish Police will be responsible for carrying out the spot checks on transport companies, but they will be able delegate this to either the Swedish Customs Service or to the Swedish Coast Guard. 

If a transport operator is found not to have carried out the controls, it company will be fined 50,000 kronor (€4,790) per trip.

The Swedish Transport Agency is responsible for levying the fine, the proceeds of which will go to Sweden’s central government. 

For transport operators based outside of Sweden, the police or customs services can demand payment of the fine on the spot, and even refuse the vehicle entry to Sweden if the fine cannot be paid. 

The Swedish Transport Agency can decide to waive the fine. 

Which forms of ID will be accepted?

According to the proposal, any identity document that includes a photograph will be accepted. While this includes passports, other forms of ID such as national identity cards or driving licences would also be valid, even if they are not valid travel documents. 

This makes the new proposed ID checks weaker than the temporary border controls enforced in Sweden since November 2015, when passports with valid visas were required for many citizens from outside the European Union.  

Although the checks carried out by transport companies will not require travellers to have a passport or visa, Sweden still officially has “temporary border controls” at its borders, which are all with other Schengen countries. 

This means could still be stopped by Swedish border police after arrival in Sweden, so make sure you have the necessary travel documents with you. 

Are there any exemptions?

Anyone under the age of 18 travelling with an adult with valid identity documents will be exempted from the rule, as will those travelling from Norway to Sweden. 

Does this mean refugees will be turned away at the Swedish border?

No. Sweden is in the Schengen area, which means that Ukrainian citizens are able to stay in the country 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 as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The activation of the Temporary Protection Directive in March 2022 means that Ukrainian citizens can stay in Sweden for a year without having to apply for a visa or make a claim for asylum. This applies to Ukrainians who have biometric and non-biometric passports.

The above information was correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. Please be aware that we are not a government authority and cannot issue any guarantees about whether or not you will be able to travel to Sweden.

We always advise readers to also consult the official information on the Swedish border police’s website HERE before travelling.

If you have any questions, you are always welcome to contact our editorial team at [email protected]. We may not be able to reply to every email, and we cannot advise on individual cases, but we read all emails and use them to inform our future coverage.

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How Danish work permit rules are keeping out skilled foreigners living in Sweden

Denmark’s Pay Limit Scheme prevents highly qualified foreign nationals in Sweden’s Skåne region, which neighbours Copenhagen, from taking jobs amid a skilled labour shortage.

How Danish work permit rules are keeping out skilled foreigners living in Sweden

Yue Jie, who goes by the preferred name Sean, has a graduate degree in Strategic Communication from Lund University. Sean told The Local he has been unable to accept a job offer with a Danish company due to Denmark’s work permit rules for citizens of so-called ‘third countries’ —  meaning non-EU or EEA countries.

Although it is possible for Swedish residents to work in Copenhagen without a work permit, this is only available to EU or Nordic citizens.

READ ALSO: Cross-border workers: Who is able to live in Sweden and work in Denmark?

Meanwhile, the number of job vacancies in Denmark remains at one of the highest levels for years, with many sectors affected and companies reporting a lack of labour, including skilled workers.

Figures published by national agency Statistics Denmark last month show that unemployment fell to 72,000 persons between February and March, the lowest level since June 2008. Such a small labour pool means companies find it hard to recruit specialised staff.

Denmark and Sweden work together on some areas in an effort to promote cross-border working in the Øresund region which spans the two countries, but this does not stretch to work and residence permits for non-EU nationals.

READ ALSO: Are international workers the answer to Denmark’s labour shortage?

“Originally from Singapore, I’m finishing my Master’s degree studies at Lund University over in Sweden and I’m currently on the search for jobs as I am due to complete my studies,” Yue told The Local.

“For the last month and a half, I’ve been sending job applications both in Copenhagen and in Malmö as these are the two biggest cities within my geographical vicinity,” he said.

“I’ve been in contact with at least two companies in Copenhagen for job applications and interviews, and at least one of them has even offered me a contract for a summer or part-time job this summer. This means that there is, at this point, nothing stopping me from simply crossing the Öresund Bridge from Skåne to Copenhagen anytime for work,” he said.

“The only issue here is that company requires a CPR number in order to pay out my salary, and a CPR number for non-EU nationals cannot be given without a work permit. Another company that recently interviewed with, the recruiter wants to hire me but she could not based on the requirements of the Danish work permit for non-EU (nationals),” he explained.

“I have the knowledge, skills and competencies, and can easily come to the office with a train commute from Sweden, but they cannot offer me employment based on this requirement alone,” he said.

Although non-EU nationals can apply for work permits in Denmark via a number of pathways, Yue said that the only one under which he can potentially fulfil approval criteria is the Pay Limit Scheme or Beløbsordningen in Danish.

The Pay Limit Scheme sets a minimum salary which businesses must pay skilled non-EU nationals in order for the employee to qualify for a Danish work permit. It is currently set at a minimum annual wage of 448,000 kroner.

The Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI), a business and employers’ interest organisation representing around 19,000 companies in Denmark, told The Local it wanted to see the minimum wage required under the Pay Limit Scheme reduced, and was lobbying to achieve that objective.

“We at DI are working to reduce the current salary threshold on the Pay Limit Scheme from the present 448,000 kroner to 360,000 kroner,” the organisation’s senior political consultant Søren Kjærsgaard Høfler, who specialises in global mobility, said in a written comment.

“We are doing this with particular focus on attracting skilled international workers from outside of the EU and EEA,” he said.

The Pay Limit Scheme has recently been the subject of political discussions due to Denmark’s labour shortage and the need to attract more international workers. 

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

Under current rules, a work permit can be granted under the Pay Limit Scheme for applicants offered salaries of at least 448,000 kroner a year. No specific educational background or a job within a specific professional field is required.

The government earlier this year proposed that the annual salary requirement be lowered to 375,000 kroner over a two-year period, to allow more international workers into Denmark on the scheme.

DI’s global mobility consultant told The Local that the organisation’s work to smooth the path for foreign recruitment in Denmark was focused on retaining international students from Danish universities. Nevertheless, a reduction of the Pay Limit Scheme’s minimum salary requirement could also benefit other foreign skilled workers.

“Traditionally, we have at DI focused on the options for residence and work for international students who have completed their studies in Denmark. We have made some progress here and we think this is beneficial for Danish companies,” Høfler said.

“We therefore want to make our own education system attractive and relevant for students who are thinking about staying in Denmark after finishing their studies,” he said.

“When studies are not undertaken in Denmark, we fall back on the existing business schemes [used to grant work permits for non-EU and EEA nationals, ed.], which includes the Pay Limit Scheme, which currently requires (a salary of) 448,000 kroner. DI is working to reduce this threshold, which might help in the case in question,” he said when asked about the impact of the scheme on job hopefuls not already in Denmark.

A non-EU national who previously worked in Denmark, but left due to issues caused in part by the Pay Limit Scheme, told The Local her experience made her feel “very frustrated”.

“In early 2019, I was let go from my job in Denmark. I consulted with my union at the time about my chances of finding a job and was told that it would be tough but possible. Thus, I moved to a visa for job-seekers [which allows non-EU nationals to remain in the country for six months to find work, ed.] and began looking for a new job,” said the ex-Denmark resident, who preferred to remain anonymous. The Local is aware of the person’s identity.

Whilst searching for a new job in Denmark, she passed interview stage with an organisation before being rejected. “Later, I learned that the position’s compensation was lower than the Pay Limit Scheme and for that reason (the company) didn’t offer it to me, knowing that I would not be able to take it anyway,” she said.

“I realised that I was stuck because I was not qualified for a position that would pay me enough, while the position that I was qualified for would not pay me enough. I believed the root cause was that my profile (Southeast Asian, educated outside of Europe, humanities major, no Master’s degree, non-Danish speaker, three years of working experience at the time) was not strong enough to procure a job that would satisfy the Pay Limit Scheme,” she said.

“At the time I was very frustrated, especially because if it weren’t me but someone from inside the European Union, they would have been able to get the position (with the company that interviewed me) and continue staying in Denmark. Thus I felt the fact that I was not able to get the position due to my background was unfair,” she said.

“I (also) felt that my life as a single foreigner in Denmark was unstable because the rules governing the Pay Scheme Limit could be changed in the future,” she also noted.

Yue, a communications professional specialised in sales and business development, told The Local that the Pay Limit Scheme was his only hope of being able to work for a Danish company.

“I’m a communications professional, so there is essentially only one category which I can apply under – the Pay Limit Scheme,” Yue told The Local.

“The recruiter that I interviewed told me that the salary for the entry-level position I applied for has a salary below this requirement, thus they cannot hire me,” he said.

The Singaporean told The Local that he wanted “to highlight my situation as a current resident already in Sweden and the nature of such migration/immigration issues within Denmark.”

“If there are any Danish employers out there or international companies in Denmark who are willing to hire me because they recognise that I can be a valuable employee to their organisation, I’m willing to speak with them,” he said.

Sean Yue can be contacted via LinkedIn.