Sweden approves legislation to tighten up work permit rules

Sweden's parliament has approved a new work permit law which will make it more difficult for some non-EU citizens to be granted a Swedish work permit.

Sweden approves legislation to tighten up work permit rules
File photo of the Swedish Migration Agency's national service centre in Sundbyberg. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

However, the new package of labour immigration laws also contains some laws which could make it easier for certain immigrants to apply for a work permit in the country.

A new kind of residence permit, also referred to as a “talent visa” will be introduced for certain highly-qualified, highly-educated individuals.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Rasmus Ling, migration spokesperson for the Green Party.

At the same time, so-called talent deportations have been targeted in the new law, which politicians hope will lead to a decrease in the number of immigrants being deported for minor errors in their work permit paperwork.

“Talent deportations have been a problem for many years. It’s good that we, once and for all, from the 1st of June, will now have legislation in place,” Jonny Cato, migration spokesperson for the Centre Party told newswire TT.

The old legislation was from 2008. A central aspect of the new law package is the new requirement that applicants must have a signed job contract before they can receive a work permit. Previously, a job offer was enough to secure a permit.

However, some parties want the laws to be stricter, such as the Moderates, who want a salary requirement of at least 85 percent of Sweden’s average monthly salary – a limit of around 27,500 kronor a month, seasonal workers excluded.

“Why should you come from the other side of the world and work as a cleaner in Sweden for 13,000 kronor a month?” said Maria Malmer Stenergard, migration spokesperson for the Moderates.

The Moderates, Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats also want to remove the spårbyte (track change), which currently allows asylum seekers to apply for a work permit if their application for asylum is rejected. The parties also want to stop or limit labour immigration for jobs in personal assistance, as they believe that this branch has a widespread problem with work permit fraud.

The Social Democrats are open to removing the ‘track change’, with Social Democrat MP Carina Ohlsson stating that these laws were “a first step” and that the party would be considering further measures in the future.

Stenergard promised that the Moderates would tighten work permit rules further if they were to win September’s election. 

“We will take action to stop fraud, stop the ‘track change’, stop labour immigration for personal assistance, and we will introduce a higher wage requirement,” she said.

The new law will come into force on June 1st.

Member comments

  1. “Why should you come from the other side of the world and work as a cleaner in Sweden for 13,000 kronor a month?”
    A: Because there the salary is below 3000 kronor. The people lives in Favela, bad health care, drug dealers teaching kids of 10 years old to shoot. It is much better to receive 13.000 kronor in Sweden that live in this condition. If receive 13.000 kronor can help to bring more poor people from outside to have a better life, why not?

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INTERVIEW: ‘Work permit law is a turning point for talent deportations’

Ali Omumi, the Iranian engineer whose work permit struggles helped bring Sweden's talent deportations to attention, tells The Local how optimistic he is that Sweden's new work permit law will help solve the problem.

INTERVIEW: 'Work permit law is a turning point for talent deportations'

“The changes are so promising,” Omumi says. “What we see right now, finally, is an intention to stop kompetensutvisningar [talent deportations], something we didn’t see in previous years. Now, we see they are taking action.”

Omumi currently works as Area Sales Manager for Hitachi Energy Sweden at the same time as running Real People, a campaign group for a fairer work environment in Sweden. 

One of the changes he thinks will make the biggest difference is the end to the so-called ‘seven-year rule’, which empowers the Migration Agency to consider employers’ and employees’ adherence to the terms of prior work permits going back as far as seven years. 

READ ALSO: Sweden’s new work permit law and the ‘seven-year rule

It’s a rule that has dogged Omumi’s own work permit cases, both back in 2018 and again two and a half months ago. 

“The Migration Agency is allowed to investigate going back in time up to seven years, and if there is any mistake, like in my own case, I had one insurance missing, and it was not fixable retrospectively, they will reject an extension.” 

“Just two and a half months ago, I received a letter from Migrationsverket, applying the seven-year rule, so they investigated my history of immigration, and they found the same mistake again. I was going to get a negative decision again for the same thing, you call it in English, ‘double jeopardy’.”
When the new work permit law comes into force on June 1st, however, the Migration Agency is supposed to take a forward-looking approach, Omumi says, with more of an emphasis on the terms of the job during the work permit period, and less emphasis on past permits. 
The new work permit law also includes language specifically targeting talent deportations, stating that a work permit extension should not be denied as a consequence of “minor errors”, or “if the denial does not seem proportionate given the general circumstances”. 
Here Omumi agrees with those who worry that this clause still leaves too much up to the Migration Agency’s interpretation. 
“This is a matter of how a case officer at the Migration Agency is going to implement it or quantify it, because we don’t know, for example, if lacking a certain insurance for maybe six months is minor, but more than six months is not, so there are a lot of question marks.” 
Perhaps surprisingly, Omumi is not too worried about the Swedish government’s new plan to bring back the skills shortage test for work permits, meaning that employers would need to show that hires from overseas were in a profession, or had skills, lacking in Sweden. 
“If you already have the expertise and the competencies in the country, there is no point in bringing people from abroad. It’s a bad decision economically to let everyone in, of course,” he says. 
In the long run, tightening up work permit requirements will reduce opposition to labour migration, he predicts. 
“I think it’s going to remedy the damaged reputation, maybe not in the short term, but in the long term, because these changes sound very promising.”

The timing of Omumi’s current case means that he risks not benefiting from the rule coming in on June 1st. 

“At the end of February, we got a letter saying this is not a decision, but you have not fulfilled the criteria to either get a permanent residence or another extension, therefore you will be deported,” he says.

“They asked us to provide more arguments or more documentation supporting our application, so what my lawyers did, knowing that the law was going to change, they asked for an extension, and so we are given until 19th of May, which is only a few days until the new law comes into effect, so my lawyers are going to get another two weeks.”

“I am very much hopeful. I think I’m going to stay.