For members


How could a new skills shortage test for work permits impact foreigners in Sweden?

Sweden's government has announced their intention to introduce a skills shortage test for work permits, which would mean work permits would only be awarded to those applying for a position in a sector where there is a national shortage. How could this impact foreigners?

How could a new skills shortage test for work permits impact foreigners in Sweden?
Healthcare workers are likely to be featured as an approved profession under a possible shortage list system. Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT

What is the shortage test?

The shortage test, known as arbetsmarknadsprövning in Swedish, is a system where prospective labour migrants wanting to work in Sweden will only have their work permits approved if they are filling a position where there is a national shortage.

Sweden has had this system before. It was scrapped in 2008 by the then-Moderate government led by Fredrik Reinfeldt, a move which migration minister Anders Ygeman said had caused issues in Sweden, such as extensive labour immigration for low-qualified jobs for which there is no shortage of labour nationally.

“Deregulation has led to serious consequences for the country,” Ygeman said at a press conference on Thursday, going on to say that there “have been many warning signals over the years”.

Who will be affected?

Firstly, this would mainly affect people who are not currently working in Sweden and applying for their first work permit in the country.

The law would only affect non-EU, non-Nordic people wishing to work in Sweden. EU and Nordic citizens have the right to live and work in Sweden without having to apply for a work permit.

It’s hard to say at this stage which professions would be affected, but a look at Denmark’s version of the system, the “positive list”, may provide some insight.

Denmark’s list for those with a higher education includes architects, healthcare professionals, teachers and programmers, and their list for skilled workers includes laboratory technicians, chefs, electricians, social and healthcare assistants and hairdressers.

It’s unclear how the law could be applied to those who are already working in the country, but it could mean that you run into issues when it’s time to renew – although, it should be stressed that any change in law is unlikely to happen for at least a year and a half, if it happens at all.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

What do Sweden’s political parties say about the shortage test?

Unsurprisingly seeing as they scrapped it last time they were in government, the Moderates are still against the shortage test. 

The Centre Party, Liberals and Green Party are also against reintroducing the shortage test, arguing that employers are better placed to decide whether they have a labour shortage than government authorities.

The Christian Democrats, Sweden Democrats and Left Party are backing the Social Democrats, with all three in favour of reintroducing the shortage test, but for different reasons.

The Left Party argues that it will prevent the exploitation of foreign workers, whereas the Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats believe it should be introduced for all positions with a salary of less than 35,000 kronor per month, with no shortage requirement on positions with a higher salary.

When will it be introduced?

It may not be introduced at all. So far, the government have said that they plan to investigate the reintroduction of arbetsmarknadsprövning, but the investigation won’t start until the summer, after which it is expected to take at least a year.

That means that any change in law is unlikely to happen before the second half of 2023, making the return of the test reliant on the Social Democrats winning September’s election.

If the opposition parties were to win September’s election, it is even less likely that this law would be introduced. A more likely scenario in that case would be the introduction of a lower salary cap on work permits, meaning that applicants would have to secure a salary above a certain limit before they can be granted a permit.

It’s unclear what this salary would be, although the Moderates have previously argued it should be at least 85 percent of Sweden’s median salary, which would place the limit at aroung 27,500 kronor a month.

The Sweden Democrats and Christian Democrats are in favour of a higher cap, which would require prospective immigrants to earn at least 35,000 kronor to work in Sweden.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).


You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).


If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.