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EXPLAINED: How will Sweden's new work permit rules apply in practice?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: How will Sweden's new work permit rules apply in practice?
Two Swedish office workers enjoying a standing 'fika'. Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/

Sweden's Migration Agency has now published guidance on the new work permit rules coming into force on June 1st. Here's what you need to know.


Sweden's Migration Agency this week published its first guidance on the new rules coming in on June 1st for those seeking work permits. 

What are the most important new rules to know about as an applicant? 

  1. Work contract requirement. From June 1st, there is a new requirement to supply a copy of a signed employment contract (with some exceptions). Previously, you simply needed an offer of employment.
  2. Family support. From June 1st, there is a new requirement to show you can support any accompanying family members you bring to Sweden.
  3. Unlimited work permit extensions. You can now apply for a theoretically unlimited number of work permit extensions. Previously, if you had been issued a work permit for four out of the past seven years, you would be considered for permanent residency instead. 
  4. Visas for business trips. From June 1st, those waiting to have their work permits approved will be able to apply for a visa for business trip abroad. Previously, they were effectively trapped in Sweden. 
  5. Talent visa. The new rules include a new permit for highly educated people who want to come to Sweden to apply for work or start a business. 
  6. More leniency for employers' mistakes. The new law requests that the Migration Agency refrain from revoking work permits if their employers' have made minor mistakes that would make it unreasonable to do so. 


What are the most important rules to know about as an employer? 

  1. Obligation to report changed terms. Under the new rules, employers have a duty to report negative changes to the terms and conditions of employees awarded work permits. If they fail to do so they risk a fine. 
  2. Spot checks from Migration Agency. The agency is empowered to check that the terms of employment are followed. 

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

What effect will the new rules have on the waiting time to receive a permit? 

The Migration Agency in a press release warned that the new rules would increase demands on the agency by requiring it to handle more elements in its processing and control, which it said would increase the already long time it takes to handle permit applications. 

“We see that these are extensive changes that will require us to navigate more work steps and a more complex legislation. This is likely to affect our processing times for work permits,” Carl Bexelius, the agency's head of legal affairs, said in a statement. 

The Swedish Migration Agency is currently hard at work on the preparations required to start applying the new rules and the increased controls on 1 June.

Do the new rules apply retroactively? 

Yes. The new rules will apply also to those who have already applied for a work permit or an extension. This means that even those applying before June 1st will need to meet all the new requirements. 

On the plus side, this means that if you are waiting for a response and expect a refusal because you have had two work permits and do not meet the requirements for permanent residency (the so-called seven-year rule) you will now probably be given an extension. 

On the downside, those who have already sent in applications may have to supplement their application by sending in a signed employment contract. 


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

How much more lenient will the Migration Agency be of "minor deviations"? 

There have been many high-profile cases of talented workers in Sweden being expelled because of minor mistakes their employees have made, most often regarding insurance. The new law contains language saying that a temporary residence permit for work should not be revoked in "minor cases of deviations" or if a revocation appears unreasonable.

A big question has been how the Migration Agency will interpret this, and what they will count as "minor deviations". 

“Already today, the practice developed in court gives us some room to deal with minor errors based on an overall assessment, but now we are getting legislation that makes it clear that minor deviations should not have to lead to decisions to expel people who are established in the labour market,”  Bexelius says. 

How high will the family maintenance requirement be? 

In a press release, Bexelius says that the rules on maintenance will be "similar to the rules that apply to other family immigration – but without a requirement for housing of a certain size and standard.

The maintenance requirement for family reunion in 2022 is that the person in Sweden should demonstrate that they have "regular work-related income" of  5,157 kronor for a stand-alone adult, 8,520 kronor for a spouse or sambo, 2,736 kronor for each child up until the age of six, and 3,150 kronor a month for each child over the age of seven. 

"Work-related income" can come from a salary, sickness benefit, an income-related pension, or unemployment insurance payments from an A-kassa. 


Does everyone need a work contract? 

No. The following do not need to present signed employment contracts: 

  • Holders of an EU Blue Card (a card for high-skilled and high-paid workers from outside the EU). 
  • Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT) permits. Those employed by a non-EU country who are moving internally to work at the company's Swedish offices do not need a new contract. 
  • Researchers.
  • Professional athletes.
  • Seasonal workers. For example, the berry pickers who travel from Thailand and other countries to work in Swedish forests. 
  • Au pairs. 
  • Trainees.
  • Volunteers under the European Solidarity Corps.
  • Summer jobs for young people (so-called Working Holiday visa).


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