For members


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

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.

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 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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For members


How will Sweden’s Employment Act reform impact foreigners?

The long-awaited reforms to Sweden's Employment Act, pushed by the Centre and Liberal Parties, come into force this month. The Local spoke to Sofie Rehnström, a lawyer at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, about how they will affect foreigners in the country.

How will Sweden's Employment Act reform impact foreigners?

What’s the background to the reforms? 

Sweden’s Social Democrat-led government in 2019 agreed to “modernise the Employment Protection Act” as part of the January Agreement it struck with the Centre and Liberal Parties. 

The Left Party then threatened to topple Prime Minister Stefan Löfven if the reforms went through, while Social Democrats risked losing the support of the Centre and Liberal Parties if they reneged on the deal. 

In the end, the government squirmed out of this seemingly impossible situation by getting Sweden’s unions to agree to a new set of laws with employer organisations. 

This so-called LAS-avtalet, or Employment Act deal, significantly weakened and watered down the initial proposals, but were accepted by both the Left Party and the Centre Party.  

How do the new reforms change Sweden’s last-in, first-out labour laws? 

Under the new rules which come into force this month, employers will be allowed to exempt up to three employees from the “last in, first out rule”. That is more than under current regulations, which allow small companies with no more than ten staff to exempt up to two employees.

Under the government’s original proposal, five employees would have been exempted and companies with less than 25 employees would not have had to follow the “last in, first out rule” at all. 

For foreigners working in Sweden, the new rules will still, however, make your employment a little less secure if you are one of the longer term employees at a small to medium company, as it will give your employer leeway to retain three employees who have been employed more recently than you, while letting you go. 

On the other hand, if you are a more recently hired employee, it may make your position more secure, as you have a chance of being selected as one of the three essential employees the company wants to retain. 

Under the new law, it’s not possible for employees who are made redundant while staff employed after them are retained to challenge this decision. It’s entirely up to the company which three employees they deem essential. 

“It’s not possible for the union to have a dispute in the Labour Court. Because it’s up to the employer to decide,” Rehnström says. 

Sofie Rehnström is a lawyer at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO). Photo: LO

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the ‘biggest reform of the Swedish labour market in modern times’

What is the background to Sweden’s Employment Protection Act? 

Sweden’s Lagen om anställningsskydd, or Employment Protection Act, imposes strict controls on how employees can be sacked or made redundant, requiring employers to give a minimum notice period, and only to sack staff with good reason (such as misconduct or simply being bad at their jobs), or for business reasons, such as a market downturn or a change in company strategy. 

In the latter case, the law requires workplaces to fire their staff according to a list of seniority (Swedish: turordningslista).

Given similar tasks, the last employee to be hired will be the first to be fired. Among employees hired at the same time, priority is given to older employees.

“One category is when it’s for organisational reasons, maybe you want to change the company structure, and then you have the other category, which is when they want to actually get rid of you because you have underperformed,” Rehnström told The Local. 

The organisation reason is usually called “shortage of work”, or arbetsbrist, under the law. 

How will the last-in, first-out principle work now? 

If, for instance, a company is scaling back on the number of employees doing a certain task because of lower demand for its products, under the Employment Protection Act, the more junior employees would always be laid off first. 

What the new law allows the employer to do is to select three employees from its staff who they believe are “especially important” for their business. 

“Maybe you have 25 people, and the employer says, I want to terminate ten of them. Normally, you go the ten that is at the bottom of the list,” Rehnström explains. “Now, they can say, “I want to take three of them off the list, because I believe they are especially important for my business”.

The ten that are then made redundant will then be the bottom ten after these three employees have been taken away. 

Which employees will be most affected? 

According to Rehnström, this change will have the most impact on people working in small to medium-sized businesses. 

“If you’ve got a small number of employees, it’s an enormous difference,” she says. “It’s designed to make smaller employers better able to follow their own wishes, so you will be weakening the protection for workers in a smaller company. Will it make a difference for big employers? Of course not.” 

According to Rehnström, the last-in, first-out principle already only applies in some situations. If a company is shutting down a whole unit or exiting an entire industry, it can already often lay off everyone, regardless of seniority. 

“To be able to stay in your position, you must be able to do the work you are assigned,” she says. “If there’s an reorganisation – maybe your job is doing one thing, and they want to do things a different way – that can change the way the law is applied.” 

Say you are an aluminium welder, and your company decides to exit the welding business, then all welders can lose their jobs, even if they have been at the company longer than specialists in the next door rivet division which the company is retaining. 

“You can divide employees into different groups, and if it’s a whole department, then you can get rid of all of them.” Rehnström says.

Employers do in this case have a duty to try to relocate employers to other divisions where their skills can be used, but this, Rehnström notes, is often not possible. “We have a position in the office. Can you do that work? No, you can’t. Ok, then bye bye.”

How does the law change short-term contracts? 

The law replaces the old “general fixed-term employment” or allmän visstidsanställning category of job with a new “special fixed-term employment”, särskild visstidsanställning category

While both are short-term contracts, the new law means that employees will earn the right to a permanent contract more rapidly. 

Whereas before an employee would win the right to a permanent job if they had worked for two years out of a five-year period, they now only need to work for one year. Employees also get a “preferential right to re-employment” in a new short-term contract with the employer if they have worked for nine months out of the last three years. 

The way the time in employment is counted for this purpose is also changing. If an employee has three or more short-term contracts in a single month, then the entire period from the start of the first contract to the end of the last counts towards getting a permanent contract. 

So, for instance, if you have a short-term contract to work two days between January 2nd and January 3rd, another between January 10th and January 11th, and another from January 29th-30th, then you would count 28 days rather than six. 

“You can earn your days and years until a permanent position faster,” Rehnström argues. “They are not able to use this hour-by-hour employment in the way they used to.” 

This is potentially a significant improvement for foreigners working in short-term contracts in Sweden, although it remains to be seen how it will affect the phenomenon of ut-LASning, in which employers carefully monitor to the amount of days those on short-term contracts are employed so that they are never forced to hire them permanently. 

In certain fields, such as journalism and academia, this has in recent years meant those without full-time employment bounce between short-term contracts with different rival companies, working at each only so long as is possible without earning the right to permanent employment.

How does the new law change what happens in the event of a dispute over loss of employment? 

If an employee who has been sacked or made redundant takes their employer to Sweden’s Labour Courts for unfair dismissal, employers are now no longer required to continue to either employ them or pay their salaries while the dispute is ongoing. 

The employment ends at the end of the notice period given by the company, regardless of the case, and the court cannot order the employer to continue to employ the person during the court process (as was the case until October 1st). 

The only exception to this is if the person being sacked is a union official who is “of particular importance to union activities at the workplace”, in which case a court can order the employer to take them back for the duration of the case.