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WORK PERMITS

What do we know about labour market tests for Swedish work permits?

Sweden's government has called for a reintroduction of labour market tests for work permits, a system where labour migration from non-EU countries is limited to jobs where there a a recognised shortage of labour. Here's what we know about the proposal so far.

What do we know about labour market tests for Swedish work permits?
Specialist manufacturing jobs such as CNC operators would likely be included under a labour market test system. Photo: AP Photo/Duane Burleson/TT

What is a labour market test?

A labour market test is, essentially, a test to make sure that companies wishing to hire non-EU citizens in Sweden can only do so if there is a lack of domestic labour to fill the position.

Neighbouring Denmark has had a similar system, dubbed the Positive List, for a number of years, which is updated twice a year and comprises two lists: one for people with a higher education and one for other skilled workers.

What kind of jobs will be covered?

Jobs where there is a labour shortage will be covered. This will most likely include a range of jobs, such as healthcare roles like doctors, nurses, and midwives, as well as IT positions like system developers and computer programmers, alongside positions which don’t require university studies such as CNC operators, mechanics and roles in the construction industry.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it confirmed that these jobs will definitely be eligible for work permits under the new system, but more an idea of illustrating the range of positions which could be covered under this new system.

Who will be affected?

This will affect non-EU, non-Nordic migrants wanting to move to Sweden on a work permit. EU migrants and Nordic migrants are subject to different work permit laws, which will be unaffected.

It will also not affect non-EU, non-Nordic migrants who move to Sweden for other reasons, such as those who have residency in Sweden as family members of an EU, Nordic or Swedish citizen. Again, these migrants are subject to different work permit laws.

When will this come into effect?

It’s hard to say.

It is likely that it will take at least a year, perhaps longer, for the new work permit proposal to come into force.

This is due to the length of the process a proposal must go through before it is formally introduced.

The proposal is currently in the first stage, where the government launches an inquiry, or utredning, into how to introduce a labour shortage test for work permits in Sweden and what that possible system could look like. The deadline for this stage is July 31st 2023.

After the results of this inquiry are announced, the government will send the proposal out for consultation from the relevant authorities. A bill, taking these responses into account, will then be submitted to parliament. This could take months or even years, meaning that the proposal would not become law until at least a year from now, at the earliest.

Who decides which jobs will be available under the system?

Again, it’s not clear, as the proposal hasn’t been written yet. The utredning will shed more light on this, but politicians have suggested in the past that the system could be dependent on unions, employers, and other authorities confirming that they lack staff in the profession in question.

This means that it’s unlikely individual employers will be able to hire whoever they want, unless unions and other authorities also agree that there’s a shortage of labour for the position in question.

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WORK PERMITS

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Many foreigners living in Sweden need to have a residence permit to live in the country legally. Permits are issued for two years at a time and can be renewed 30 days before expiry, at the earliest. But with waiting times exceeding 8 months for many applicants, just what are your rights while you wait to hear back?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Can I keep working in Sweden?

It depends. If you have a residence permit which allows you to work in Sweden, have held that residence permit for at least six months and apply for an extension before your old permit expires, you still have the right to work in Sweden while you wait for the Migration Agency to make a decision on your permit application.

You can apply for a new residence permit 30 days before your old permit expires, at the earliest, and you can’t get a new residence permit before your old one has run out.

Can I leave Sweden?

Technically you can, but it might not be a good idea. This is due to the fact that if you leave Sweden after your residence permit has expired, it can be difficult to enter Sweden again before your new permit is granted, even if you can prove that you’ve applied for a new one.

In the worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to Sweden at the border and forced to wait in another country until your new residence permit is granted. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in some cases, apply for a national visa allowing you to re-enter Sweden. These are only granted under exceptional circumstances, and must be applied for at a Swedish embassy or general consulate in the country you are staying in. If you are not granted a national visa to re-enter Sweden, you can’t appeal the decision, meaning you’ll have to wait until your residence permit is approved before you can re-enter Sweden.

The Migration Agency writes on its website that you should only leave Sweden while your application is being processed “in exceptional cases, and if you really have to”.

It lists some examples of exceptional cases as “sudden illness, death in the family or important work-related assignments”, adding that you may need to provide proof of your reason for travelling to the embassy when you apply for a national visa to re-enter Sweden.

What if I come from a visa-free country?

If you come from a visa-free country, you are able to re-enter Sweden without needing a visa, but you may run into issues anyway, as visa-free non-EU citizens entering Schengen are only allowed to stay in the bloc for 90 days in every 180 before a visa is required.

If you are a member of this group and you stay in Schengen for longer than 90 days without a visa, you could be labelled an “overstayer”, which can cause issues entering other countries, as well as applying for a visa or residence permit in the future.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “a visa-free person waiting for a decision in their extension application can leave Sweden and return, as long as they have visa-free days left to use”.

“However, an extension application usually requires the individual to be located in Sweden,” the Agency wrote. “Travelling abroad can, in some cases, have an effect on the decision whether to extend a residence permit or not, in a way which is negative for the applicant, but this decision is made on an individual case basis (it’s not possible to say a general rule).”

“The right to travel into the Schengen area for short visits is not affected, as long as the person still has visa-free days left.”

The Local has contacted the Migration Agency to clarify whether days spent in Sweden count towards the 90-day limit, and will update this article accordingly once we receive a response.

Does this apply to me if I have a permanent residence permit?

No. This only applies to people in Sweden holding temporary residence permits. If you have a permanent residence permit and your residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort or UT-kort) expires, you just need to book an appointment at the Migration Agency to have your picture and fingerprints taken for a new card.

How long is the processing time for residence permit renewals?

It varies. For people renewing a residence permit to live with someone in Sweden, for example, the Migration Agency states that 75 percent of recent cases received an answer within eight months.

For work permit extensions, it varies. In some branches, 75 percent of applicants received a response after 17 months, others only had to wait five.

This means that some people waiting to extend their residence permits could be discouraged from leaving Sweden for almost a year and a half, unless they are facing “exceptional circumstances”.

You can see how long it is likely to take in your case here.

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