Deportation For Members

Why is Sweden's 2021 migration law leading to 'teen deportations'?

The Local Sweden
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Why is Sweden's 2021 migration law leading to 'teen deportations'?
The Migration Agency's offices. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

Children of foreigners working in Sweden who turn 18 before the Migration Agency makes a decision on their parents’ permanent residency are being forced to leave Sweden in the growing phenomenon of "teen deportations". Andreas Bråthe, partner at Ernst and Young, explained what is happening.


Sweden's migration legislation was updated in July 2021, following long struggle by the then red-green government to agree the new policy with the right-wing opposition parties in a joint Migration Committee. 

The new law largely confirmed the stricter migration policy that the Social Democrats and Green Party brought in back in 2016 in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis, with those granted asylum in Sweden given temporary rather than permanent residency, and the length of time applicants needed to live in Sweden before applying for permanent residency extended to three years. 

However, the new law also introduced a requirement that everyone seeking permanent residency in Sweden should be able to show that they can support themselves financially for at least 18 months, starting from the time the Migration Agency examines their application.

According to Andreas Bråthe, partner at Ernst and Young, the change is increasingly catching out foreigners working in Sweden who arrived in Sweden with a work permit and children of 14 to 17 years old. 


"The changes meant, among other things, that new requirements were imposed for everyone who applies for a permanent residence permit, which meant new rules for both main applicants as well as their family members," he told The Local.

This, Bråthe said, was affecting “family members traveling with their partners, spouses or parents”, who “rely on the main applicant taking the financial responsibility due to their employment”.

To get permanent residence, all of the dependants over the age of 18 now need to show that they are able to support themselves and earn enough to cover their housing needs, plus a so-called “normal payment”, which is set this year at 5,157 kronor a month. 

“There are many cases where the family members are put in a situation where they need to find employment, sometimes with limited resources,” he said. ” Even if the financial need is not required for their private household, this is a must in order to fullfil the requirement for permanent residency.” 

Does this problem affect all residency extensions? 

No. The rules are different depending on whether the Migration Agency is assessing eligibility for permanent residence or for an extension to a work permit.

To be issued a time limited permit as a family member of a work permit holder the applicant can be up to 21, if dependent on their parent.

However if the dependent is eligible for permanent residence and is over the age of 18, they need to meet the maintenance requirement. 

Furthermore, if the parent is issued a permanent residence permit, the child, if they are over 18, are no longer eligible for a permit as a dependent family member of a work permit holder. 

Is it not enough for the parent to show that they can support the 18-year-old?


“There is not an option for the main applicant to go in and “cover” for the income that the dependent needs in order to meet the requirement,” Bråthe says. “Instead the assessment is made for each applicant separately, regardless of whether they share household and costs together with their family members.” 

How long do the dependents need to prove they can support themselves? 

They need to show that they have permanent employment for at least 18 months after the day the application is examined, which given the long delays in processing means a much longer contract might be necessary. 

"The regulation states that the ability to support oneself must be of a certain duration," Bråthe said.

"The Swedish Migration Agency considers you to have met the duration requirement if you have permanent employment, or fixed-term employment of at least 18 months from the day the application is examined. In practice, an even longer employment duration is needed due to overdue and long processing time at the Swedish Migration Agency." 

Given many 18-year-olds are at the start of their careers, they also face the problem that the agency does not count someone who is still in the six-month probation period as having a contract. 

"Even in cases where the main applicant’s dependents have signed new employment contracts, they are most likely covered by probationary periods," he said. "In those cases, the Migration Agency can reject the permanent residency application since they do not consider the duration requirement to have been fulfilled."


How much do you have to earn, and what counts?

Income from one or more part-time jobs is included in the maintenance requirement, as well as parental pay and sick pay, Bråthe told The Local.

There is no specific figure that you have to earn - it varies from case to case - but applicants must earn enough to cover their housing costs and a so-called "normal amount", which consists of 5,175 kronor per month for an adult, increasing for those applying alongside dependent family members or children.

The income can't come from savings or support from other family members. 


Who is most affected by this?

The new legislation particularly affects households where only one member of the family (the "breadwinner") works, earning enough to support the rest of the household financially.

Even if a family as a whole has enough money to support itself, the new law demands that applicants must earn enough of their own money to fulfil the maintenance requirement regardless, putting dependent family members of the "breadwinner", such as partners, spouses, parents or adult children in a situation where they need to find employment.

One of the risks of the legislation is that family members without an income - or with insufficient income - do not meet work permit requirements, and are instead given time-limited permits, or in the worst-case scenario, deportation notices.

For spouses who can't meet the income requirement, the next option is to get a time limited permit as a family member of a permanent residence permit holder. Children over the age of 18, however, are not eligible for this. 


Is it possible to get an exemption from the maintenance requirement? 

The law does give the agency leeway to make exceptions for those who “for other special reasons cannot support themselves”, but the agency does not seem to be applying this in cases of 18-year-olds who are still living at home while retaking their school leaving exams or taking a gap year. 



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