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UPDATED: What's the current status of Sweden's planned migration laws?

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
UPDATED: What's the current status of Sweden's planned migration laws?
A Swedish MP votes on a law in parliament. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

There are a number of migration-related laws and policies in the pipeline in Sweden, including changes to work permits, citizenship and permanent residency requirements, and plans to tighten up permanent residency and asylum applications. Here's a quick overview.


Raising the salary threshold for work permits

What will the proposal do?

It would set a new salary threshold of around 80 percent of Sweden's median salary, meaning that anyone earning below this figure would not qualify for a work permit.

The minimum salary someone coming to Sweden from outside the EU can be offered and still be eligible for a work permit would be increased to 80 percent of the median salary, as calculated each year by Statistics Sweden.

This was originally set at 26,560 a month, but the new limit according to a recent press release from the Migration Agency is 27,360 kronor. 

The median salary was raised to 34,200 kronor this summer, which is why the new limit is higher.

Under current rules, the minimum salary is set at the lowest level at which the Migration Agency estimates it is possible to survive in Sweden without welfare support, just 13,000 kronor a month. 

What's the status of the proposal?

It was passed as law by parliament in late November 2022.

In the note, it states: "The change in the law will come into force on the day the government decides", and the government says that the change in the regulations, or förordningändringen, which will actually change the salary requirement will be set at the same time as the law comes into force. 

The government originally proposed October 1st as the date at which the law would change, although it has now set a new deadline of November 1st, as it and the Migration Agency are still assessing how the law will work in practice.


Going forward, the salary requirement will be based on Statistics Sweden’s last published median salary at the time a work permit application is submitted. This is updated every year, most recently June 20th, and can be found here.

It is however not yet clear whether the implementation of the new rules will apply retroactively to people who apply for a work permit before November 1st 2023, but who haven't receive an answer on their application by then.

Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard told The Local in February that there would be a one-year grace period during which the old 13,000 kronor salary threshold would apply, but more recent government statements have made no mention of a transition period.


A Migration Agency spokesperson told The Local in September 2023 that they were still looking into how to apply the new rules, specifically how they might affect various groups and those with pending applications.

The new rules will also affect work permit holders who apply to renew their permit, meaning that the most recently published median salary will determine the salary requirement for the renewed permit. So if you received a work permit under the old 13,000 kronor threshold a couple of years ago, you will have to earn more than 27,360 kronor to be eligible for a work permit extension from November 1st.


New work permit system for high-skilled labour

What will the proposal do?

Sweden's Migration Agency will by the start of next year launch a new work permit model, aiming to speed up waiting times for international talent.

The new system will among other things scrap the current fast-track for certified companies, with an aim to slash processing times for highly-educated applicants to just 30 days.

"A 30-day processing time fits well with international comparisons of how long similar permit processes take," Migration Agency regional director for the southern region, Fredrik Bengtsson, wrote in a statement.

"We're expecting to be ready to launch the full model at the beginning of next year."

The certified system is going to be phased out, with the Migration Agency saying in a statement in September that it expected the new system to be ready by the end of the year.

Instead, all work permit applications to bring highly qualified labour to Sweden, regardless of whether the company is certified or not, will be handled by new "international recruitment units", or enheter för internationell rekrytering.

These will not only process cases but will also include 'service teams', who will work closely with employers and businesses in the run-up to applications being submitted, so that they are complete.

What's the status of the proposal?

The changes to the work permit system were proposed in February 2023 as a supplementary directive to a preexisting directive on work permits. This directive has a deadline of January 31st, 2024, although the government has indicated it may be ready to implement the new work permit system before then.

You can read more about the new work permit proposal here.

Travel visas for work permit holders

What will the proposal do?

In a sit-down interview in February, The Local asked Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard if the government is planning on introducing a travel visa which would enable work permit applicants to leave Sweden and return, as countries such as Denmark and Germany have done.

“Yes, I will consider it,” she said.

“I’m well aware of this problem, which also affects people who would like to go to seminars and so on abroad who are refused [the ability] to do so. So it is truly a problem.”

For citizens of countries which Sweden demands an entry visa from, it has meant that while they are free to leave Sweden, they risk being refused entry at the border if they try to return. Thousands of workers on whom Sweden’s economy relies have as a result been effectively trapped in the country.

Malmer Stenergard explained in the interview that the government is trying to combat the long waiting times by ordering Swedish migration authorities to “promote highly-skilled labour migration”, which will present a plan for a “new organisation” designed to focus only on highly-skilled labour migrants.

“Hopefully, that will lead to shorter handling times and make it more attractive for foreigners to come here to work in skilled and highly-skilled professions,” she said.

What's the status of the proposal?

This has not yet been formally proposed.


Language and culture tests for citizenship

What will the proposal do?

It would introduce a language and culture test for citizenship applications, which would apply to those aged between 16 and 66.

An inquiry into bringing in the language requirement concluded in January 2021 that applicants for citizenship should be able to listen to and read Swedish at B1 the second of the six levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), equivalent to having completed level D, the fourth-highest level in the Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course. 

This is a fairly high level of Swedish. It’s enough to get the gist of what’s in Swedish newspapers, listen to the radio, or to follow a lecture without too much difficulty.

When it comes to speaking or writing Swedish, the inquiry suggested requiring a lower level, A2. This is equivalent to SFI level C.

This is the same level which the government has suggested for those applying for permanent residency for reading and listening as well as speaking and writing.

With regards to the culture test, the law proposes a digital test of "basic knowledge needed to live and function in Swedish society focusing on democracy and the democratic process", which would be based off the contents of a book produced specifically for test purposes.


What's the status of the proposal?

This law is at the remiss, or “consultation”, stage. The inquiry report and its proposals are sent for consultation to the relevant government agencies or organisations, municipalities and other stakeholders, who can submit remissvar, or “responses”

It is the government department responsible for the proposed law that gets to decide which organisations or individuals are invited to submit responses, so sometimes organisations who believe they should have a say do not get one. It is possible for these organisations to send a response uninvited, but the government is not required to read them or take their arguments on board. 

Indeed, the answers given in consultation responses are purely advisory, meaning the government can, and often does, ignore the views of agencies and other stakeholders. If the responses are extremely critical, or raise insuperable obstacles, however, the proposed law can also be abandoned at this stage. 

Despite not yet going through a parliamentary vote, if it does go ahead, the law has a proposed introduction date of January 1st 2025.


Language and culture tests for permanent residency

What will the proposal do?

This would, similarly to the law on citizenship above, introduce a language and culture knowledge requirement for permanent residency applications.

In a press conference on May 29th, it was announced that the language test would consist of two 50 minute listening tests with a ten minute break, at CEFR level A2, and the culture test would be the same length and would test applicants on a range of topics related to living in Sweden.

The suggested date of implementation according to the proposal is July 1st, 2027.

More information on what we know about the content of the tests and who will have to take them here.

What's the status of the proposal?

This law has completed the inquiry stage and will now be sent out for consultation to relevant government agencies or organisations, municipalities and other stakeholders, who can submit remissvar, or "responses".

Strengthened system for coordination numbers

What will the proposal do?

This law will make the Swedish Tax Agency wholly responsible for awarding coordination numbers, the numbers given to people living in Sweden who are not yet eligible for a personal number, personnummer

This should make it easier to keep track of which numbers are held by real people and which are dormant. The bill will also create a new category of “supported identity” coordination numbers, where the holder goes to a Tax Agency office in person with a passport or other identity document and has their identity confirmed.

These should meet a sufficiently high security threshold to allow holders to access BankID, opening the way for them to access a host of services in Sweden. 

What's the status of the proposal?

It was passed as law on November 30th 2022, and came into force on September 1st 2023 (January 1st 2023 for affected staff at foreign embassies).

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Tighten asylum legislation to 'minimum level' allowed in EU

What will the policy do?

The government wants to tighten asylum legislation to the “minimum level” allowed under European Union law or other international treaties to which Sweden is a signatory.

It could withdraw residency from asylum seekers "if the original grounds for asylum no longer apply", abolish permanent residency for asylum seekers in favour of temporary residency permits, and reduce the scope for family reunion for those with residency in Sweden to the minimum circle of relatives allowed under EU law: a spouse or domestic partner and any children under 18 years.

It could also establish transit centres either in Sweden or overseas, if possible under the Swedish constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

What's the status of this policy?

One part of this policy, a proposal to raise the limit at which a residency permit based on family reunification can be granted is now in the remiss stage, with a suggested introduction date of December 1st, 2023.

This proposal would also limit the opportunity for family reunification permit applicants to be exempt from the maintenance requirement if the person they are moving to Sweden to join is an asylum seeker, as well as removing the possibility for a residence permit to be granted due to "particularly distressing circumstances" be removed.

It would also allow children to be granted residence permits due to "particularly distressing circumstances", even if these circumstances would not be considered as serious or distressing if the applicant were an adult.

A broader inquiry into changes to asylum and immigration law was launched in February 2023, and the Tidö agreement states that the government aims to pass new asylum laws on these topics before the mandate period comes to an end in 2026.

Extending residence requirement for citizenship and other changes to citizenship

What will the proposals do?

They would extend the time it takes to qualify for Swedish citizenship from the current limit of five years (three years for spouses or cohabiting partners of Swedish citizens) to eight years "in the normal case".

It’s not clear what, if any, exceptions there will be for citizenship applications, or whether those married to a Swedish citizen or with Swedish children will have a reduced wait. 

On top of this, the government and Sweden Democrats want to introduce a demand that anyone applying for Swedish citizenship can support themselves financially, investigate the possibility of introducing a new obligatory ceremony, such as an oath of loyalty or a citizenship interview which would act as the final stage in citizenship process, and look into the possibility of withdrawing citizenship from dual citizens who carry out “system-threatening crimes”, or whose citizenship was granted on false premises. 

What's the status of these proposals?

The government has launched an inquiry into tightening up citizenship, proposing an extension to the residency requirement, as well as a civics test and self-sufficiency requirement.

In the inquiry directive, judge Kirsi Laakso Utvik has been tasked with providing suggestions for future policy on a number of different citizenship-related points.

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • propose extending the residency requirement for citizenship
  • propose what knowledge about Swedish society and culture should be required to be eligible for membership
  • propose extra requirements that applicants have a heder­ligt levnadssätt, or "upstanding way of life"
  • propose what requirements for self-sufficiency prospective citizens should have to meet
  • take a position on whether a citizenship interview, oath of loyalty, or other ceremony should be instituted as the final point in the citizenship process
  • decide on whether the procedure for considering the release of children from Swedish citizenship should be changed and submit the necessary constitutional proposals.

You can read more about the proposed changes to citizenship here.

Utvik has just over a year to work on her proposal, which has a deadline of September 30th, 2024. After that, she will publish her slutbetänkande or final report, then the proposed law will be set out for consultation to relevant organisations or individuals.

After this step a draft bill will be sent to Lågrådet, or the Council on Legislation, which will analyse the law from a legal standpoint, then it will be sent to parliament for scrutiny before finally being put to a vote. It's hard to say exactly when it could become law, but the government will almost certainly make it a priority that it is complete before their mandate period ends in 2026.

Introducing labour market testing for work permits

What will the proposal do?

It would reintroduce labour market tests for work permits, meaning that work permits will only be granted for jobs in sectors experiencing a shortage.

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.

You can read more about labour market testing here.

What's the status of the proposal?

This proposal has been scrapped and has instead been replaced with a proposal to make it harder for low-skilled immigrants to move to Sweden, and easier for highly-skilled immigrants to get work permits in Sweden. See more details on the new proposal here.


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