Swedish government set to tighten migration rules for family members

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Swedish government set to tighten migration rules for family members
Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard and Sweden Democrat party secretary Mattias Bäckström Johansson at a press conference announcing the news. Photo: Henrik Gustafsson Nicander/TT

The Swedish government is pushing ahead with a bid to tighten the immigration requirements for family members of foreign residents, with a bill now set to be scrutinised by legal experts.


"The government and the Sweden Democrats continue to take a stand for tigher legislation on migration," Mattias Bäckström Johansson of the far-right Sweden Democrats told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

The proposal is part of the migration "paradigm shift" penned in the Tidö Agreement, which allowed the right-wing government to take office with the support of the Sweden Democrats.

It proposes that a residence permit may be refused for a partner or spouse if either the partner in Sweden or the partner wishing to join them is under the age of 21. The current age limit is 18.

Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard told reporters that 21 was the highest age limit permitted by EU law, and that she hoped that it would help prevent more forced marriages.

The government also wants to scrap a respite which means refugees and people with subsidiary needs for protection have three months before they need to meet the maintenance requirement – a requirement for foreign residents to show they are able to provide for their joining partner.


It also wants to scrap a rule that gives the Migration Agency the right to grant residence permits to children and some adults if they are subject to "particularly distressing circumstances". Instead, children should be covered by the tougher requirement "exceptionally distressing circumstances", but the government’s proposal states that the criteria should be applied generously for children.

During a previous advisory consultation stage with relevant government agencies and organisations, several criticised the proposal for being vague, hard to interpret and possibly ineffectual.

Some, including the Swedish Bar Association, criticised the proposal to raise the age limit for spouse permits to 21, as Sweden in general allows people to get married from the age of 18.

Some organisations also warned that the proposal risked breaking the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.



But Malmer Stenergard argued that the proposals are in line with international law.

"It is important to require that people who want to be reunited with relatives should be able to provide for them, because it also contributes to better integration and getting a job faster," she said.

The proposal will now go before Sweden’s Council on Legislation, which is responsible for analysing the legal aspects of bills – such as whether the laws suggested are unenforceable, go against the constitution, or are too vaguely framed for the courts to be able to interpret.

The Council on Legislation’s opinions are non-binding and the next step after they’ve had a chance to comment is for the government to put the bill forward for a vote in parliament.

If it passes the vote, it is set to come into force on December 1st.


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