Swedish work permit overhaul ready 'by start of next year'

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Swedish work permit overhaul ready 'by start of next year'
Work permit processing times for highly-qualified non-EU labour could be as short as 30 days by the beginning of 2024. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT/Scanpix

A planned overhaul of Sweden's work permit system, with the aim of promoting permits for highly-skilled non-EU citizens and cutting waiting times for some applicants to 30 days, will be ready by the start of 2024, the Migration Agency has said.


At the beginning of 2023, the Swedish Migration Agency was tasked by the government with promoting highly qualified labour migrants by, among other things, making it easier and more reliable for Swedish companies to hire the foreign workers they need, when they need them.

According to the agency, the new model which it has now presented to the government, will focus more specifically on offering a better service, simplifying the application process, and slashing waiting times – which can be as high as 14 months for non-certified employers – to just 30 days for highly-qualified applicants, if applications are complete when submitted.

"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 agency will cut processing times drastically by dividing work permit applications into four categories, ranked from A-D, of which only the first, Category A, will be handled by the new international recruitment units and encompassed by the 30-day target. 

Category A applications will be those already classified as "highly qualified" under the Standard for Swedish Classification of Occupations (SSYK), and will include leadership roles, roles requiring higher university education, and roles requiring university education or equivalent.  In total, this covers 238 separate roles in the SSYK system.


For jobs in other categories, the agency has pledged to process applications within four months, with shorter processing times for some roles in category B.

Category B roles include seasonal work such as berry pickers (with a processing time goal of 90 days or less), country transfers within multinational companies (90 days), permits concerning holders of the EU Blue Card (90 days), researchers (two months), athletes/coaches (10 days), au pairs (90 days), and other roles such as trainees, youth exchanges, and volunteers.

This category will also include people seeking a work permit to come to Sweden to start their own business, and (if it is not phased out beforehand) applications under the so-called spårbyte, or "track change system", which allows people who have originally applied for asylum to apply for a work permit from within Sweden. 


The Migration Agency is also developing an improved online application system in collaboration with employer organisations.

"It should be easy to apply for a permit," Bengtsson said. "The process needs to be predictable and transparent. The goal is to develop the online service and the application system to increase the number of complete applications."


The agency will also work together with employers at all stages of the process with special "service teams".

"We will have special service teams supporting companies and employers when establishing larger companies," Bengtsson said. "We are well aware that employers, especially in larger phases of expansion or establishment, have a wide range of needs concerning third-country labour. Through these new strengthened service organisations, we will be able to work closely with these companies to meet their needs."

The Migration Agency has received criticism in recent years for long waiting times, with many applicants waiting over a year for a permit.


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