Reader's story: I'm not a criminal, so why does Sweden want to kick me out?

The Local Sweden
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Reader's story: I'm not a criminal, so why does Sweden want to kick me out?
The Local's reader Denise de Valencia has been living and working in Sweden for several years with her husband and their dog. Photo: Private

The Local's reader Denise de Valencia is one of many non-EU foreigners whose future in Sweden is at risk when the country next month more than doubles the minimum required salary for work permit holders.


Ever since the proposal to raise the salary requirement for work permits to 80 percent of Sweden’s median salary was first in the news back in May, I have barely slept.

I have stomach pains every day, I cry all the time, I have anguish and anxiety attacks.

I am a cleaner at one of the biggest companies in Sweden and they will not be able to help us reach the salary of 27,360 kronor. The labour union has abandoned us, even though many of us are members.


I have lived in Sweden for almost six years. My husband is a driver for a recycling company and he does have a salary above 27,500 kronor, but because I am the main applicant for the work permit and he has a residence permit as a family member because of me, we will both be forced to leave.

There’s nothing we can do. Even if as a family we have a good income, we will be expelled.

We came to Sweden in 2018 requesting asylum. Unfortunately we were denied, but migration officers explained to us that if we got a job we could stay in Sweden with a temporary work residence and that after a long process we could opt for permanent residency, as long as we could prove that we had worked for four years, fulfilled the requirements and led a life in order.

That was of course a light on the horizon for us, and we were grateful to have an option to stay.

We are both doctors by profession, but the only thing I got that met all the requirements (a salary above 13,000 kronor and payment of the required insurances) was a job in cleaning. However, I have always earned more than 13,000 kronor.


People in Sweden think we earn 13,000 kronor, but most, if not all of us, earn much more. We are not a burden to the state. We are not a threat and much less criminals for working in this sector, but the government treats us worse than criminals, expelling us from a country we have considered ours. A country into which we have invested time (which we’ll never get back), money, hard work and effort.

I am a cleaner with a salary of above 20,000 kronor but unfortunately below 27,360 kronor and my husband is a driver.

We have obtained our first-hand apartment in Stockholm, we have our own car, we both have our driving licences, we live with our beautiful dog. Where will we go? Returning to our country is not an option.

Since we set foot in Sweden we have never committed a crime. So I wonder why you force me to leave Sweden because of my salary and profession? Am I a criminal for working as a cleaner?


One of the government's justifications for creating this law is that the unemployed in Sweden will occupy the jobs that we will leave when they expel us.

But this will not be the case. Right now there are hundreds of jobs available in the cleaning industry on the Swedish Public Employment Service's website.

There is a need for labour but there are very few people interested in these jobs. We work permit holders, who already live in Sweden and hold these jobs, cover to a certain extent the labour needs of these companies.

I have cleaner colleagues who are from European Union countries and who have been working in cleaning for between seven and fifteen years. None of them are criminals, nor a threat to the country, but rather they lead normal and full lives, they are good and productive people.

So what is the difference between them and me? Why am I a threat to the country? Why should I be expelled from Sweden if I work just like them?


In a couple of months it’s time for me to apply for permanent residency.

This has been our dream, our struggle, for which we have worked so hard because we knew that by obtaining a permanent residence permit we could work with what we want and where we want.

The work permit system doesn’t easily allow for career progression. For the first two years of your work permit you mustn’t change your employer and for the following two years you mustn’t change your profession in order to keep the same work permit without having to reapply for a new one.

With permanent residency, we would no longer have been tied to a profession. We would have been able to study to work as doctors again, or in the health sector.

I have spent almost six years in this fight and am just a few months away from obtaining my permanent residency – and all of this will be destroyed by the decision of some politicians.

I pray to God that they find humanity in their hearts and make an exception to this new salary requirement for those of us who are already living in Sweden.

Thank you for reading,
Denise de Valencia

What do you think of the new salary threshold for work permit holders? You can give your own opinion in the comments section below, or if you have any tips, insights or views about an aspect of life in Sweden you want to share with readers then email us at [email protected]. We can't reply to all emails, but we read them all and will get back to you if we're able to publish your story.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Stephan Crandall 2023/10/16 00:02
The new rules suck. If you have a clean record and are willing to work, it would be foolish to kick you out.
Ardy 2023/10/09 16:55
This article is heartbreaking! Please make is available to the public, not just members so it can be shared with family and friends.
Hope 2023/10/09 16:44
I agree with Valencia. The idea that the jobs will be taken by residents here is absurd. Migrants are the last option for employers and there are still a lot of jobs that the employers are struggling to get workers. The jobs taken by migrants are the ones not wanted by Swedish citizens or more specifically residents.

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