Sweden passes new law to tighten migration rules for family members

The Local Sweden
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Sweden passes new law to tighten migration rules for family members
Exterior of the Swedish parliament. File photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden’s parliament has approved the government’s bid to slightly tighten the immigration requirements for some family members of foreign residents, which will now come into force on December 1st.


The new law 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.

From December 1st, 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 when the proposal was announced in July this year that 21 was the highest age limit permitted by EU law, and that she hoped that it would help prevent more forced marriages.

Parliament also approved a proposal 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.

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" has also been changed. Instead, children will be covered by the tougher requirement "exceptionally distressing circumstances", but the criteria for what counts as exceptionally distressing circumstances should be applied generously for children.


In July, Malmer Stenergard argued that the changes 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.

A total of 259 members of parliament voted for the bill, 33 voted against, and 57 were absent. None abstained.

The Left Party and the Green Party both voted against the proposal, arguing among other things that it would force more children to be separated from their parents for a long period of time, and that it would make family reunification completely impossible in some cases.

They also argued that the changes risk hitting already marginalised groups who struggle to enter the labour market particularly hard, such as women or people with disabilities.


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Karmuhil Vannan 2023/11/09 16:42
It is incorrect that the habitual residence for citizenship applicants (non-EU citizens) starts from the date of application of Swedish residence permit. It starts from the day one enters Sweden with a Swedish residence permit. It is only 5 years of habitual residence is required for non-EU citizens to apply for Citizenship, if they have a permanent resident permit and not 6 years.

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