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EXPLAINED: Sweden’s new work permit proposals and what they mean for you

EXPLAINED: Sweden's new work permit proposals and what they mean for you
Under the proposals, highly qualified workers would be allowed to move to Sweden before getting a job offer confirmed. Photo: Margareta Bloom Sandebäck/imagebank.sweden.se
Sweden's government has announced a set of new plans aimed at making it easier for highly qualified workers to move to Sweden and stay there, while cracking down on exploitation of foreign workers.

What's happening?

A government inquiry on Tuesday 2nd February presented the first of two reports into proposals to tighten Sweden's rules on labour migration.

The key goals are to fix issues in legislation which lead to skilled workers being deported for their employers' mistakes (so-called 'talent deportation') and to make it harder for dishonest employers abusing the system.

Some of the main proposals included a suggestion for a talent visa for highly qualified foreign workers, a maintenance requirement for work permit holders bringing family members to Sweden, and a new system of checks on employment conditions.

How would the talent visa work?

The idea is that some international residents would be allowed to move to Sweden even without a job offer, in order to look for work once here, but only workers considered “highly qualified”.

Currently, it is only possible to move to Sweden for work once you have secured a job and applied for a work permit while overseas, or on a 'working holiday visa' for young people of certain nationalities.

The proposals suggest that foreigners who have completed graduate or Master's level studies or the equivalent should be allowed to apply for a temporary (nine months) permit to look for work or set up a business. They wouldn't be able to bring family members or enter employment while on this 'talent visa', and would need to prove they had funds to support themselves for the nine months and cover the cost of a return journey.

What would work permit holders need to do to bring family members to Sweden?

If you bring your family members, you would need an income level that is sufficient to support them. For a family with two children, that would mean an income of 30,000 kronor per month under the proposals.

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said that this was a “substantial sharpening” of current rules, under which the minimum salary for work permit holders is 13,000 kronor.

Other restrictions currently do apply, including that the salary must be in line with the industry standard and/or the conditions set out in collective agreements, but it means that for example a part-time worker could bring their family members to Sweden even if they were on a very low salary (13,000 kronor per month is well below the threshold for 'risk of poverty' or 'low economic standard' in Sweden, calculated as 60 percent of the median income or 19,020 kronor per month in 2019).

But there would be no requirement to have accommodation of a specific size or standard, as is currently the case for Swedish citizens who bring their family members to Sweden on a family permit, and as the Moderate Party on Tuesday suggested should be the case for work permit holders too.

What will Sweden be doing about deportation of talented workers?

The inquiry proposes that Sweden's Migration Agency should carry out checks of the terms of employment for employers of work permit holders. Employers would be obligated to report any deterioration in these terms, and would be subject to a fine or even imprisonment if they failed to report these changes. The inquiry also suggested a possible alternative of requiring an employment contract in order to have a work permit application granted.

The aim is to crack down on dishonest employers who change the conditions for their foreign workers after their work permit is approved. At the moment, when this happens it sometimes means that future applications for a work permit extension by the employee are rejected – even if they are no longer employed by the company that made the mistake or broke the rules.

The inquiry also proposes removing the limit on the number of temporary work permits that employees can apply for before they are required to apply for a permanent residence permit. 

The second report from the inquiry, due in November, is expected to present more in-depth analysis on the extent of the problem of employers abusing the work permit system.

What happens next?

The proposals were sent out for consultation today, which means relevant agencies and authorities will give their feedback on the proposals. During this process, the agencies have the opportunity to warn of any risks for unintended consequences or possible negative effects of the proposed changes, and to give input on how feasible the changes would be to carry out.

After the consultation period and any edits to the proposals as a result, the next stage is to put the final version of proposals to a parliamentary vote.

Johansson said this would happen “as soon as possible” and that the proposed date for the changes to come into effect was January 1st, 2022.


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