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How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

The government's work permit overhaul, designed among other things, to reduce the number of talented foreign workers being deported due to minor paperwork issues, passed in Sweden's parliament on Wednesday, meaning it will come into force on June 1st.

How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?
Sweden's new work permit law is designed to reduce talent deportations. Photo: AP Photo/Michael Sohn/TT

The overhaul, which Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced in December shortly after she was elected, is designed to crack down on so-called kompetensutvisningar or “talent deportations” and provide a new visa for highly-educated job seekers wanting to apply for work in Sweden.

The bill will also require those seeking permits to have a signed contract from an employer, and to be able to show they are able to support any family members they bring to Sweden with them.  

What is in the proposal?

The proposal includes a new work permit for “some highly qualified individuals” to come to Sweden in order to seek work or start a business, as well as a proposal targeting talent deportations, stating that work permits do not need to be recalled in cases with “minor cases of deviation” from work permit laws, or “if revoking the work permit does not seem reasonable in light of the circumstances”.

In addition to this, work permits will only be issued to applicants who already have a job contract, employers will be liable to report to authorities if the terms of employment are changed and become less favourable, and employers will be subject to fines if they do not provide written information to the Migration Agency about the applicant’s terms of employment.

Furthermore, work permit holders wishing to bring family with them will need to prove that they can provide for their family members, and human trafficking laws will be altered to make it easier to prosecute people who have given false information in order to receive a work permit.

Who will be affected by the new law?

The new law will only affect non-EU citizens wishing to work in Sweden, as EU citizens in Sweden for work are issued permits under EU law, rather than Swedish law.

The law will not affect existing work permits, but could apply when existing permits expire and applicants reply for a renewal or extension.

Why were the opposition parties against the proposal?

Although the proposal is likely to be approved, this does not mean that the opposition parties were in total agreement. Over 50 motions were raised by opposition parties in response to the proposal, all of which have been rejected.

These included suggestions from the Moderates, the Sweden Democrats and the Christian Democrats advocating for a minimum salary requirement, meaning that applicants would need to earn above a certain amount in order to qualify for a work permit.

Under current rules, applicants only need to earn a minimum of 13,000 kronor per month in order to fulfil legal criteria for having enough money to support themselves. The Moderates believe this amount should be around 27,500 kronor per month, or around 85 percent of the average Swedish salary (32,000 kronor per month).

The Christian Democrats believe this lower limit should be 35,000 kronor – previously, they had stated 30,000 kronor was sufficient – with exceptions for lower-paid professions – such as nurses and other healthcare personnel – requiring foreign labour.

What will happen now?

The law is proposed to go into effect on June 1st, 2022. Before this date, work permits will continue to be issued under the current rules.

Depending on what happens in September’s election, a new government could decide to implement further reforms, which, if approved, would be unlikely to come into effect before 2023.

Will this actually help prevent talent deportations?

According to Amelie Berg, senior legal adviser at the Confederation for Swedish Enterprise, specialising in the labour market and work environment law, it will.

“We’ve noted that ‘talent deportations’ already began to diminish a few years ago, primarily due to several new rulings from the Migration Court of Appeal,” she told The Local.

“This has led to a more permissive application of the requirements. We still welcome the proposals and our assessment is that they will further reduce the risk of unjust deportations, especially in combination with each other.”

However, the proposal is far from perfect. “We advocate a well-functioning system for labour migration and burdensome regulations putting excessive demands on either companies or employees, which in practice are difficult to meet, are not a part of that,” Berg said.

One example of this is the new requirement that permit applicants must have a signed contract before they can apply for a work permit.

“We believe that the requirement to provide a signed employment contract ahead of actually applying for a work permit will be both practically difficult and not in line with neither regular procedures nor legal requirements when hiring,” she said.

The proposal that work permit holders must be able to provide for any family members wishing to join them in Sweden may also cause issues. “The new requirement regarding the demand that labour migrants who bring their family must show that they can provide for the family’s livelihood is unclear and may be difficult to meet for many labour migrants,” Berg said.

Member comments

  1. is there any significant change for people that are looking to apply for permanent residence after June?

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For members


EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

Moving to another country is never easy, as it requires going through cultural changes and administrative formalities. It can be even more complicated when looking for a job.

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

According to new data released by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, the knowledge of the national language and the recognition of professional qualifications are the two most common obstacles experienced by foreign-born people in finding a ‘suitable’ job in countries of the European Union.

Overall, about a quarter of people born outside the EU who had experience in working or looking for work in the bloc reported some difficulties getting a ‘suitable’ job for level of education (without considering the field of expertise or previous experience).

The Eurostat analysis shows that the situation is better for EU citizens moving within the bloc. But there are major differences depending on countries and gender.

Life can be more difficult for women

In 2021, 13.2 percent of men and 20.3 percent of women born in another European Union country reported obstacles in getting a suitable job in the EU place of residence.

These proportions however increase to 20.9 percent for men and 27.3 percent for women born in a non-EU country with a high level of development (based on the United Nations’ Human Development Index) and 31.1 percent for men and 35.7 percent for women from non-EU countries with a low or medium level of development.

Finland (42.9 percent), Sweden (41.7 percent), Luxembourg (34.6 percent) and France (32.1 percent) are the countries with the highest shares of people born outside the EU reporting problems. Norway, which is not part of the bloc, has an even higher percentage, 45.2, and Switzerland 34.3 percent.

In contrast, Cyprus (11.2 percent), Malta (10.9 percent), Slovenia (10.2 percent), Latvia (10 percent) and Lithuania (6.7 percent) have the lowest proportion of people born outside the EU reporting difficulties.

Lack of language skills

The lack of skills in the national language is most commonly cited as a hurdle, and it is even more problematic for women.

This issue was reported by 4.2 percent of men born in another EU country, 5.3 percent of those born in a developed country outside the EU and 9.7 percent of those from a non-EU country with a middle or low level of development. The corresponding shares for women, however, were 5.6, 6.7 and 10.5 percent respectively.

The countries where language skills were more likely to be reported by non-EU citizens as an obstacle in getting a relevant job were Finland (22.8 percent), Luxembourg (14.7 percent) and Sweden (13.1 percent).

As regards other countries covered by The Local, the percentage of non-EU citizens citing the language as a problem was 12.4 percent in Austria, 10.2 percent in Denmark, 7.8 percent in France, 5.1 percent in Italy, 2.7 percent in Spain, 11.1 percent on Norway and 10.1 percent in Switzerland. Data is not available for Germany.

Portugal (77.4 percent), Croatia (68.8 percent), Hungary (58.8 percent) and Spain (58.4 percent) have the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving, while more than 70 percent of non-EU citizens residing in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Norway said they had participated in language courses after arrival.

Lisbon Portugal

Portugal has the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving. (Photo by Aayush Gupta on Unsplash)

Recognition of qualifications

Another hurdle on the way to a relevant job in EU countries is the lack of recognition of a formal qualification obtained abroad. This issue was reported by 2 percent of men and 3.8 percent of women born in another EU country. It was also mentioned by 3.3 percent of men and 5.9 percent of women born in a developed country outside the EU, and 4.8 percent of men and 4.6 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Eurostat says this reflects an “unofficial distrust” among employers of qualification obtained abroad and the “low official validation of foreign education”.

The lack of availability of a suitable job was another factor mentioned in the survey. In Croatia, Portugal and Hungary, this was the main obstacle to getting an adequate position.

This issue concerned 3.3 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women born in another EU country, 4.2 percent of men and 5 percent of women born in a developed non-EU country It also worried 3.9 percent of men and 5.1 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Restricted right to work due to citizenship or residence permits, as well as plain discrimination on the grounds of origin were also cited as problems.

Discrimination was mostly reported by people born in a less developed non-EU country (3.1 percent for men and 3.3 percent for women) compared to people born in highly developed non-EU countries (1.9 percent for men and 2.2 percent for women).

Citizenship and residence permits issues are unusual for people from within the EU. For people from outside the EU, this is the only area where women seem to have fewer problems than men: 1.6 percent of women from developed non-EU countries reported this issue, against 2.1 percent of men, with the share increasing to 2.8 and 3.3 percent respectively for women and men from less developed non-EU states.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.