The Swedish government is still planning to introduce a salary threshold for work permits, Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard told The Local. But when? And how much? Here’s what we know so far.
Published: 9 February 2023 08:26 CET
What’s the latest on Sweden’s planned salary threshold for work permits?
Swedish media report that the coalition parties can’t agree on whether to make exceptions for certain jobs, such as assistant nurses. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
What’s the background?
In November parliament passed a bill put forward by the former Social Democrat-led government to raise the required salary that non-EU citizens have to earn to qualify for a work permit.
It stated that the new threshold would be introduced by a date to be decided by the government – which as of September 2022 is a new, right-wing government.
The exact figure hasn’t been set, but the government and its far-right Sweden Democrat partners have previously, in the Tidö coalition agreement after the September election, proposed setting it at the median Swedish salary, which is 33,000 kronor a month.
Not much has been announced since November, and Swedish media have been pressing the government for answers on when it is going to introduce the new salary threshold.
The Local did the same when we recently met Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard for a sit-down interview in Malmö. She said she could not give us an exact date, but that the coalition parties were in the process of working on the final piece of legislation.
“We are really working this through thoroughly in order to have a well functioning system and we will also give organisations and other authorities the possibility to have their say before it goes into legislation,” said Malmer Stenergard.
What’s the current status of Sweden’s planned migration laws?
Swedish media report that the sticking point at the moment is that the government parties (Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals) and the Sweden Democrats can’t agree on whether or not to make exceptions for certain work permit applicants.
Critics of the salary threshold have argued that 33,000 kronor would effectively keep out a lot of highly qualified workers whose skills Sweden needs.
Liberal leader Johan Pehrson told Swedish news agency TT that he had been speaking with business and public sector leaders who were worried that the salary threshold would lead to a skills shortage, for example a shortage of assistant nurses.
“To manage the green transition in northern Sweden, we don’t just need people who make batteries, work in the mines or in the forest,” said Pehrson.
He did not want to say exactly what the exceptions should look like, but said they could potentially apply to “protected professional titles or niche sectors”.
But the Sweden Democrats are understood to be against exceptions.
“SD wants to throttle immigration at any cost,” an unnamed source told business site Dagens Industri, adding that the ongoing negotiations are “very tough”.
The Local’s interview with Maria Malmer Stenergard, discussing topics including salary threshold for work permits, waiting times at the Migration Agency, and exit visas for those waiting for a permit renewal will feature in the next episode of The Local’s podcast, Sweden in Focus, out this Saturday.
Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard told The Local that she “will consider” travel visas for non-EU work permit renewal applicants who are currently unable to leave Sweden while their permits are processed.
Published: 9 February 2023 13:58 CET
Sweden ‘will consider’ travel visas for work permit holders: migration minister interview
The delays in the Migration Agency’s processing of work permit renewals are causing huge disruptions to the lives of people working in Sweden who come from countries outside the European Union.
In a sit-down interview, The Local asked Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard if the government is planning on introducing a travel visa which would enable work permit applicants to leave Sweden and return, as countries such as Denmark and Germany have done.
“Yes, I will consider it,” she said.
“I’m well aware of this problem, which also affects people who would like to go to seminars and so on abroad who are refused [the ability] to do so. So it is truly a problem.”
READ ALSO: ‘Sweden is like a big prison’: The tech workers trapped by work permit delays
“And, of course, this is linked to the very long waiting times,” she added. “So if we cut the waiting times for prolongation, then it won’t be such a big problem.”
For those from nationalities that require a visa to enter Sweden, it has meant that while they are free to leave Sweden, they risk being refused entry at the border if they try to return. Thousands of workers on whom Sweden’s economy relies have as a result been effectively trapped in the country.
A petition to the Migration Agency calling for it to find ways to “allow Non-EU residents to travel back home”, has had over 11,000 signatures since it was launched in October 2022, with many of the signatories sharing how long they’ve been stuck in Sweden while they wait for their applications to be renewed.
Readers have told The Local they have missed weddings or funerals, postponed their own weddings, or been unable to visit elderly parents for months or even years, in some cases, while their applications are processed.
IN NUMBERS: How long are waiting times at Sweden’s Migration Agency?
Malmer Stenergard explained in the interview that the government is trying to combat the long waiting times by ordering Swedish migration authorities to “promote highly-skilled labour migration”, which will present a plan for a “new organisation” designed to focus only on highly-skilled labour migrants.
“Hopefully, that will lead to shorter handling times and make it more attractive for foreigners to come here to work in skilled and highly-skilled professions,” she said.
“I am extremely worried that those who would like to come to Sweden choose not to do so because there is such an uncertainty, and there are such long waiting times.”
“We cannot afford that in Swedish industries or Swedish companies, because they are so dependent on finding the smartest people all over the world in order to be able to compete.”
The Local’s full interview with Maria Malmer Stenergard, discussing topics including a salary threshold for work permits, waiting times at the Migration Agency, and post-Brexit deportations will feature in the next episode of The Local’s podcast, Sweden in Focus, out this Saturday.
Source: the local