New migration rules have come into effect in Sweden, making residence permits for refugees time-limited in the first instance instead of permanent.
The law was approved by the Swedish parliament last month. It replaces temporary legislation that was brought in five years ago in a bid to bring down record numbers of asylum requests.
Before the changes in 2016, since 1984 the Scandinavian country always issued permanent residency permits to refugees and asylum seekers as a rule of thumb.
The new rules, put forward by the Social Democrat-Green government in late April, turn this norm on its head. Permits will only be renewed if the circumstances under which they were first issued still apply.
It also introduces the possibility of Swedish language and civic knowledge tests for anyone wanting to stay in the country for longer, the full details of which will be laid out in a separate process.
Minister of Justice and Migration Morgan Johansson called the vote “a great success” when it was passed by the Riksdag in late June.
But some rights groups have expressed alarm over the more restrictive policy, with Amnesty Sweden stating: “The consequences of the new migration law will be that it will be more difficult for victims to focus on integration, to become part of Swedish society and enter the labor market.
“At the same time, the Swedish Migration Agency will be forced to invest large resources in reconsiderations.”
Migrant workers, scholars and visitors to Sweden face longer waits for residency
The legislative changes also affect anyone who comes to Sweden on a work, student or family visa who seeks permanent residency.
New arrivals must now live in the country for at least three years before they will be considered for permanent residence. People who move to Sweden to join a family member will automatically only receive temporary permission to stay.
They also need to prove that they can support themselves by meeting an income threshold of 8,287 kronar (about €809) per month for 2021. The only exemption to this rule is for Swedish, EU or Swiss citizens who want to bring their spouse or co-habiting partner to live with them.
A consortium of Swedish academics has also expressed concern over the move. In a comprehensive report on the proposals, the umbrella group wrote that many non-EU/EAA researchers who come to Sweden aim to apply for a permanent residence permit. Making this a more difficult process for them, or rendering them ineligible, the group warned, could lead to a “brain drain”.
Key concessions secured by Swedish Green Party
Sweden’s Migration Agency has advised that no transitional legislation has been introduced, so people who applied for permanent residency before July 20 will have their requests considered under the new law.
After 2016 a Migration Committee was formed in Sweden to put forward proposals on the content of the final legislation.
But cross-party talks saw several of its final 20 proposals knocked back. The Green Party, the junior partner in the country’s ruling coalition, objected to a proposed cap on the number of asylum seekers who can enter Sweden each year.
The final bill contains no cap on asylum seeker numbers. The Green Party also secured a concession that states people not eligible for asylum may still be allowed to stay in Sweden on compassionate or humanitarian grounds