The Swedish government wants to attract international competence and counteract exploitation of labor immigrants

Investigation on immigration legislation

The Swedish government has appointed a committee to analyze and propose actions to attract international competence and counteract exploitation of labor immigrants.



Heléne Markström

Auktoriserad skatterådgivare

KPMG i Sverige


The current Swedish legislation on work and residence permits still results in unwanted deportations of highly skilled individuals and prevents employees from traveling while extension applications are in process. The Swedish government has initiated an inquiry with the aim to continue to attract international expertise and counteract the exploitation of labor immigrants.

The inquiry will;

  • Present proposals for a new legal basis for work-and residence permits for highly qualified individuals.
  • Analyze current law and its consequences regarding so-called competence deportations.
  • Investigate the need for legislation to protect individuals who cannot get an extended work permit.
  • Present proposals that will enable those who have applied for an extended work-and residence permit to travel outside Sweden during the application processing time.
  • Decide if employers should be required to report important changes in employment terms compared to the terms on which the work permit decision was based.
  • Decide whether to introduce a maintenance requirement for accompanying family members of work permit holders.
  • Consider a cut in the present requirement of four months of employment before a so-called status change can be allowed.
  • Investigate if the renewal of asylum seekers’ previously detained passports can be facilitated in connection with a so-called status change.
  • Determine if the current rules on residence permits for self-employed individuals are sufficiently relevant

The above points will be presented in an interim report no later than 1 February 2021. In addition, the scope of the inquiry includes investigating several issues and situations related to organized abuse of current immigration legislation, exploitation of individuals and trade in residence and work permits. These parts must be reported no later than 1 November 2021.

KPMG comments

The inquiry, which appears extensive, is welcome. Although recent case law has enabled foreign workers to continue working in Sweden despite unintentional shortcomings in the employment terms, obstacles remain that can make the process challenging for employers and employees. An example is the lock-in effect that arises during the processing time of an extension application. In cases where the processing is long, the employee is entitled to continue working in Sweden, but is prevented from traveling to other countries. This makes it impossible for the employee to visit the home country during holidays or make necessary business trips. In some cases, the individual is unable to leave Sweden for several months. 

Another example is individuals who work for global and/or project-based companies with projects in several different countries. At present, all work permit periods are aggregated when a renewal or permanent residence application is assessed. Employees who have worked simultaneously on projects in several countries, and therefore have time gaps in their stay in Sweden, risk not obtaining a permanent residence permit or an extended work-and residence permit. Important and highly qualified individuals therefore risk not being able to return to Sweden for up to three years. 

Regarding unintentional shortcomings in the employment contract, we believe the inquiry should focus on minimizing the risk of rejection and deportation in case of errors committed by previous employers. The individual and a new Swedish employer should not have to suffer due to shortcomings of past employments.

Under Sweden’s current immigration system, highly qualified personnel risk getting caught up in time-consuming application processes to obtain a so-called ICT permit (mandatory for intra-corporate transfers of managers and specialists). The fact that the inquiry aims to simplify the process for highly qualified individuals, as well as specifying who is considered to be highly qualified, is therefore good news.

For Sweden to be attractive to foreign workers in areas where competence and skills are much needed, rules should be changed to become more effective and predictable.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the potential new legislative changes or would like to discuss any other migration issues.

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The article in Swedish

Heléne Markström

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