General framework

Legislation

What primary and secondary legislation governs immigration in your jurisdiction?

The primary legislation is the Aliens Act and the secondary legislation is the Aliens Ordinance Act of Sweden.

International agreements

Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?

As Sweden is part of the European Union, EU nationals are free to move and work in Sweden, and free trade agreements are in place between EU member states and other countries. Sweden has bilateral agreements with Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand and Uruguay for working holiday visas for people aged between 18 and 30, which allows them to live in Sweden for up to one year and work during this time.

Regulatory authorities

Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers? Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?

The decisions on work and residence permits and visas are made by the Swedish Migration Agency. Some applications (eg, for tourist and family visas) are handled by Swedish embassies abroad. Rejections from the Migration Agency or the embassies can, in most cases, be appealed and are sent to the Swedish Migration Court for ruling. There is also a Migration High Court. The Migration High Court will, however, only accept applications or cases where ruling will give future guidance on complex matters.

Government policy

In broad terms what is your government’s policy towards business immigration?

There is high pressure from the Swedish government and parliament to ease the procedures of employing foreign personnel. There is a lack of qualified highly educated individuals in Sweden (eg, IT specialists and engineers), so business immigration is a priority area and the Migration Agency also actively promotes international cooperation. The most common business immigrants to Sweden are currently Indian IT specialists. To prevent non-serious employers from exploiting employees, certain industries are subject to more stringent control before the Migration Agency can grant a work permit.

EU citizens have the right to work, study, live and start and operate a private business in Sweden without a residence permit. If they can support themselves, they automatically have right of residence in Sweden and do not need to contact the Migration Agency. If any accompanying family member is a citizen of a country outside of the EU, he or she needs to apply for a residence card. Since 1 May 2014, registration of right of residence for EU citizens with the Migration Agency is no longer required. Citizens of Switzerland require a Swedish residence permit if they wish to stay for longer than three months.

The migration process in Sweden has become more demanding and the Migration Agency requires more information than it did previously. The processing time at the Migration Agency was affected by the refugee crisis in 2015 but the processing times are now back to normal.

Short-term transfers

Visas

In what circumstances is a visa necessary for short-term travellers? How are short-term visas obtained?

In principle, non-EU nationals need a visa to enter Sweden for short-term travel. Some nationals are exempt from the requirement of a visa.

Some requirements differ from country to country and the requirements may change depending on the current circumstances. It is therefore important to check what applies in each case. The visa should be applied for at the Swedish embassy or consulate in the home country or the country of residence. To be granted a visa, an invitation from a Swedish company is required. The applicant must show that he or she has enough money for the stay and for the home trip. Health insurance is also required to cover the cost of becoming ill during the visit to Sweden. The processing time for a visa is approximately two weeks, but it varies between countries. A recommendation is to apply for a visa at least two months before the planned travel date.

With a visa from Sweden, it is also possible to visit other countries within the Schengen area.

For nationals who do not need a visa to enter Sweden, the 90-day rule also applies, meaning the person may spend 90 days during a 180-day period in the Schengen area.

Restrictions

What are the main restrictions on a business visitor?

A Schengen visa is time-limited and valid for up to 90 days per half a year. If the intention is to stay longer than 90 days, a residence permit for visits should be applied for instead. A person who has been in the Schengen area for 90 days needs to be outside of Schengen for 90 days before he or she can apply for a new visa. It is possible to apply for a Schengen visa with several entries to Sweden. Such a visa is valid for a maximum of 90 days per half a year during a maximum period of five years. If a person has special reasons, he or she may receive a visa for a longer period (D visa). D visas are valid throughout the Schengen area, but are considered in accordance with national rules and can be applied for up to one year.

The main restriction of a business visitor is the limited scope of activities one can perform during a business trip. On a business visit, a fair can be visited or a customer can be visited to market a product, or to negotiate a contract, or executives can conduct a management meeting, etc. Swedish immigration law does not contain a clear definition of permitted activities during a business trip.

It is quite often difficult to decide whether an activity can be exercised as a business visitor. It is therefore recommended to contact the competent immigration authority in Sweden and check whether the intended activities are allowed under the business traveller status.

Foreigners often abuse a business trip for employment activities that legally require a work permit. This is considered as an illegal stay in Sweden and can have serious legal consequences for both employer and employee, such as fines and, in aggravating circumstances, a prison sentence.

Short-term training

Is work authorisation or immigration permission needed to give or receive short-term training?

There are some exceptions from the requirement of a work permit; for example, for employees who participate in practical experience, internal training or other skills development at a company in an international group for up to three months in total over a period of 12 months. A business visa is, however, required for some nationals.

Swedish immigration law does not provide explicit regulations within this area. It is therefore recommended to check the immigration requirements with a Swedish immigration specialist.

Transit

Are transit visas required to travel through your country? How are these obtained? Are they only required for certain nationals?

Yes, all nationals who need a visa to visit Sweden as a tourist or business visitor also need a visa to transit Sweden. A national who can enter the Schengen area can also transit a Schengen country. A national who is an EU or European Free Trade Association citizen, a holder of a Schengen visa, a long-stay visa or residence permit from one of the Schengen countries or is from a country whose citizens do not need a visa to visit the Schengen area, can enter the Schengen area. For nationals who must apply for a visa, it should be applied for at the Swedish embassy or consulate in the country where the applicant resides.

Visa waivers and fast-track entry

Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?

No visa waiver or fast track entry programmes are available in Sweden. However, a visa-exempted citizen (see www.government.se/government-policy/migration-and-asylum/list-of-foreign-citizens-who-require-visa-for-entry-into-sweden/) can travel to Sweden as soon as his or her work permit has been granted. He or she must have his or her biometrics, photo and fingerprints taken for his or her residence permit cards, in Sweden. Visa-required citizens must leave their biometrics at an embassy and receive their residence permit card before travelling to Sweden.

Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

The two main categories are international transfer and local hire. In both cases, a work permit is normally required from the first day of work. If the length of the assignment is more than three months, a residence permit is also required. The work and residence permit is applied for at the same time.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

The employer will start the process by completing an offer of employment that can be made online. If it is a local hire, the position must have been advertised within the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland for at least 10 days before the application for a work permit can be submitted.

When the offer of employment has been completed an opinion from the relevant union should be arranged for. The union must, in each application for a work permit, be given the opportunity to confirm that employment conditions (such as salary, insurances and working time) are in line with Swedish collective agreements. When all the required documents are complete, the application can be submitted online with relevant documents attached. An application fee to the Migration Agency needs to be paid when submitting the application.

After the Migration Agency has granted a permit, the individual must provide his or her biometrics (fingerprints and photo). For nationals requiring a visa to enter Sweden, this needs to be done at the Swedish embassy in the country where the applicant resides. After three to four weeks, the applicant will receive a residence permit card and it is not until then that the applicant can travel to Sweden and start work as from the first validity date of the permit. The applicant does not need to hand the passport in to the embassy, as it is sufficient to show the passport.

Nationals not needing a visa to enter Sweden can travel to Sweden and start work as from the first validity date of the official decision from the Migration Agency. The applicant must then visit the Migration Agency permit unit to fulfil the biometric requirements to receive the residence permit card. The card will be sent to a Swedish address within one to two weeks.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

A work permit can normally be granted for as long as the work continues, or for two years at a maximum. It can be extended for another two years thereafter. Employees who are to work for a shorter period than three months in Sweden must apply for a work permit at the Swedish embassy in the country of residence. This application cannot be submitted online. After four years with a work permit (without interruption), a permanent residence permit can be applied for, provided that the intention is to settle permanently in Sweden.

During the first 24 months, the work permit is linked to the specific employer and occupation indicated in the decision. A new permit must be applied for if the employee is offered a new job during this period. Once the application has been submitted to the Migration Agency, the employee is permitted to begin working for the new employer before receiving a decision, provided that the application was submitted before the previous permit expired.

If an employee has had a work permit for 24 months and is granted an extension, he or she is permitted to change employer without applying for a new work permit, provided the employee is in the same occupation. If the new job is in a different occupation, the employee must apply for a new work permit.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

Normally, the processing time at the Migration Agency is between 10 and 20 working days if a company certified by the Migration Agency submits the application. During the refugee crisis in 2015, the processing time was heavily delayed (especially for extensions of permits). Firms certified by the Migration Agency have a fast-track procedure, which is quicker than normal processing time. If an application is incomplete and the Migration Agency needs to request additional information, the processing time can be up to four months or longer.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

The applicant needs to have been offered terms of employment that are on par with those set by Swedish collective agreements, or that are customary within the occupation or industry. The salary needs to be equivalent to that set by Swedish collective agreements or what is customary within the occupation or industry. The applicant also needs complete insurance coverage (health insurance, life insurance, insurance for occupational injury at work and pension insurance). The employer also needs to be able to show proof of insurance if the Migration Agency requests it.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

The Migration Agency follows the requirements stipulated in the immigration law. A work permit will only be granted if the applicant and the Swedish employer meet all criteria for obtaining a work permit. Some terms in the immigration law have not been defined very precisely, which gives some room for discretionary interpretations of the law.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

There are no specific special routes for high net worth individuals or investors. They can apply for a residence permit for self-employed persons if they intend to stay in Sweden for longer than three months. There are special rules for individuals performing self-employed activities. Extensive information and documentation need to be submitted proving significant experience, possession of sufficient funds and a business plan showing that the business can support the applicant. The Migration Agency will assess the business plan from a financial perspective. The processing time to obtain a residence permit for the self-employed is unfortunately very long; it is currently approximately two years.

For stays shorter than three months, the individual should apply for an ordinary business visa if this is required, depending on nationality.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

No.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

There are some exemptions from the requirement of a work permit in Sweden; for example, specialists who work in Sweden for an international group for less than one year in total. A residence permit must be applied for if the stay in Sweden will be longer than three months. There are no clear definitions of a specialist, but the skills should be hard to find in Sweden. It is up to the employer and the employee to decide if the individual should be regarded as a specialist or not. If the individual does not work in an international group, there is no special route for highly skilled individuals and he or she must apply for an ordinary work permit.

A visiting researcher who is qualified to pursue postgraduate studies based on studies at a higher education institution and who has been chosen to conduct research in Sweden does not require a work permit. A residence permit is required for stays of longer than three months.

Some nationalities need a visa, however, and if the stay is longer than three months, a residence permit needs to be applied for.

A non-EU national with a university degree or five years’ professional experience and a salary equivalent to one and a half times the average gross salary in Sweden may apply for an EU Blue Card. The advantages of holding an EU Blue Card compared with an ordinary Swedish work and residence permit are, however, not major.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

No. Unless the person is born to a Swedish parent, there are no special routes for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent.

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

Minimum salary levels are not stipulated in Swedish law. The different unions recommend minimum salary levels, based on yearly salary statistics. The minimum salary set by the Migration Agency is currently 13,000 kronor per month before taxes, but the salary needs to be equivalent to that set by Swedish collective agreements or what is customary within the occupation or industry.

There are no clear guidelines because there are too many different professions, collective agreements and other variables to consider and it is difficult to keep up-to-date information on actual salary and employment conditions for all different professions. However, the Migration Agency considers the minimum salary would generally be 29,000 kronor per month for engineers with a bachelor’s degree and 31,000 kronor for engineers with a master’s degree and some years of experience, including salary and other allowances paid out to the employee (May 2015).

The union for engineers in Sweden considers that the minimum salary for a highly educated engineer should be 30,000 kronor per month, according to statistics.

The salary levels mentioned above are for employees assigned to Sweden for a limited period and who receive salary and allowances from their employer abroad. If the employment is in Sweden, for a certain time or ongoing, the salary should be adjusted to conditions on the market. This salary is between 30,500 and 43,000 kronor for an IT specialist with an engineering degree and a few years of experience.

The Migration Agency makes its own judgement in each case and may grant a permit even if the union considers the salary to be too low.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

A quota system does not exist in Sweden. When hiring somebody locally, the position must first be advertised for at least 10 days in Sweden, the EU and EEA before submitting an application for a work permit.

Advertising is not required if a person with an overseas employer is assigned to perform work in Sweden. Nor is it required if an employee is transferred within a company group as long as the position remains abroad. However, if the position is moved to Sweden (local hire), this counts as a new recruitment and means that the position must be advertised and the person the company intends to employ must apply for a new work permit. Advertising is not required when a company employs a person for a leading position (eg, a managing director).

If the employee changes his or her profession or is promoted and will be performing different tasks, he or she must apply for a new permit and the new position must be advertised, even though the employer is the same. The position does not need to be advertised when the employee applies for an extension of the permit, provided the employment is the same as previously.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

In certain circumstances where an individual has already travelled to Sweden to visit an employer and been offered a job by the employer, the individual can apply for a work permit within Sweden if there is a shortage of labour within the profession and if his or her leaving the country to apply for a permit would make it difficult for the employer to run their business. These applications are not handled under the certification process and the processing time can be extensive.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

The terms of the employment need to be equivalent to those set by the Swedish collective agreements or what is customary within the occupation or industry. An opinion from the relevant Swedish union must be obtained. The employer also needs to provide insurance coverage for health insurance, life insurance, insurance for occupational injury at work and pension insurance. There is no minimum amount of time that the applicant must have been employed by the employer.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

A contractor can obtain a work permit for Sweden. The Swedish customer or the actual employer in the home country needs to verify that the working conditions are equivalent to what is standard on the Swedish market and according to collective agreements and the contractor needs to have insurance coverage for health, life, injury at work and pension.

If the applicant is employed by a Swedish contractor, the work permit should be valid for work for this company and not with the company that buys the services from the Swedish contractor and for which the applicant will perform services.

If the applicant is employed by a foreign contractor, it may be necessary to verify the employment conditions given by the Swedish hirer (ie, the company that buys the services) and the work permit will be valid for work for the Swedish hirer.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

There is no formal skill assessment required by the Migration Agency in order to obtain a work permit. It is, however, required to state the level of education and previous work experience in the application in order for the Migration Agency to judge if the salary offered is in line with the education and experience.

Extensions and variations

Short-term to long-term status

Can a short-term visa be converted in-country into longer-term authorisations? If so, what is the process?

Short-term visas cannot be converted into longer-term authorisations. A work permit must be applied for. An individual with a visa who wants to apply for a Swedish work permit first needs to leave Sweden before the application for a work or residence permit can be submitted. When the permit has been approved and the applicant has submitted biometric information (fingerprints and photo) and received the residence permit card, the applicant can enter Sweden and start work.

Long-term extension

Can long-term immigration permission be extended?

A work permit may be granted for as long as the work will continue or for two years at a maximum. It can thereafter be extended for another two years. After four years with a work permit, a permanent residence permit may be granted. There are no restrictions on the number of extensions during the four-year period.

If an individual is going to keep working in Sweden after the permit has expired, he or she must apply for an extension of the permit before the current permit expires. The person is entitled to be in Sweden during the waiting period if the application is submitted before the previous permit expires. If the employee has had a permit for six months or longer, he or she is also entitled to work during the processing time. This also applies if the previous permit expires before the person has received a decision regarding the extension application.

To be granted an extension of a work permit, the salary and other employment conditions must at least matched those in the previous offer of employment. Documents showing salary and any allowances received during the previous permit period, proof of insurance coverage and information of how many days the applicant has spent in Sweden must be attached to the application for a new permit. The Migration Agency will compare the calculated income with actual received income and if the reimbursement was lower than offered, the reason for it must be given.

Exit and re-entry

What are the rules on and implications of exit and re-entry for work permits?

Non-EU citizens holding a valid residence permit and a valid passport can travel freely between the Schengen states during a maximum of 90 days within a six-month period, counted from the first journey. There are no limitations on exiting and re-entering Sweden for travel outside the Schengen area, provided one has a valid work and residence permit.

Permanent residency and citizenship

How can immigrants qualify for permanent residency or citizenship?

If a person has had a work permit for four years during the previous seven years, he or she can qualify for permanent residency. It is a requirement that the individual has actually been employed and has worked during these four years. If the individual has spent significant parts of the permit period outside Sweden or has not been working, this may affect the chances of receiving a permanent residence permit.

To become a Swedish citizen, an individual must have been living in Sweden on a long-term basis for a certain period of time. As a rule, the individual must have been resident in Sweden for a continuous period of five years. Habitual residence means that one is a long-term resident and intends to remain in Sweden. Whether a person is allowed to count all of his or her time in Sweden as a period of habitual residence depends on the reasons for settling in Sweden and on which permit he or she had during the period of residence. The main rule is that time with a residence permit that leads to a permanent residence permit is counted as a period of habitual residence. Non-EU citizens who are married to a Swedish citizen and have lived with them in Sweden for the previous two years may apply for Swedish citizenship after three years. Other requirements, such as having no criminal record, also need to be fulfilled for Swedish citizenship to be granted.

End of employment

Must immigration permission be cancelled at the end of employment in your jurisdiction?

If the employment comes to an end during the permit’s validity period, the Migration Agency may cancel the permit if the employee has not been offered a new job within three months of leaving the job.

If the person has a new employment or a new employer, a new work permit must generally be applied for. If for any reason the employment ends before the work permit expires, the Migration Agency should be notified and the residence permit card be returned; this is, however, not a legal requirement.

Employee restrictions

Are there any specific restrictions on a holder of employment permission?

The restrictions on a holder of a work permit are that if he or she changes job or employer during the first two years, a new permit must be applied for. During the following two years, he or she can work for any unnamed employer or sponsor. If the employee is promoted and the tasks will be different, a new permit must be applied for. Another restriction is that the person can only have one job (ie, may not be working for more than one employer). This is also a restriction for higher management who might want to have, for example, a board commission in another organisation, which is not possible in Sweden.

Dependants

Eligibility

Who qualifies as a dependant?

According to Swedish immigration law, the following are considered dependants:

  • spouses, common-law spouses or registered partners. If not married, the main applicant and the spouse must be able to prove that they have lived together in the home country; and
  • unmarried children who are under 21.
Conditions and restrictions

Are dependants automatically allowed to work or attend school?

If the main applicant obtains a work permit for six months or longer, dependants can also obtain a work permit for the same period as the main applicant and can work for any employer. Dependants are automatically allowed to attend school. However, they must first obtain a Swedish personal identity number. In order to obtain a personal identity number, the intended stay in Sweden must be at least 12 months.

Access to social benefits

What social benefits are dependants entitled to?

If a permit is granted for fewer than 12 months, the person cannot register with the Swedish Population Register at the Tax Authority and is, therefore, not eligible for any Swedish social benefits. It is, therefore, important that he or she has sufficient insurance coverage.

If a person is registered with the Swedish Population Register, he or she is most likely entitled to Swedish social benefits. Some benefits are based on residence and other benefits are based on work. If a person intends to live in Sweden for 12 months or longer, he or she is most likely entitled to the benefits based on residence, such as child allowance and parental allowance on a guarantee level. If a person is working in Sweden, he or she is entitled to the benefits based on work, such as sickness allowance and parental allowance above guarantee level. The amount of work benefits is based on income level.

There are some special rules for employees who are employed by their home company and are on a temporary assignment in Sweden. There can also be special rules for dependants. Contacting the Social Insurance Office for confirmation of what the entitlements are in each specific case is always recommended.

Other requirements, restrictions and penalties

Criminal convictions

Are prior criminal convictions a barrier to obtaining immigration permission?

Yes, prior criminal convictions can be a barrier and the immigration board may refuse to grant an employment permit or visa in such cases.

Penalties for non-compliance

What are the penalties for companies and individuals for non-compliance with immigration law? How are these applied in practice?

If non-compliant with Swedish immigration law, both employee and employer can be fined and, with aggravating circumstances, be sent to prison. The fine amount is one Swedish price-base amount (currently 46,500 kronor) for each employee. An employer who has employed an individual illegally for more than three months may be fined two whole price-base amounts. The employee will also probably have to leave the country.

Language requirements

Are there any minimum language requirements for migrants?

No.

Medical screening

Is medical screening required to obtain immigration permission?

No.

Secondment

Is there a specific procedure for employees on secondment to a client site in your jurisdiction?

No. Regular immigration procedures are used in the case of secondments. See also question 24.

Update and trends

Key developments of the past year

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

Key developments of the past year40 Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

Government agencies are beginning to cooperate with each other more closely and are sharing more information than before. For example, the Tax Agency and the Migration Agency have started to share information on residence registration, and the two agencies are also said to have limited direct access to each other’s databases.

The Migration Agency is taking a stricter approach towards applications for permanent residence, and has drawn up a legal position paper stating that an employee who is refused a permanent residence permit may not be granted a new work permit immediately after returning to his or her country of origin. A new work permit may not be granted until seven years after the first one as only one permit, for up to four years, is granted during any seven-year period.

If a permit is refused, the employee must return to his or her country of origin and he or she cannot reapply for one until seven years after having received the first one.

For example, an employee who has had a work permit in Sweden for the past four years and who reapplies from his or her country of origin cannot receive a new one for another three years. On the other hand, a new work permit may be granted if the employee had one for four years but three or fewer of them were during the past seven years.