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"The change of this law affects individuals, higher education institutions and Sweden"

Published: 18 October 2021

As I believe that many of you have already noticed in the media, the Swedish Aliens Act was changed on 20 July 2021 with new special requi­re­ments for perma­nent residence permit.

The change in the law means that a permanent residence permit may only be granted if the applicant can support him-/herself. As the Act (2005: 716) does not specify or clearly define how long-term support should be, the Swedish Migration Agency has prepared an internal practice that requires the person in question at the time of the examination to show at least 18 months' future support in the form of work (or self-employment). Even permanent employment that begins with probationary employment is not necessarily accepted. The Migration Agency has also not informed about any transitional provisions, which means that open cases concerning permanent residence permits that were received under the previous legislation are now processed according to the new one.

"Serious consequences for the entire higher education sector"

The law and the practice that has been developed affect doctoral students and postdocs in particular, but it also has serious negative consequences for the entire higher education sector in terms of competitiveness and quality based on an international comparison. This means that it also challenges and complicates the government's own vision for Sweden as a nation of knowledge and directly counteracts the intention set out in the latest research policy bill; the government's will and focus on strengthening internationalization as it is an important contribution to increasing the quality of higher education and research.

In response to the report "A long-term sustainable migration policy" (SOU 2020:54) and the related Law Council referral, The Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF) sent a letter to the Government in April outlining the negative consequences of the new bill for Swedish universities and colleges were clearly highlighted. When the law passed despite this, SUHF sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance in September regarding these new requirements. SUHF will also clarify identified challenges and their consequences in a further letter.

Marked position

Luleå University of Technology has also clearly marked its stance and criticism of the new law. Pro Vice-Chancellor Pär Weihed has been interviewed in media on several occasions and the university board has sent a letter (see attached pdf) to relevant ministries in which we point out the negative consequences we see at individual level, university level and national level. We have also asked our external partners to make their voices heard in various contexts in order to highlight the importance of a change taking place as soon as possible.

With these letters and other measures, we work to ensure that 1) transitional provisions are introduced, where the Swedish Migration Agency changes its practice regarding the maintenance requirement for the cases received before 20 July 2021; and 2) that a general exemption should in future be introduced for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient in the narrow sense defined by the Swedish Migration Agency.

I would like to point out how incredibly important all our foreign doctoral students, researchers, teachers and support staff are to our university. In addition to your subject competence, you add new perspectives and experiences, new networks and contacts, and contribute to our university being an international, multicultural and stimulating workplace and study environment.

Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Vice-Chancellor of Luleå University of Technology

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