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Clearly, the amended Aliens Act has a considerable impact on researchers

Screenshot of the vice-chancellor's blog.

The amended Alien’s Act, which came into effect in the summer, proved to have a considerable impact on possibilities for international doctoral students and researchers to obtain a permanent residence permit in Sweden.

This is a group that in general, and especially in the early career stage, has different fixed-term positions in and outside academia and there is a risk that the self-support requirement of 18 months set by the Migration Agency will be very difficult to fulfil. Within the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (Swedish abbreviation SUHF), we have worked intensively to alert the government to the negative consequences that the change in the law entails. We have also strived to clarify that the Migration Agency has an unnecessarily stringent interpretation of the self-support requirement.

Since the change in the law entered into force, higher education institutions, and Lund University is no exception, have been contacted by worried doctoral students and researchers who had counted on a permanent residence permit. This anxiety is justified and shared by the higher education institutions. We need a highly educated workforce in Sweden and it has not helped that the consultation round procedure has been inadequate and that the change in the law has happened without a sufficient impact analysis for the group comprising doctoral students and researchers.

In September, SUHF submitted a letter to four government ministers. SUHF’s letter pointed out the most acute aspect, namely that the change in the law was applied retroactively. We consequently demanded that the Migration Agency should change its practice regarding the self-support requirement for cases received by the Migration Agency before 20 July 2021. This is because open cases relating to permanent residence permits received during the period when other requirements applied are being processed according to the new legislation.

Subsequently, SUHF has taken a further in-depth look at the entire legislation process. We have strived to map the effects of the change in the law and the Migration Agency’s interpretation of the self-support requirement, but SUHF has also strived to alert politicians to the inadequacies and negative consequences that the new requirements entail for obtaining a permanent residence permit. Now, the first letter is being followed up with a deeper analysis, statistics and impact description and this detailed letter has been sent to the government.

Skrivelser - SUHF (in Swedish)

SUHF wants to highlight that the legislation process is encumbered by serious deficiencies, perhaps the most serious being that the consultation round procedure was very fast and that few higher education institutions were included as consultation respondents. SUHF considers that doctoral students, researchers and those accompanying members of these groups need to be exempted from the specific self-support requirement or that there needs to be a change in the Migration Agency’s definition of 18 months’ employment from the date of a decision on a case. Furthermore, SUHF proposes that the legislation be amended so that all types of work, including studies, can be counted and an appropriate permit can be applied for from within Sweden if a person has a permit for looking for work, not just a work permit.

Within SUHF, we are following developments closely and hope that the government and the Migration Agency rethink – and think in the right way. It cannot be the intention that a country such as Sweden, which is a knowledge nation, makes it more difficult for highly educated people to stay and work in Sweden. It is worth noting that almost one-third of doctoral students at Swedish higher education institutions come from countries outside the EU/EEA. In the period from 2017 to 2020, more than 2 000 doctoral students applied for a permanent residence permit and 87 per cent of the applications were granted. During the same period, close to 1 300 accompanying adults and children applied for a permanent residence permit. These people are an enormous asset for Sweden and for us to be able to continue as an internationally competitive knowledge nation.

Erik Renström, Vice-chancellor