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Rising Work Permit Salary Threshold: Uncertain Future for Expat Workers in Sweden

A Cloud Hangs Over Expat Workers in Sweden

Sweden’s plans to more than double the salary threshold for work permit eligibility in just three weeks has non-EU residents in the country on edge. This new development threatens to upheave the lives of thousands who have built their homes in the nation.

In Their Own Words

“I’m a single mum who came to Sweden to work as a nanny, hoping for a better future for my daughter and me. With the proposed changes, thousands like me will be forced to leave and start from scratch. This feels incredibly unfair,” laments Leizel, a Filipino nanny who’s been working in Stockholm for three years.

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For many like Leizel, the new salary requirement, set at 80% of the national median, spells an uncertain future. Starting November 1st, those renewing their work permits will need to show a monthly income of at least 27,360 kronor. This is a significant leap from the current rule of a minimum of 13,000 kronor per month.

Stringent Appliant Assessment and Visa Limbo

The amended salary threshold will apply to those who submitted their applications before November, but are awaiting a decision from the authorities. Some have been waiting for over a year, feeling increasingly anxious as they anticipate their verdict.

“I applied for a new work visa in October 2022, but still haven’t received a decision,” shares Philip Ellison, a US citizen working in Småland. “If my application had been processed sooner, I would have met the original salary requirements.”

Hardworking, Overqualified, and Underpaid

Research shows that foreigners in Sweden typically work jobs below their skill level more than Swedes. The majority of locals surveyed hold degrees in fields like engineering, IT, medicine, and finance, but have found it challenging to secure a job in their preferred sector. Instead, they have taken roles in cleaning, news distribution, or fast-food industries, where Swedish skills aren’t as necessary.

The high stakes of a work permit coupled with the complexities of switching professions make it difficult for many to progress in their careers, leading to many, like Ahsan, a barista from Stockholm, feeling “ignored” and disillusioned.

Uprooting Lives

Many have built more than just careers in Sweden—families, relationships, communities. Some have children who were born and raised in Sweden. Several initially arrived on a student permit, investing heavily in their education with high hopes for a prosperous future.

A case in point is Monirul Islam Khan, whose wife completed her master’s degree from Uppsala University after the couple moved from Bangladesh seven years prior. Monirul shares the distress the couple is facing, with his wife’s health conditions being aggravated by the stress of uncertainty.

A Plea for Fairness

The expat community in Sweden is appealing to the authorities to consider their plight, especially those who have been law-abiding, tax-paying residents for several years. The future seems grim for many, including those suffering detrimental mental health effects due to the impending changes.

A Divided Opinion

Feedback from over 300 readers indicates that four out of five believe the new salary stipulation is a flawed decision. Interestingly, those endorsing the change also argue that the revised rules shouldn’t apply retroactively.

Frustration is also directed towards discriminatory employment practices. Despite Sweden touting equality, foreign job applicants often find themselves at a disadvantage, relegated to menial jobs even with high qualifications.

Speak Out, Seek Help

We are keen to hear from you about how the new salary threshold may affect you and life in Sweden in general. Your feedback is valuable, even if we cannot always respond.

Anyone in Sweden seeking support for mental health concerns is advised to contact the awareness organization Mind or dial the national health hotline 1177, which provides help in English.

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