Immigration Alert – Doubled minimum salary requirement for work permits in Sweden
As of October 1st, 2023, the minimum salary requirement for work permits in Sweden will be raised from a gross salary of SEK 13,000 per month to 80 % of the gross median salary at the time of filing the application. As of today’s figures, this means that after October 1st, 2023, a work permit application may only be approved if the gross salary is at least SEK 26,560, regardless of whether the employee works full-time or part-time.
On November 30th, 2022, the Swedish Parliament voted to allow the government to raise the minimum gross salary requirement for work permits at a time of their choosing. To this end, the Swedish government released a memorandum on May 4th, 2023, detailing how and when the minimum salary requirement will be raised.
According to the current legislation for work permits in Sweden, the employer needs to offer the employee a salary that ensures that they can sustain themselves. As a part of the sustenance requirement, the Migration Agency decided to implement a minimum gross salary requirement of SEK 13,000. This minimum gross salary was considered too low by both the previous and current governments, with wide parliamentary support. The belief is that it is necessary to raise the minimum salary requirement to avoid a competition of low salaries for immigrant workers to Sweden and to avoid exploitation of immigrant workers. By doing so, the government hopes to combat the serious issue of exploitative employers who hire foreign workers on salaries that are too low and to strengthen the rights and status of foreign workers in the Swedish labor market.
In their memorandum, the Swedish government announced that the minimum salary requirement for work permits will be raised on October 1st, 2023, and that the new requirement will be 80 % of the latest published median salary in Sweden. Based on the latest statistics from 2021, this means that the new gross minimum salary requirement after October 1st, 2023, will be at least SEK 26,560 per month, thereby more than doubling the previous requirement. The gross minimum will change on a yearly basis.
What’s the change?
The Alien’s Act has previously stipulated that a foreigner’s employment should make it ‘possible to sustain themselves’ (Swedish: möjligt att försörja sig’), however this has been amended to instead state that the employment must make it ‘possible to achieve good sustenance’ (Swedish: uppnå en god försörjning), which is a higher level than what has previously been required.
By ‘good sustenance’ the government states that this can vary over time but that it is necessary to have a salary which is at least 80 % of the median salary published by the Swedish Central Bureau of Statistics. The median salary published at the time of filing the work permit application should apply when a decision is made, regardless of whether updated statistics have been published since the time of filing. In practice, this change effectively more than doubles the previous minimum salary requirement in Sweden. In addition, there will be no transitional regulations, meaning that these changes will also affect application that have been submitted before October 1st 2023 but processed by the Swedish Migration Agency after this date. The change will only affect applications for Swedish national work permits, meaning that applications for permits based on EU directives, i.e., Blue Card, ICT, or seasonal work, will not be affected.
It should also be noted that the increased minimum salary requirement does not change the previous and still applicable requirement that the salary and employment conditions may not be worse than what follows from Swedish collective agreements or industry standard. This means that higher-paid occupations may still require a salary that is larger than 80 % of the median salary in Sweden.
Furthermore, an important aspect is that the new minimum salary requirement will apply to all work permit applications, regardless of whether it is a first-time or extension application. This will mean that an immigrant worker may have their extension application rejected if their salary does not meet the new requirement, even if the salary was sufficient with their last application.
It should also be mentioned that no changes have been made regarding employment rates, meaning that it is still possible to employ a foreign worker on a part-time basis as long as the individual achieves a ‘good sustenance’ by receiving the gross minimum salary.
In order to avoid exploitation of immigrant workers it is important that they do not receive less than the minimum salary in the receiving country. Sweden does not have minimum salaries, rather the Swedish model is built on the notion of salaries being defined in collective agreements. Having the immigration legislation adhere to the Swedish model would mean that work permits should not be approved if the offered salary is lower than what collective agreements allow for. Incidentally, this is how the Swedish work permit legislation has been for many years. By raising the minimum salary requirement in Sweden to 80 % of the median salary in Sweden, the government has taken a step away from the Swedish model, which assumes that employers and unions agree together on acceptable salaries for each occupation. The median salary, on the other hand, does not consider salaries by occupation, but rather Sweden as a whole.
In addition, some of the consequences of the changes foreseen with the new minimum salary requirement are that it will be more difficult for businesses in Sweden to recruit workers from third countries for occupations that generally have lower salaries.
It is important that there is a requirement of a reasonable minimum salary as this prevents not only exploitation of immigrant workers but also the risk of economical alienation in the society by having an income that is too low. However, the proposed minimum salary will impact certain industries where there is a deficit in competence in Sweden and specifically entry level positions within these industries will be more difficult to fill giving Sweden a lesser competitive edge.
To be ready for the changes to come, we recommend companies to review currently offered salaries to their non-EU/EEA populations as well as their current compensation policies. In case salary levels are under the threshold, they will need to be increased to meet the new requirements.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us:
Director, Head of Immigration - Global Employer Services
+46 70 080 21 60
Ivana Jaksic Bratel
Assistant Manager, Immigration - Global Employer Services
+46 70 080 35 21
Consultant, Immigration - Global Employer Services
+46 70 080 36 94
+46 75 246 26 00