New migration policies raise concerns over foreign students

The difficulties facing international students in securing Swedish residence visas in the wake of changes in the legislation in July 2021 are likely to multiply when the country’s new minority coalition government starts to implement tougher immigration-related provisions contained in a recently signed cooperation agreement.

The Tidö Agreement (Swedish: Tidöavtalet), a 62-page agreement between the centre-right Christian Democrats, Liberals and Moderates and the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), was signed on 14 October at Tidö castle outside Västerås after one month of negotiations.

The agreement is the basis upon which the new government, with Moderate Ulf Kristersson as prime minister, will govern following parliamentary elections held on 11 September.

While not formally part of the government because of a prior agreement among mainstream parties to keep it out, the SD (known to be anti-immigration) will support the coalition in parliament and, for the first time, will wield formalised influence over government policy, including the latest proposals around immigration.

In terms of the Tidö agreement, an investigation is to be undertaken “to come to grips with abuse of residence permits for study”.

Such an investigation will also map the different forms of abuse to which the residence permit is subjected and conduct a comparison of the Swedish permit with those granted by other European Union countries.

It will also consider the introduction of “further options for rejecting an application for a residence permit” where there are suspicions of abuse.

Furthermore, the agreement requires “further investigation” into the possibility of reducing the work rights of permit holders and introducing restrictions around applying for residence permits from within the country.

Language requirements

Leader of the Liberal Party, Johan Pehrson, who is the new employment and integration minister, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper he intends to make it necessary for all citizens of Sweden to master the Swedish language.

He said he also intends to ensure that work permits are given to more people with high-level skills rather than poorly paid workers and suggested that the integration policy in Sweden needed improvement.

The Sweden Democrats, which gained 20% of the votes, promised to address growing criminality in the country, notably in the big cities.

In order to do so, the government agreement proposes the establishment of a “national social intervention force” that will apply “proven methods to prevent crime and train social workers in dealing with young people who commit or are at risk of committing crime”. The agreement also proposes the expansion of parental support programmes.

It notes that “a complete and thorough review of the criminal legislation” is under way with the aim of, among other things, increasing the punishment for violent and sexual crimes. “The police, correctional services and other authorities within the justice system will expand greatly,” it notes.

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