Navigating Immigration System Changes: Key Considerations For Hiring Foreign Nationals In Sweden

In the three months since Sweden implemented its upgraded immigration system, adjudications have been made in less than 30 days—improving upon previous processing times that could take up to six months...
Sweden Immigration
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In the three months since Sweden implemented its upgraded immigration system, adjudications have been made in less than 30 days—improving upon previous processing times that could take up to six months—and overall responding to an underlying talent attraction issue in the country.

While the updated model has been a step in the right direction to increase Sweden's competitiveness, talent shortages remain a significant issue within the tech and public sectors. In the IT industry alone, it is estimated there will be a shortage of 18,000 professionals in the coming years.

While sourcing talent from abroad remains the main solution for meeting this demand, companies have also shifted their strategies to look more at what the local market can offer. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular for Swedish companies to hire foreign nationals who are already in Sweden on a work permit, especially in shortage industries such as IT and manufacturing and production.

While hiring talent from within Sweden certainly has benefits in terms of processing times, there are key steps to be taken before onboarding a candidate to ensure that the employer and employee do not face issues in the future when it comes to their renewal or permanent residence eligibility.

Changing employers in Sweden

A foreign national with a Swedish work and residence permit who has held the permit for less than two years will have the permit linked to both their SSYK code (a code linked to one's occupation, otherwise known as a labour code) and employer.

It is only after holding the work and residence permit for more than two years that it is attached to a particular occupation. The latter is more complex because oftentimes candidates are offered similar roles to their existing occupation without a work change being submitted.

Work change applications: a closer look

As an example, let's consider a hypothetical job change in practice. An employee has worked for a large IT company in Sweden for two and a half years as a software developer (SSYK 2512). Their permit is still valid for another year and a half.

The individual wishes to change employer and applies for an open job as a Systems Analyst at a different company. Since the permit is no longer tied to their current employer, one could argue that no further steps are necessary as the occupations are very similar.

Unfortunately, this is not how the Migration Agency views this scenario. A job change is required before the candidate starts. At the latest, during the renewal period (four years of holding a permit) which coincidentally will also likely be the Permanent Residence eligibility process, the Migration Agency will likely request the job ad details for that Systems Analyst role and why a work change was not submitted at the time.

In the past, the Migration Agency had been relatively lenient in assessing employment changes if an argument could be made that the position remained within the same SSYK code.

Unfortunately, over time the authorities have become increasingly strict about what they deem the same occupation. Case officers review and request advertisement details about the job role or any other previous roles in Sweden. They also take note of any failed work change applications.

Furthermore, the Migration Agency is also looking at the complete insurance history for the period of residence spent in Sweden. All possible employment/salary gaps are questioned in detail.


Before making an offer to a new candidate, it is recommended to review the previous employment conditions along with the updated employment conditions (occupation, SSYK code and occupation description) to determine whether the changes in employment conditions warrant the submission of a work change application.

As part of this process, it is strongly advised to complete a thorough immigration history assessment. This should involve reviewing the candidate's entire immigration history whilst they are in Sweden.

It is crucial to ensure that when hiring a foreign national who already holds a Swedish work and residence permit, in their time already spent in the country, they have been fully compliant, and that their previous employer(s) have as well.

Many other factors may affect the outcome of the work change application. Missing job ad details, such as health coverage and compensation discrepancies, are among these factors.

By completing a thorough assessment before hiring the candidate, the business will know ahead of time of any potential issues or red flags that may arise should they wish to hire which could affect compliance for both the business and the candidate.

Mitigating risk

Preemptive measures can be taken to mitigate risk for your business and future employees, including:

  • Consider integrating immigration history assessments as part of your onboarding process.
  • Before signing a job offer with the candidate, ensure their previous SSYK code and job description are reviewed against the upcoming role. Even if roles sound similar or have the same SSYK code, it can trigger a job change application requirement.
  • Ensurethe role has been advertisedon the Swedish Arbetsformedlingen website for the required 10-day period. This will provide easy access to advertisement details should there be an additional request from the authorities on whether the previous and current roles are the same.
  • Trainthe talent acquisition teams on applicable criteria. Empowering talent acquisition professionals or recruiters to identify discrepancies in job titles can mitigate issues for both the employee and employer. This will ensure a seamless immigration process.
  • Engageyour Government Relations team and proactively raise these issues with your union. Discussing these topics with unions and drawing their attention to the Migration Agency facilitates change.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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