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Sweden post-study visa rules “unfair and complicated”

Senior political, academic and business figures have called for Sweden to relax its strict post-study visa, which requires students and researchers at Swedish universities to leave the country just 10 days after completion of their studies.

MEP Cecilia Malmström has criticised Sweden's tough student visa regulations. Photo:  Security & Defence Agenda.MEP Cecilia Malmström has criticised Sweden's tough student visa regulations. Photo: Security & Defence Agenda.

"Sweden cannot continue to be the country that provides training of the highest calibre, but then does not take advantage of the skills of the people who have received it"

Sweden’s tough student visa regulations make it “the worst in the entire EU”

In an article published in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, MEP Cecilia Wikström and Per Eriksson, Rector of Lund University, wrote that Sweden’s tough visa regulations make it “the worst in the entire EU”.

They called for a new regulatory framework that “emphasises education, research and innovation” in order for Sweden to retain skilled migrants.

“Sweden cannot continue to be the country that provides training of the highest calibre, but then does not take advantage of the skills of the people who have received it,” they said.

Sweden’s stringent regulations mean it is losing out on skilled graduates to other EU countries such as Germany, where foreign students are allowed to remain for 18 months to find a job after graduating they claim.

Wikström and Eriksson are the latest to speak out against the regulations. Last year an open letter published by UNT newspaper and signed by three major trade union bosses branded the current regulations “unfair and complicated” and called for students to be allowed to stay in Sweden for six months upon completion of their studies.

The six month post-graduation residence permit was proposed in 2011 by the parliamentary committee for circular migration and development, which was set up in 2009 to identify factors that influence the movement of migrants between Sweden and their country of origin.

Despite the strict regulations for student migrants, Sweden has traditionally been a welcoming society for immigrants, and restrictions on work visas are less stringent. Foreign migrants who hold a residence work permit for work are able to obtain permanent residency after four years.

Wikström and Eriksson argue that every country in Europe will need “a large influx of people” from outside the EU in order to offset the problem of an ageing population, citing figures from the European Commission.

Sweden’s stringent regulations mean it is losing out on skilled graduates to other EU countries

“It is clear that Europe needs to attract and retain qualified staff,” they wrote. “Only then can we maintain and strengthen our competitiveness in an increasingly globalized world.”

According to the Swedish Institute, a government agency,  71 occupations are on the labour shortage list, compared to 63 in March 2011 and 35 in 2009.

Wikström is the rapporteur for a new EU Directive that aims to promote Europe as a world centre for studies and scientific research by making it easier for non-EU students and researchers to stay in EU member states. Proposed changes include introducing a 60-day turnaround limit for visa applications and greater intra-EU mobility.

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