Residency restrictions eased for students and researchers

The Swedish government is proposing to ease restrictions on employment rights for students and researchers from 1 January 2020.

Under the new regulations researchers and students who have completed their stay in Sweden, either in a research position or studies leading to a degree, will have the right to stay in Sweden for up to one year to seek employment or establish themselves as self employed.

Currently students can only stay on for six months for this purpose and researchers have no rights to stay on at all.

The Swedish government in July presented a 251-page document to the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) with proposals for new rules and regulations for residence permits for researchers and students in higher education. The proposals will be put to a vote in parliament this autumn.

The proposal would implement the European Commission directive on students and researchers and is an important step to strengthen Sweden’s ability to attract talent from abroad that can contribute to competence and knowledge in Sweden.

The system for claiming funding for living costs will also be made more flexible, and an option for awarding longer research stays of more than one year will be permitted.

The legislation will open up opportunities for students and researchers to visit and work or study in other member countries of the European Union while they are working on a doctoral degree in Sweden, according to a statement from the Ministry of Education and Research.

The legislation is a response to a long-term dissatisfaction among Swedish universities regarding the treatment of doctoral candidates, as reported by University World News.

The Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers (SULF) has for many years assisted foreign citizens studying for doctoral degrees in Sweden who face residency problems.

SULF has assisted several students in their cases in the Migration Court. On 5 September the SULF magazine Universitetsläraren reported on a case where the court ruled in favour of a doctoral student, Alex Adusei Agyemang, who graduated at Lund University in March 2019 but was refused a residence permit because he had spent six months of his doctoral studies at a research institution in Barcelona.

“At SULF we are very happy about this judgment because we have had several cases where doctoral students have been denied permanent residence permits for the same reason, that they have conducted a period of their postgraduate education in a country other than Sweden,” said Åsa Rybo Landelius, a SULF official.

“In this particular case, time abroad was a compulsory part of the postgraduate educational programme, so it felt very strange that he would be penalised for this compared to other doctoral candidates,” she said.

In addition, she points out that it is common for postgraduate students to spend time at a university abroad. “SULF has worked on these issues for many years and gives advice to members who end up in similar situations. It will be very satisfying to be able to refer to this judgment.”