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SULF’s office on Ferkens gränd is closed for spontaneous visits. Service by phone and email is provided as usual.

Doctoral candidate/doctoral studies
Frequently asked questions about permanent residence permit

Please note that new legislation has been introduced July 20th. You can also read more about the changes regarding permanent residency at Migrationsverket.

The Swedish parliament has approved amendments to the Aliens Act and these came into force on 20 July 2021. The new provisions will apply to everyone who applied for a permanent residence permit and did not receive a decision before 20 July 2021.

For researchers and doctoral candidates, the change in the law mainly means that self-sufficiency through work or an own company is required for a permanent residence permit to be granted. No changes have made regarding the requirement of a four-year residence permit for doctoral studies, research or work within a seven-year period, . No requirements regarding knowledge of Swedish language or Swedish society have yet been introduced for permanent residence, but it is likely that such requirements will be introduced later.

In order to be granted a permanent residence permit, it is now required that applicants are also able to support themselves through employment or their own company. As a general rule, employment must be for a period of at least 18 months at the time the decision is made in the opinion of the Swedish Migration Agency, but this time requirement may be tried in court in the future. In some cases, probationary employment may be accepted. Benefits from an unemployment insurance fund cannot be counted as sufficient support to qualify for a permanent residence permit, but certain other benefits, such as sickness benefit and parental benefit, may be counted if they are paid temporarily and during the time you are employed.

Another important change is that accompanying family members over the age of 18 must themselves meet the self-support requirement in order to be granted a permanent residence permit, and they must also have had a residence permit for at least three years. The self-support requirement does not apply to children, but they must have had a residence permit for at least three years in order to be able to obtain a permanent residence permit. If these requirements are not met, a temporary residence permit can instead be granted if you are able to support the family members. In these cases, the self-support requirement is different than in the case of permanent residence, since unemployment benefit and other forms of benefit can also be included.

In addition, you and your family members must intend to live in Sweden and have shown good conduct.

If a permanent residence permit is not granted for the applicant or a family member, a temporary residence permit can still be granted in some cases. This may apply, for example, if a doctoral candidate has not yet completed their doctoral programme, if a residence permit to seek employment for one year after completing studies or research can be granted or if you have been given a temporary job. If you apply for a permanent residence permit but do not meet the requirements according to the Swedish Migration Agency, they should assess whether you can instead be granted a temporary residence permit. However, it is a good idea to contact them and ensure that they make such an assessment.

If you are not granted a new residence permit at all, you can appeal the decision to the Migration Court. In some cases, you can also appeal a decision on a permanent residence permit even if a temporary residence permit has been granted. This applies in cases where the Swedish Migration Agency has rejected your application because they do not consider that you meet the self-support requirement or on the basis of your conduct. You may stay in Sweden while the appeal is being heard, and in most cases you will also be allowed to work during this time.

It is also possible to obtain a permanent residence permit by applying for status as a long-term resident after five years of living in Sweden. If such an application is granted, you will also receive a permanent residence permit. The requirements regarding financial support and more are somewhat different in this case. You can read more about this under the question “Can I apply for long-term resident status?

We understand that this is a difficult situation for members who are impacted by the change. The Swedish Migration Agency is responsible for answering questions about how the new law affects you. Therefore, we primarily refer all questions to the Swedish Migration Agency, as they have an obligation to provide everyone with the service they need. It is also the Agency that makes all decisions about residence permits. Through the questions and answers we have collected on this page, and by arranging seminars, we provide members with information about the regulations so that you can also ask the right questions to the Swedish Migration Agency based on your own situation. This information will also help you to more easily understand the answers you receive from the Agency and to judge whether the answers seem unreasonable or incorrect. If you have questions about matters of principle and which are closely linked to your employment, we can also give individual advice about your situation. In general, in order to receive personal service from the trade union, you must have been a member for at least three months and the problem you have may not have arisen before you became a member.

In addition, SULF works on general level to improve conditions by lobbying politicians and other decision-makers and by influencing opinion on the issue. Read more below under the question “What is SULF doing with regard to permanent residence permits?”.

Permanent residence means you have a right to live and work freely in Sweden during the stated period. It also means that you are entitled to, for example, student loans and grants from CSN.

Previously, you could apply for a permanent residence permit as soon as you had been resident for four years with a permit that qualifies as the basis of a permanent residence permit, (regardless of the expiry date on your current residence permit). In April 2019, the Swedish Migration Board issued a new interpretation of the regulations and now states that applications may only be submitted no more than 14 days before the current residence permit expires.

Several people who had applied earlier have had their applications rejected and must instead submit a new application 14 days before their current permit expires. SULF anticipates that this will lead to problems, as anyone who leaves Sweden during the gap between two residence permits will not be allowed to re-enter the country. This makes it difficult for people to attend conferences or to take other trips abroad. We have raised this issue with the Migration Board, but this is how they currently apply the rule.

Please note that you are still entitled to stay and work in Sweden during the waiting period.

Yes, in some cases. You may add up your time with a residence permit for research studies and time with a work permit. Time with a residence permit as a visiting researcher can also be included, but not time with a residence permit for studies other than doctoral studies.

On what basis should I apply for permanent residence permit? I also have the opportunity to apply due to family ties to another person in Sweden.
If you qualify for a permanent residence permit in more than one way you can state two reasons in your application. The Migration Agency will examine them parallel and select the one that is most advantageous to you. For example,  if  you are able to apply based on your own time in research, but also through family ties with another person who has a permanent residence permit, is a Swedish national or EU/EEA national,  enter both on your application.

From 20 July 2021, every person applying for a permanent residence permit needs to fulfil the criteria. As a result, it is no longer automatic that you will be granted a permanent residence permit if a family member has one. Therefore, it is a good idea to apply for a permanent residence permit individually if you meet the requirements.

To be granted a permanent residence permit, you must have had a residence permit for doctoral studies for at least four years over a seven-year period. If needed, time with a residence permit for work or research can also be included in order to qualify. How the doctoral studies are funded is irrelevant. If you fulfil this qualifying period requirement, The Swedish Migration Agency will assess whether it is also your intention to settle in Sweden, i.e. that you intend to stay in Sweden for some time, and how you have conducted yourself.

From 20 July 2021, it is also required that you are able to support yourself through work or your own company. The regulation states that such work is to have “some duration”. As a general rule, such employment/self-employment must have a duration of 18 months in the opinion of the Swedish Migration Agency, but this time limit may be tried in court in the future.

This new provision applies to anyone who applied for a permanent residence permit and did not receive a decision before 20 July 2021. Income from an unemployment insurance fund cannot be included in this support requirement, although such compensation can be included to qualify for a temporary residence permit in some cases. However, benefits such as sickness benefit and parental benefit can be included if they are paid temporarily during the time you are employed for a sufficient period.

It is also possible to obtain a permanent residence permit by applying for status as a long-term resident after five years of living in Sweden. If such an application is granted, you will also receive a permanent residence permit. The requirements regarding financial support and more are somewhat different in this case. You can read more about this under the question “Can I apply for long-term resident status?

To be granted a permanent residence permit, you must have had a residence permit for research for at least four years over a seven-year period. If needed, time with a residence permit for work or doctoral studies can also be included in order to qualify. How the research is funded is irrelevant. If you fulfil this qualifying period requirement, The Swedish Migration Agency will assess whether it is also your intention to settle in Sweden, i.e. that you intend to stay in Sweden for some time, and how you have conducted yourself.

From 20 July 2021, it is also required that you are able to support yourself through work or your own company and that this employment/self-employment is to have a duration of at least 18 months. This new provision applies to anyone who applied for a permanent residence permit and did not receive a decision before 20 July 2021. Income from an unemployment insurance fund cannot be included in this support requirement, although such compensation can be included to qualify for a temporary residence permit in some cases. However, benefits such as sickness benefit and parental benefit can be included if they are paid temporarily during the time you are employed for a sufficient period.

If you have been granted a permanent residence permit after being a doctoral candidate for four years, your family can also apply for permanent residence. From 20 July 2021, however, family members are no longer automatically granted permanent permit if you are granted a permit. Each family member must meet the requirements for that and they must also be entitled to a continued residence permit. The requirements are that they are able to support themselves, (this requirement does not apply to children under the age of 18), that they have had a residence permit for at least three years and have shown good conduct, (this requirement applies to anyone over the age of 15).

If your family members do not fulfil the self-support requirement for permanent residence, they can instead be granted a temporary residence permit if you are able to support them. In these cases, the maintenance requirement is different than in the case of a permanent residence permit, as unemployment benefits and forms of support can also be included.

If you have applied for a permanent residence permit or a repeat fixed-term residence permit you may continue to reside in Sweden. If you also have a work permit, you may continue to work here during the period of your application. However do not leave Sweden during the period your application is being processed.

If you are a citizen of a country outside the EU and have lived in Sweden without interruption for five years, you can obtain status as a long-term resident in Sweden. This is not the same as a permanent residence permit, but if you are granted long-term resident status, you will automatically also receive a permanent residence permit. No further assessment of whether you fulfil the conditions for permanent residence needs to be made after you have been granted long-term resident status. Having long-term resident status also means that you have greater opportunities to work, study or start your own company in most other EU countries. You can also stay outside Sweden for up to six years if you remain within the EU and in the countries covered by the regulation. Those countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. In the event of a more permanent move to one of these countries, you can also transfer your long-term resident status to that country.

To obtain status as a long-term resident of Sweden, you must:

  • have lived in Sweden for at least five years without interruption. (Staying outside Sweden for less than six consecutive months and not more than ten months in total during the five-year period is not considered an interruption of the stay.) The qualification period is counted from the date of the decision.
  • have had a residence permit or otherwise resided legally in Sweden for the past five years. (A residence permit for visiting or for studies other than doctoral studies cannot be included)
  • be able to support yourself and your family financially. Note that this support requirement is not the same as for a permanent residence permit.

Qualification period –
types of residence permit that can be counted

All permits that can lead to permanent residence can be counted when calculating the qualification period. This includes, for example, residence permits for doctoral candidates, researchers or for work. It also includes residence permits through a relationship with a person living in Sweden as well as periods with the right of residence, (for example if you are a British citizen who lived in Sweden before Brexit or if you lived in Sweden with an EU/EEA citizen who had the right of residence) . Time that cannot be counted includes periods with a residence permit for studies other than doctoral studies or, according to the Swedish Migration Agency’s interpretation, periods with a residence permit to apply for work after graduation or completed research. Nor can time spent awaiting a decision on a new residence permit be counted if you are granted a new permit from a later date, i.e. if there is a gap between the permits.

The self-support requirement

With regard to the self-support requirement for status as a long-term resident, the requirements set for a permanent residence permit do not apply. Instead, the provisions that applied before the new legislation came into force on 20 July 2021 continue to apply. An important difference is that the income does not have to come from your own work or own company, as other income can also be included. What is assessed is whether you can be regarded as a burden on the social insurance system and whether your means of support is sufficiently long-term. That means, for example, that unemployment benefit and scholarships can be accepted as forms of future financial support. Another important difference is that you can have your application for long-term resident status approved if you have been wholly or partially supported financially by a family member. However, the Migration Agency does not count private savings as sufficient means of financial support, but it will accept income from yield or interest from such savings.

As far as SULF is aware, there is no clear practice regarding a definition of long-term. The Migration Agency assesses each case individually. However, employment may not be too sporadic or consist of multiple short-term employment periods. New legal precedents may need to be set in order for us to know more about these requirements.

Applications

An application for long-term resident status can be submitted up to two months before your temporary residence permit expires. If you do not already have a permanent residence permit, the Migration Agency will regard your application as an application also for a permanent residence permit. Therefore, you do not need to submit two separate applications. The most important thing is that you must apply before your current residence permit expires.

If you have long-term resident status, you can stay outside Sweden, but within the EU in the countries covered, for up to 6 years. Those countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. In the event of a more permanent move to one of these countries, you can also transfer your long-term resident status to that country.

Applying for long-term resident status can therefore be an alternative way to obtain a permanent residence permit if you have lived in Sweden for five years but for some reason do not meet the requirements for being granted a permanent residence permit or citizenship.

If you are a citizen of a country within the EU/EEA, you are covered by the provisions on the right of residence and therefore do not need to apply for a residence permit in Sweden. For example, people who come to Sweden to work or study, (and have means to support themselves), have the right of residence. People who have a right of residence need not apply for a residence permit for doctoral studies or research, nor can such a residence permit be granted. This also applies to family members.

Registration

If you are a citizen of an EU/EEA country, you do not need to apply for a right of residence or contact the Swedish Migration Agency. However, you need to apply for registration with the Swedish Tax Agency. SULF has noted that the Swedish Tax Agency can refuse registration if you are not employed and cannot present proof that you have comprehensive health insurance. This is a situation that should not happen under free movement within the EU, but it can occur due to ambiguities about which member state is responsible for health insurance.

Family members of EU/EEA citizens

If you are a family member of an EU/EEA citizen with a right of residence who lives in Sweden, you also have a right of residence if you live with them. If you are a family member of an EU/EEA citizen, you must apply to the Swedish Migration Agency for a residence card so that you can prove your right of residence. You then do not need a work permit to work in Sweden.

However, family members of Swedish citizens must normally apply for a residence permit to live in Sweden with a Swedish citizen. You can be covered by the right of residence if the Swedish citizen has used the freedom of movement rights within the EU and returns to Sweden.

Permanent right of residence

When you have resided in Sweden with a right of residence for at least five years, you have a permanent right of residence. This also applies to family members of EU/EEA citizens who have had a right of residence for five years. (It is then referred to as a permanent residence card). Contact the Swedish Migration Agency to apply for a permanent right of residence/residence card. You do not have to meet any other requirements than having had a right of residence for five years.

Nordic citizens

If you are a Nordic citizen, you do not need to meet the requirements for either right of residence or a residence permit. You only need to contact the Swedish Tax Agency for registration.

Swiss citizens

If you are a Swiss citizen, special rules apply for residence permits. Neither you nor your family members need a work permit to work in Sweden. However, you must apply for a residence permit if you are to stay in Sweden for more than three months. Swiss citizens cannot be granted special residence permits for studies or research, but you still have the right to study and conduct research in Sweden if you fulfil the requirements for a residence permit. Please note that there are special rules that apply to citizens of Switzerland and their family members. For example, an application can be made free of charge. Contact the Swedish Migration Agency for more information.

Unfortunately, the fact that Swiss citizens cannot be granted residence permits for doctoral studies means that you cannot apply for a permanent residence permit after four years in the same way as other non-EU/EEA citizens. However, after five years, you can apply for long-term resident status.

In some cases, the Migration Court has granted the applicant a PUT even though they did not have a residence permit for doctoral studies for four years. For example, it may be that you have been granted residence permits for master’s studies or for work that were still in force when you started doctoral studies. The court has said that the important thing is the connection to Sweden that the applicant received through his/her doctoral studies, and not the classification of the residence permit. However, there is no guarantee that a PUT will be granted without an individual review.

We have seen that in some cases, the Migration Court has granted the applicant a PUT, despite having been admitted as a doctoral candidate for less than four years. In these cases, the court has said that the doctoral degree comprises 240 higher education credits, i.e. four years of full-time postgraduate studies.

You can apply for a residence permit for 12 months if you fulfil certain criteria, but not for a longer or shorter period. This applies both if you have had a residence permit for studies, including doctoral studies, and if you have had a residence permit for research, (often referred to as guest researcher).

In order to be granted a residence permit to seek employment, you must have completed your studies (and obtained a degree) or your research, be able to support yourself financially and have fully comprehensive health insurance. Please note that , unlike the requirements for a permanent residence permit, the financial support does not need to be from employment or an own company. This means, for example, that unemployment benefits can be sufficient to fulfil the self-support requirement. The requirement for comprehensive health insurance is always met if you have been given have a complete Swedish personal identity number (personnummer).

You can read more about this at the website of Swedish Migration Agency

Resi­dence permit for looking for work after studies
Resi­dence permit after rese­arch

If you believe that you meet the requirements for a permanent residence permit, we recommend that you apply for this instead, because it is a much better residence permit.

SULF recommends that you start preparing now for the introduction of a requirement of a certain level of knowledge of Swedish language and society in the future. There is already a proposal that such requirements be introduced for the acquisition of Swedish citizenship from 1 January 2025. We do not currently know when the requirement will be introduced for permanent residence or what knowledge will be required.

We recommend that you bring up with your manager the question of whether you can get support from your employer to attend training during working hours that will help you reach the requirements.

If you who have had a residence permit for studies (including doctoral studies) or research, you are able to apply for a one-year residence permit in order to be able to seek employment in Sweden. You can find more information about applying for work after studies or research here.

Yes there is!

Even if unemployment benefit cannot be counted toward fulfilling the self-support requirement for permanent residence, you can still receive unemployment benefit if the requirements that apply in order to receive it are met. In the vast majority of cases, you can receive compensation while you are waiting for a decision regarding a residence permit. Also, unemployment benefit can be regarded as fulfilling the self-support requirement that applies for you to be granted a residence permit to seek employment for one year. It may also be sufficient for you to meet the requirement for your family members to continue to have temporary residence.

Perhaps most important reason of all is that unemployment benefit can be counted toward meeting the requirements for being granted long-term resident status, which in turn entitles you to a permanent residence permit. You can find out more about this elsewhere on this page.

As a member of SULF, if you are a member of the unemployment insurance fund you also have income insurance that provides a higher level of higher compensation in the event of unemployment . The qualification period is one year of membership of both SULF and the unemployment insurance fund, and this requirement must be met on the first day you become unemployed. The income insurance included in your SULF membership provides compensation for up to 150 days, but you can also take out a supplementary insurance to cover a further 150 days. This must also have been taken out at least one year before the first day you become unemployed. To find out more, see.

SULF has been very critical of the proposal, which also included language competence requirements, a requirement that has now been removed, but which will probably be introduced later. We have expressed this in various ways, for example in consultation responses and in debate articles.

The requirement regarding the ability to support oneself financially will create major problems for many, because it can be difficult to find a job that lasts for at least 18 months immediately after completion of doctoral studies or research, not least considering how common short fixed-term employment is within higher education. Since the employment duration requirement is to be tested at the time of the decision, there will also be uncertainty as to whether the requirement is met depending on how long the decision process is. The new regulations may therefore result in fewer foreign citizens wanting to or being able to stay in Sweden and contribute to the Swedish economy. There is a danger that we will lose many highly skilled people and that the internationalization of the higher education will become more difficult. Today, a large proportion of both doctoral candidates and people in career-development positions have a foreign background. It is clear that the politicians’ desire to restrict asylum immigration has been the focus rather than how Sweden will be able to retain qualified people, for example, those who complete a doctorate in the country.

SULF will continue to work with this issue in order to, we hope, be able to bring about changes. This, however, will require changes to the law or new legal precedents.

The Migrations Agency – check lists
The Migrations Agency provides check lists for doctoral candidates:
Checklist for a certificate for a first time permit for doctoral studies

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