Sweden's Immigration Policy

Sweden is known for its comparatively open immigration policy. Although the xenophobic "Sweden Democrats" party has managed to strongly increase their presence in the political system since 2010, the government has – so far – maintained their openness towards immigration.

A representative of the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) receives refugees at Malmö train station. The Migrationsverket manages - among other things - the reception system for asylum seekers, including the provision of housing and daily allowances. (© picture-alliance/AP)

Key Actors

The government, based in the capital city Stockholm, sets out the general guidelines for migration policy by proposing bills. It is then the responsibility of the Parliament (Riksdag) to pass, reject or amend proposed bills. The government can supplement laws with ordinances.

The Ministry of Justice is the government body responsible for migration policy. It is also responsible for certain aspects of integration policies, which are split between several other ministries but mainly lie within the responsibilities of the Ministry of Employment. Since 2014, Sweden does not have a minister for integration anymore since the governing parties decided that integration was a cross-cutting topic which the government as a whole should take responsibility for.

The Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) [1] is responsible for regulating immigration to Sweden. It processes all types of residence permit applications and decides on them. Further to this, it also decides on asylum cases, manages the reception system for asylum seekers (including the provision of housing and daily allowances), runs detention centers, and processes applications for Swedish citizenship. Migrationsverket has its headquarters in Norrköping but also maintains a large number of branch offices of varying size in many municipalities across the country. Border control is a responsibility of the Swedish Police.

Key Legislation

The legal system pertaining to migration in Sweden is governed by the Aliens Act (Utlänningslagen, Statute 2005:716), and emanating from that law, the Aliens Ordinance (Utlänningsförordningen, Statute 2006:97). The current Aliens Act took effect on 31 March 2006 and has subsequently been amended many times. Major policy shifts in recent years were the introduction of a new system for labor immigration in 2008, and the adoption by the Riksdag of several provisions aimed at encouraging circular migration to and from Sweden in 2014. Apart from these reforms, there has been a large number of minor amendments to the Aliens Act. Most of them were related to the implementation of binding EU legislation on asylum, border control and return, as well as legal immigration.

This text is part of the country profile Sweden.
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In 2015, this authority changed its official English name from Swedish Migration Board to Swedish Migration Agency.

Bernd Parusel

About the author

Bernd Parusel

Dr. Bernd Parusel is a political scientist and migration and asylum expert. He works for the European Migration Network (EMN) at the Swedish Migration Agency and as a research officer at the Swedish Migration Studies Delegation (DELMI) in Stockholm. Email: bernd.parusel@migrationsverket.se

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