Sweden plans to cut red tape for foreign researchers

Sweden aims to lure top foreign researchers with easier immigration. The government hopes to streamline permits and residency for skilled overseas researchers to boost collaboration and innovation.

Sweden needs to bolster its research community.

Sweden needs to bolster its research community.

Foto: Julia Koblitz on Unsplash

Engelska2024-04-11 09:00

Sweden's government is taking steps to bolster the country's position as a leader in research and innovation by making it easier for highly-skilled researchers from abroad to come to Sweden and contribute their expertise.

– Sweden thrives on international collaboration in research and development, minister of education Mats Persson, said in a press release.

– A critical part of that is attracting talented foreign researchers to share their knowledge and fuel our scientific progress.

Investigating improvements

To achieve this goal, the government has appointed an investigator, Mattias Pleiner, to analyze Sweden's current immigration policies and propose changes that would streamline the process for foreign researchers and doctoral students. A key focus will be on residence permits, with the aim of making it easier for qualified researchers to stay in Sweden after completing their studies.

Statistics reveal a concerning trend: while a significant portion of those commencing doctoral programs in Sweden in 2022 were foreign nationals (41% overall, rising to 63% in natural sciences), many leave the country upon graduation. 

Critics point to Sweden's current migration regulations as a major factor in this exodus.

Challenges and solutions

One specific challenge highlighted by critics is the requirement for applicants for permanent residency to demonstrate at least 18 months of employment at the time of assessment. 

This poses a hurdle for researchers whose work often involves fixed-term contracts. The investigator will examine such regulations and propose solutions better suited to the realities faced by researchers.

Combating abuse

However, the government also wants to address potential abuse of the student visa system. The inquiry will analyze regulations surrounding study permits to ensure they are not exploited by individuals seeking alternative pathways to residency instead of pursuing genuine academic goals.

Pleiner is expected to present his findings and recommendations by December 9, 2024. 

Reaction from the research community

The news was met with cautious optimism by the research community in Sweden.

– We want to continue to be a meeting place for the best researchers and students from all over the world. This requires rapid action to make it easier for them to come to and stay in Sweden, says Martin Bergö, vice president at Karolinska Institutet.

– We are very pleased that these issues are finally being addressed. The processing time for residence permits for researchers and students has been unreasonably long. The situation has improved somewhat, but we see that the process needs to be further simplified.