Up until 20 July 2016 the vast majority of residence permits granted to persons in need of international protection or with humanitarian grounds were all permanent. They could, in principle, only be withdrawn if a person spent a major part of their time in another country or if a person was charged with a serious crime that involved deportation. Occasionally temporary permits were granted, mainly for medical reasons or for temporary hindrances to expulsion.
A new system was introduced with the adoption of a temporary law, valid for three years, in July 2016. The law has been prolonged for an additional two year-period from July 2019 to July 2021 as a result of a political agreement between four parliamentary parties. The law limits asylum seekers' possibilities of being granted residence permits and the possibility for the applicant's family to come to Sweden. The government openly admitted that the law was proposed in order to deter asylum seekers from coming to Sweden.
If a person is considered to be a refugee, he or she will receive a refugee status declaration. If he or she is considered to be a person in need of subsidiary protection, he or she will receive a subsidiary protection status declaration – an internationally recognised status based on the Qualification Directive.
The third type of protection status according to the Aliens Act, a “person otherwise in need of protection”, is of limited use after July 2016. This protection status can only be given to children and families with children who applied for asylum on or before 24 November 2015, provided that the child in question is still under 18 years old when the decision is made.
Convention refugees are, according to the temporary law, granted a three-year temporary permit with the right to Family Reunification. Maintenance and housing requirements have to be met if the application is made more than three months after the reference person has received his/her status. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are granted an initial period of 13 months temporary residence permit with the same right to family reunification as refugees. During the first three years of the Temporary Law, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection were not entitled to family reunification, but this was reinstated in 2019 when the law was extended for an additional two-year period. The residence permit can be extended another two years if protection grounds persist. The temporary residence permit gives holders the right to live and work in Sweden for the duration of the permit. During that period the person has the same right to medical care as a person with a permanent residence permit.
Persons whose removal would contravene Sweden’s international convention-based obligations and who do not qualify for Convention refugee status or subsidiary protection status can be granted an initial temporary permit of thirteen months which can be prolonged for two years if the grounds persist. The circumstances in the case must also be considered as being particulary distressing. 302 first time applicants were granted permits for these reasons in 2019. If such a permit is granted in a subsequent application, then the permit is first granted for thirteen months and then one year at a time subject to the same grounds. Temporary residence permit gives the person the right to live and work in Sweden for thirteen months. During that period they have the same right to medical care as a person with a permanent residence permit. The person’s family is eligible for residence permits to join the sponsor in Sweden only in exceptional cases.
There are transitional rules for some categories of asylum seekers. Children with families or unaccompanied children who sought asylum at the latest on 24 November 2015 have their cases assessed according to the previous law. This means they are granted permanent residence permits if their claims are successful. However, a child who is over 18 when the case is decided on will not benefit from this concession.
The vast majority of beneficiaries of international protection applying for a renewal of their temporary residence permits have had it granted. In 2019, the Migration Agency received 36,610 applications and took decisions on 19,951 cases: 18,835 were accepted and only 428 refused. The vast majority of positive decisions concerned Syrians (791 refugees/8,621 beneficiaries of subsidiary protection), Eritreans (748/87) and Iraqis (218/329); Afghans (250/493) and Stateless persons (1,276/160). The average processing time for applications to extend residence permits based on protection status was 69 days in 2019, down from was 122 days in 2018, up from 55 days in 2017.
The average number of days from a first time asylum application to a decision at first instance was 288 days in 2019, a considerable decrease from 507 days in 2018 and 496 days in 2017.
In 2019, the Migration Agency granted 6,540 first time asylum applications, down from 11,217 in 2018, and granted 18,835 applications for extensions of residence permits, up from 10,759 in 2018. The Migration Agency also issued 5,253 permanent residence permits in resettlement cases, compared to 5,207 in 2018.