Access to the labour market


Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 19/04/23


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Asylum seekers are exempted from the requirement to have a work permit provided that they can provide identity documents or other means to establish their identity, that Sweden is responsible for their asylum application and that there are solid reasons for their application in Sweden. An asylum seeker will not be able to work in Sweden if they have received a refusal of entry decision with immediate effect, including if they fall within a Dublin procedure or has a claim considered manifestly unfounded.

This right lasts until a final decision on their asylum application is taken, including during appeals procedures. The right ends when the applicant leaves Sweden if they cooperate in preparations to leave the country voluntarily. If the applicant refuses to cooperate and the case is handed over to the police for expulsion procedures, then the right to work is suspended.[1]

In 2020, 9,527 asylum-seekers were granted the right to seek work.[2] In 2021, 3,943 asylum-seekers were granted the right to work. The number increased to 7,499 in 2022.

A few municipalities have offered to pay the work insurance that the Migration Agency previously paid in order to facilitate entry to the labour market in cases where an asylum seeker has been able to secure a job offer or work experience placement. However, the main work experience placements will instead be reserved for those with residence permits who are in an establishment programme run by the Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen).

Asylum seekers can generally not work in areas that require certified skills such as the health care sector, so their choice is limited in practice to the unskilled sector. Jobs are not easy to get because of language requirements and the general labour market situation with high youth unemployment and a general unemployment rate of 8,3% in 2020.[3] The situation did not improve in 2021, as the general unemployment rate further increased to 8.8%.[4] In 2022, the general unemployment rate decreased to 7,5%.[5]

Should an asylum seeker obtain a job offer at another place in Sweden, they can move there and get nominal support towards living costs of SEK 350 (€ 40) for a single person and SEK 850 (€ 100) for a family. Those who obtain jobs are able to improve their economic situation and possibly to switch their status as asylum seeker to becoming a “labour market migrant” if they manage to work 4 months before the decision to reject their asylum application becomes final. If their employer is at that stage able to offer a 1-year contract or longer, then they must apply for permission to work in Sweden within 2 weeks from the date on which the decision to reject their asylum application became final. A successful applicant must have a valid passport and will receive a temporary permit of at least 1 year and at most 2, which can be renewed. After 4 years on temporary permits, a person who still has a job can then apply for a permanent residence permit, provided they have sufficient means to support and accommodate their family. These temporary permits allow for family reunification and the right of the spouse to work but do not require sufficient income to support and accommodate the family.[6]

The ability to switch status as an asylum seeker to a labour migrant was introduced in 2008 by the government as part of its policy to develop labour migration of third-country nationals to Sweden and to respond to situations where highly qualified persons amongst rejected asylum seekers with skills needed in Sweden and who had shown through work experience that they had the required proficiency and knowledge would have a chance to access the labour market. The fact that such a person has desired labour market skills does not in any way influence the assessment of the asylum grounds. In 2022, 637 asylum seekers were granted work permits after a legally binding deportation order.




[1] Migration Agency, Handbok i Migrationsrätt, section AT-UND, 5.

[2] Information provided by the Swedish Migration Agency.

[3] The Government Agency Statistics Sweden, ‘Unemployment in Sweden’, available in Swedish at:

[4] The Government Agency Statistics Sweden, ‘Unemployment in Sweden’, available in Swedish at:

[5] The Govenrment Statistics Sweden, available in Swedish at:

[6] Chapter 5 Section 15 a Aliens Act, Chapter 4 Section 4 a Aliens Ordinance.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – I Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation