Sweden – Implementation of the EU Blue Card Directive concerning highly-qualified third-country employees
The Swedish Government has initiated the implementation of the European Union Blue Card directive (2009/50/EG) into Swedish internal legislation. The process is currently in the preparatory stage and the new legislation is proposed to come into force by August 1, 2013. The EU Blue Card Scheme aims to make the European Union a more attractive destination for high-skilled non EU-citizens. All twenty-seven EU member states, except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, participate in the EU Blue Card Scheme. Individuals who are granted a Blue Card are given a number of rights, including favorable conditions for family reunification and mobility within the Schengen area.
In general terms, in order to be granted a Blue Card in Sweden the applicant is expected to meet the following conditions:
- Must not be a EU or EEA citizen, including Switzerland
- Must be a highly-qualified employee
- Must have a valid employment contract in Sweden, or a binding job offer, for at least one year
- Must be offered a salary of at least 1.5 times the average gross annual salary in Sweden
- Must be offered an insurance coverage that corresponds to Swedish standards
- Must have a health insurance certificate
Highly-qualified employees are defined as individuals who have a higher education of at least three years, or who have at least five years of relevant work experience in the specific sector.
It should be noted that the insurance coverage that is offered to the employee must correspond to Swedish standards according to the relevant collective bargain agreement or within the specific trade. Normally this includes a health insurance, life insurance, pension benefits and insurance for occupational injury.
The offered salary should amount to 1.5 times the average gross annual salary in Sweden, which for the income year 2011 would correspond to SEK 43,500 per month. (The numbers for 2012 are not yet available).
A Blue Card must be applied for and approved before the individual’s arrival to Sweden and the card is valid for a maximum of two years. The period of validity can be extended if the mandatory conditions are still met.
For the initial two years, the Blue Card is restricted to a specific profession and employer. After two years it is only restricted to a specific profession. A non EU-citizen who has held a Blue Card in Sweden for at least four of the last five years can apply for a permanent residence permit in Sweden. In this respect, under certain circumstances the applicant’s residence in other EU member states may be cumulated, assuming the stays have been approved under the Blue Card Scheme. Family members of a Blue Card holder will be granted Swedish residence permits for the same period as the validity period of the Blue Card.
The proposed changes will come into force on August 1, 2013.
The proposed implementation of the Blue Card directive will not result in any major changes on the Swedish immigration area since it is already relatively simple to apply for and be granted a Swedish work and residence permit. The implementation of the Blue Card directive rather contributes to harmonize the immigration legislation within the European Union, simplify the migration procedure and support the free movement within the Schengen area.