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Article Sweden: Stricter Asylum Rules in Effect

(Sept. 14, 2016) On July 20, 2016, new temporary rules for asylum seekers took effect in Sweden. (Lag (2016:752) om tillfälliga begränsningar av möjligheten att få uppehållstillstånd i Sverige [Act on Temporary Limits to the Possibility of Receiving Residency Permits in Sweden], SVENSK FÖRFATTNINGSSAMLING (SFS) 2016:752, Sveriges Riksdag [Parliament of Sweden] website.) The rules will be in force until July 19, 2019.

Residence Permits

Under the new rules, refugees receive temporary resident permits valid for three years or for a shorter period if national security warrants it, while persons in need of alternative protection (asylum seekers not qualifying as refugees but who would face danger if they returned to their home country) receive temporary permits valid for 13 months. (Id. 5 §.) Before the change, asylum seekers received permanent resident permits. Families and unaccompanied minors who applied for asylum before November 25, 2015, are still evaluated under the provisions of the old law and if found to need asylum, will receive permanent resident permits. (Id., Övergångsbestämmelser [Transitional Provisions], item 2.)

Family Reunification

The new rules also limit the basis for family reunification. Only refugees who are likely to become permanent residents will be eligible for family reunification. Moreover, family reunification of spouses is limited to spouses who are both at least 21 years old. (Id. 6 §.) Persons who are in need of alternative protection are no longer permitted to apply for family reunification, unless their application was received prior to November 25, 2015. (Id. 7 §.) Similarly, persons with asylum applications pending are not allowed to apply for family reunification until they have received a decision on their application for status as a refugee. (Id. 6 §.)

Sweden has also introduced more stringent financial rules for family-reunification sponsors, requiring that the family reunification applicant is able to provide for him or herself as well as for the person(s) with whom he or she is seeking to reunite and has appropriate housing accommodations. (Id. 9 §.) Under the previous rules, the sponsoring individual only needed to show that he or she could provide for him or herself. (Id; Utlänningslagen [Aliens Act] (SFS, as in force July 19, 2016), 3b § NOTISUM.) The monthly sum that the sponsor must cover is the actual cost of his or her housing (which will vary depending on the housing) and standardized living costs. For 2016, the standardized monthly living costs are: SEK4,679 (about US$567) for single adults; SEK7,729 (about US$903) for cohabitating partners or spouses; SEK2,482 (about US$289) per child six years of age and younger; and SEK2,857 (about US$334) per child seven years of age and older. Under the new rules, a person cannot receive permanent residence as long as he or she is dependent on municipal or State benefits. (Försörjningskrav för anhöriginvandring, REGERINGSKANSLIET (Aug. 4, 2016).)

Restrictions on Housing and Benefits

Under additional new rules that came into effect on June 1 and June 20, persons whose applications for asylum have been denied may no longer stay in government housing or receive any financial benefits once the period for voluntary departure has expired. No grants to asylum seekers will be paid out once an application is denied and the period for voluntary departure has been exceeded. (Lag om ändring lagen (1994:137) om mottagande av asylsökande m.fl. (SFS 2016:381) [Act Amending the Law on Welcoming Asylum Seekers, et al.], NOTISUM.) However, exceptions are made for families with children under the age of 18. Under the previous rules, benefits were provided until the person physically left the country. (Id; 11§ Lag om mottagande av asylsökande m.fl. (SFS 1994:137), as amended, Sveriges Riksdag website.)

The reduction in benefits is expected to save the Swedish government SEK200 million in benefit payments between June 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016. (Finansutskottets betänkande 2015/16:FiU42, Extra ändringsbudget för 2016, Ändring av rätten till bistånd för vissa utlänningar [Finance Committee Report 2015/16:FiU42, Amendment to the budget 2016], Sveriges Riksdag website.)

Health Care

The new rules do not affect the right to health care for persons whose asylum applications have been denied. They may still receive urgent health care and maternity care, and children whose applications have been denied will receive health care on the same terms as Swedish citizens. (Lag om hälso- och sjukvård till vissa utlänningar som vistas i Sverige utan nödvändiga tillstånd [Act on Health Care for Certain Foreigners Present in Sweden Without the Appropriate Documentation], 6-8 §§ (SFS 2013:407), Sveriges Riksdag website.)

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