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New rules make it harder for students and researchers applying to Sweden

Knowledge and research are, by their very nature, borderless, and most people in higher education sing the praises of internationalisation. Despite this, new rules are now being introduced for people who wish to study and conduct research in Sweden, rules that bring red tape, a lack of clarity and probably also higher costs for the applicants.

These rules are being introduced from 1 November, which means that prospective students and researchers coming from countries that never previously needed a visa for Sweden will now have to present themselves and their passport at a Swedish embassy or consulate in their homeland (such as the US or New Zealand). Previously, it was enough to send in the relevant papers and apply for a residence permit online.

This appears contrary – on first sight at least – to the statement of government policy, which claimed that the rules for highly qualified foreign workers, as well as foreign researchers and PhD students, would be improved, the aim being to strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness as a research nation.

This is a worrying development, and in the long run one that risks affecting KTH’s and Sweden’s competitiveness in attracting talent from other countries – something that no one gains from.

Although the percentage of non-Swedish people who decide to stay in Sweden after their PhD has increased in the past ten years, there are still many who choose to apply for jobs and seek their fortune in other parts of the world. This is all happening while demand for graduate doctors is repeatedly being discussed in terms of Swedish society – and also within Swedish universities – needing highly qualified workers. And in terms of how highly qualified workers are valued and received.

Salary, work content and attractiveness on the labour market, as well as housing and opportunities for those with families to start a life in Sweden, are surely important factors in determining how well conditions meet the needs of graduate PhDs. The concept of hospitality is important here too: complicating the system of applying for a residence permit, as described above, could seriously deter skilled and qualified people from wanting to come to Sweden. And that would be a real shame.