Published: 08-04-2024 15:54 | Updated: 09-04-2024 14:20

KI welcomes government investigation: "Rapid action is needed for foreign researchers"

Four persons standing in front of the window wall in Aula Medica looking into the camera.
(Left) Erika Dabhilkar, Head of Unit at KI, Maria Malmer Stenergard, Minister of Integration, Mats Persson, Minister of Education, and Martin Bergö, Vice President of KI. Photo: Stefan Zimmerman.

Swedish Minister for Migration Maria Malmer Stenergard and Minister for Education Mats Persson visited Karolinska Institutet on 8 April to present a forthcoming investigation about the opportunities for foreign citizens to work and study in Sweden. KI welcomes the investigation, whose mission is in line with previously expressed views by the university, however KI emphasizes that changes are urgent.

“We want to continue to be a meeting place for the best researchers and students from all over the world. This requires rapid action to make it easier for them to come to and stay in Sweden,” says Martin Bergö, Vice President at KI.

Attracting students across borders and running international research exchange is crucial for world-leading universities, and KI is no exception. 

Today, one third of KI's doctoral students are from other countries. Many of the university’s leading research groups exist thanks to Karolinska Institutet’s success in recruiting and retaining qualified top researchers from around the world. 

Like other universities in Sweden, KI has initiated closer cooperation with the Swedish Migration Agency. The investigation that is now being launched will be completed in December 2024.

Processing time for residence permits too long

“We are at the investigation's disposal and are very pleased that these issues are finally being addressed. The processing time for residence permits for researchers and students has been unreasonably long. The situation has improved somewhat, but we see that the process needs to be further simplified,” says Martin Bergö. 

KI looks forward to simpler solutions for handling passports and residence permits from people who are in other countries. Today, the applicant is required to appear in person at a Swedish embassy, a possibility that is lacking in many countries. 

The long process for obtaining a residence permit means that it has become more common for students to have to turn down a programme that they have been accepted to and paid the course fee for, when they do not receive the permit in time.

Necessary to recruit internationally

There are other examples of how it has become more difficult for non-Swedish researchers to work in Sweden. Doctoral students with a foreign background have been denied continued residence and work permits after the completion of their doctoral thesis, a time in life when many future research stars are restricted to short-term employment while raising a family.

It must be possible to apply for a residence permit for researchers or doctoral studies on Swedish soil for those who have previously had a work permit. 

It is also reasonable that a researcher of another nationality can apply for residence permit for a newborn child without leaving Sweden.

"The fact that KI and other Swedish universities can recruit internationally is necessary for Sweden to be a successful innovation country with medical research at the forefront," says Martin Bergö.