Yan Xue came to Sweden from China to do her master’s degree in 2016, and is now a doctoral student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The change in the law means that she is no longer feeling as welcome as a junior researcher in Sweden, and is thinking about continuing her research career in some other country.

“It feels like your life is in the hands of others”

Svenska 2021-10-26

The new migration law has pulled the rug from under the feet of thousands of doctoral students, who can suddenly no longer count on a future in Sweden. Some have already moved abroad. Others are forced to give up their research dreams in order to stay.

Movin Sequeira had planned a future in academia in Sweden. Now he is instead considering looking for a job in industry, to increase his chances of staying in Sweden. Under the old migration law, he could have applied for a permanent resident permit next year, but this option has now been withdrawn.

Movin Sequeira

To get a permanent resident permit under the new law, you must have been employed for at least four years. You must also have an employment contract lasting at least 18 months from the day your application is assessed.

Getting such a contract in academia after four years of doctoral studies will be difficult, in Movin Sequeira’s view.

“I will ask my department here, and my network, but I think I will have more of a chance in industry.”

He is studying for a doctorate at Jönköping University, and the subject of his thesis is ‘re-shoring’, which is the phenomenon of companies moving their production back home, from low-wage countries for example.

His background picture on Zoom is a photograph of Jönköping’s city centre and Lake Vättern, which stretches out beyond it. He came here from India in 2015 to do his master’s degree, and after graduating he decided to stay. He is now in his sixth year in Sweden, and the thought of having to move is difficult to digest.

Considering moving abroad

The same is true for Yan Xue, who is a doctoral student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

“There is a lot of uncertainty right now. I would like to focus on completing my thesis, but if I am to stay, then I really have to find a job.”

Yan Xue came to Sweden from China to do her master’s degree in 2016, and after graduating she was offered a doctoral student position. When she applied for the doctoral student position, she expected such a position to result in a permanent resident permit. Now, under the new law, she wishes she instead had waited, and worked first, so that she could have got a permanent resident permit before applying for the doctoral student position.

She tells us that she is considering continuing her research career in some other country.

“I really don’t know what to do. It is a difficult decision. I am rooted here now, but it is difficult when it feels like your life is in the hands of others”, she says.

She adds that the change in the law means that she is now not feeling as welcome as a junior researcher in Sweden.

“Giving doctoral students a permanent resident permit signalled that people wanted us to stay and contribute to society. Now, I no longer know how they are thinking.”

Nominated as ‘Teacher of the Year’

For Movin Sequeira and Yan Xue, the new law means that dreams and future plans are at risk of being shattered.

Last year, Movin Sequeira was nominated for the title of “Teacher of the Year” at Jönköping University. He tells us that he felt honoured, and saw the nomination as a confirmation that he was doing the right thing.

“I would really like to stay in academia. I feel totally at home,” he says, but adds that he is prepared to drop the research career if this increases his chances of staying in Sweden.

His wife moved here two years ago. They have bought a flat, learnt Swedish, and started to build a life together in Jönköping.

“We were planning to stay here long-term, but the new law risks puncturing our plans,” he says.

Text: Charlie Olofsson
Photo: private