Asylum seekers to have access to bank accounts

On 15 June, Sweden’s Minister for Financial Markets Per Bolund met representatives of banks and government agencies to find ways forward that will make it easier for asylum seekers to gain access to bank accounts. During the meeting, Finansinspektionen (the Swedish financial supervisory authority) presented its response to the European Banking Authority’s opinion.

"In doing this, we are taking a major step forward to enable asylum seekers to become established. Last year, a total of 27 000 people were granted an exemption from the work permit requirement, and by April this year the figure was approximately 9 000 people," says Minister for Financial Markets Per Bolund.

Asylum seekers who have AT-UND status (exemption from the work permit requirement) have encountered difficulties opening an account with Swedish banks. The reason is that many asylum seekers do not have a valid Swedish ID card and the fact that the LMA card they have been issued with by the Swedish Migration Agency as proof of asylum seeker status has not been accepted by the banks, as they then risk breaching rules intended to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

"Increasing migration flows in recent years mean that there is now a large number of people who currently have weak ties to Swedish society. The most natural way in is by starting to work," says Mr Bolund.

To be entitled to work during the time it takes to process an asylum application, asylum seekers must have a valid ID card or must have helped to verify their identity. In such cases, an exemption from the work permit requirement (AT-UND) is issued. An estimated 20–30 per cent of all asylum seekers are granted AT-UND status. This figure has risen in recent years, mainly as a result of more asylum seekers meeting the identity requirement.

Work began in January

In January, the Ministry of Finance began work to improve asylum seekers' access to bank accounts by convening a roundtable discussion with representatives of the Swedish Bankers' Association, a number of banks, Finansinspektionen and the Swedish Migration Agency. Since then, discussions have been held between Finansinspektionen, the Swedish Bankers' Association and representatives of the banks, and between Finansinspektionen and the Swedish Migration Agency to find an approach that will enable asylum seekers with AT-UND status to access a bank account.

"The Ministry of Finance has been working on this with the relevant agencies since January to find a solution so that asylum seekers who want to work and pay tax in Sweden can open a bank account," says Mr Bolund.

Finansinspektionen presented Swedish solution

On 15 June, Mr Bolund once again met representatives of banks and government agencies. During the meeting, Finansinspektionen presented its response to the European Banking Authority's opinion. This will provide guidance for the banks' approach in this matter. Finansinspektionen's proposals can be applied in Sweden without any legislative amendments.

"Following today's discussions there is now a consensus among the parties involved on how the proposal should be applied in Sweden, which I am very pleased about," says Mr Bolund.

This means that the banks will approve accounts on the basis of LMA cards issued by the Swedish Migration Agency and a number of verification­ measures (calling back to contact numbers, attested copies of documents) for asylum seekers who have been granted an exemption from the work permit requirement (AT-UND status).