I’m moving to Stockholm. The lifestyle, the nature, the opportunities – I can’t wait. Just one small thing: how do I avoid all the bureaucracy nonsense?
Bureaucracy? Avoid it? Are you sure you’ve thought this move through?
Sure I have! But my brain cramps up at the thought of queuing at local authority offices and persuading public officials to sign this and stamp that.
Well, there’s obvious news and good news. The obvious news is that there is no way of avoiding the bureaucracy. Life is so complicated in Stockholm if you’re outside of the system that you really have no choice but to be in it.
So what’s the good news?
The good news is that the route into the system is incredibly efficient and involves very little in the way of papers, queuing, signatures and stamps. Here, ‘papers’ have been replaced by plastic cards and the key to almost every aspect of life in Stockholm is your own personal string of numbers.
My friend, I am not a number. I am a roaming citizen of the world. I am a living, breathing human being whose life cannot be distilled to a series digits. I’m a free spirit, I float with the wind, I …
Let me stop you right there. That’s all very inspiring but it won’t get you a place to live, insurance, a bank account, healthcare, gym membership, a mobile phone, internet connection, TV licence, or a school place for your kids.
But these numbers will? So what are these mysterious, magical numbers of which you speak?
I’m talking about the ubiquitous personal number. Stockholm is a highly digital city, with the vast majority of public and commercial services being managed online. Your personal number is a unique identifier that connects everything, dramatically reducing bureaucracy and processing times.
At first some foreign residents are uncomfortable with their lives being held in a database but they…
Yeah, yeah, never mind that. I want one of these numbers. NOW. How do I get one?
Hold your horses. The personal number is the penultimate step at the end of an application process whose elements depend upon where you come from.
To summarize in a sentence, you need a work permit, a residence permit, registration with the tax agency, a personal number and an ID card. In that order. If you’re from a country in the EU/EEA (or Switzerland) then you don’t need to worry about the permits. Freedom of movement is yours!
I’m happy for my European friends. Truly. But how do I get a work permit?
First you’ll need a job offer – before you come to Sweden. There’s a fee for the application (and extension) and various rules about the period for which the permit is valid. Once you’ve been working for four years in Sweden you’ll be entitled to a permanent residence permit, but in the meantime you’ll need the temporary version for you and your family that will come with your work permit.
And then I register with the tax agency, right?
Right. If you’re planning to be in Stockholm for more than twelve months, have a valid residence permit and can show that you can support yourself, then you need to get yourself in the ‘population register’. The tax agency will help you with that and will then furnish you with your own 10-digit personal number. Memorize it.
What? Do I have to memorize yet another random string of digits? I have a terrible head for numbers.
Relax. The first six digits are simply your date of birth. So there are only four more numbers to remember. Think of it like your own personal PIN-code. You can do it. And if you have kids, remember theirs too.
I'm still not sure I'll manage to remember this new Swedish number. If only there was a handy reminder I could carry with me…
Well, you're in luck. The final step in your integration into the Swedish system is getting your Swedish ID card from the tax agency. You’ll use your ID card in many situations, such as buying booze (if you’re blessed with youthful looks), opening a bank account or hiring a car. And your personal number is printed right there on the card in case you need a reminder.
So where do I start?
With some proper advice from the good people at the City of Stockholm, a job offer and some serious memory exercises.
This article was produced by The Local in association with Stockholm Business Region.