Sweden named ‘best place in the world for expat families’

Sweden has been ranked as the best place in the world for expat families by a long-running survey, beating the Czech Republic (second) and Singapore (third) to top spot and retaining its crown from 2015.

Sweden named 'best place in the world for expat families'
Children at a Stockholm preschool going for a walk. Photo: Anders Ahlgren/SvD/TT

The 2016 HSBC Expat Explorer took in the opinions of 26,871 people who identified as expats, the term used in the survey, in 45 different host countries, and the results speak highly of the Scandinavian nation when it comes to raising a family there.

Three quarters (75 percent) of expat parents in Sweden rated their children’s quality of life there as better than back home, while the same proportion believe the quality of childcare available in the Nordic country is better.

That’s something Scotswoman Jill Leckie agrees with, having moved to Sweden with her Swedish partner to have their child and started up the Littlebearabroad website for foreign parents raising a family in Sweden.

“Our daughter goes to a small preschool in the suburbs with a class of ten other kids. They spend the majority of the day outside and have fresh food prepared on-site every day. For now I’m not sure I could ask for much more,” she told The Local.

Asked what was better about the quality of family life in Sweden compared to the United Kingdom, Leckie highlighted cost-effective childcare as standing out.

“Circumstances prevail so not everyone will experience being an expat family the same way, but moving to Sweden with a family or starting a family here has huge advantages. For me it was crystallized when I was sent our invoice for my daughter’s daycare this month and it was just over 1000 kronor ($116). I have friends in the UK spending £1000 ($1295) a week on childcare.”

The majority of parents surveyed (69 percent) said that their children’s health and well-being is better since they moved to Sweden, compared to a global average of 49 percent.

Just under half (46 percent) said the quality of education in Sweden is better, beating the global average of 43 percent, while 72 percent said education is less expensive.

READ ALSO: Why is Sweden top for expat families?

In another section of the survey, the HSBC Explorer’s Economics League covering personal finances, views on the local economy and working life, Sweden placed sixth, with Switzerland topping the table, followed by Singapore and Germany.

Working life was the economics barometer Sweden performed best in, where it came third. The category looks at expats’ prospects for career progression, work/life balance and job security.

Things weren’t quite so positive for Sweden in the third section of HSBC’s survey however, the Experience League. In that ranking of an expat’s lifestyle, ability to integrate with the people around them, and ease of setting up in their new country, Sweden placed 31st. The top three countries were New Zealand, Spain and Canada.

Within the Experience League, Sweden suffered most in the “people” (ease of integrating, ease of forming friendships) and “setting up” (finding accommodation) barometers, reinforcing the stereotype of cold natives and showing expats are not immune to the country’s well-documented housing crisis

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EXPLAINED: How can Ukrainians seek asylum in Sweden?

Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion are leaving their country and looking for shelter in other countries in Europe. But what are the rules for Ukrainians arriving in Sweden?

EXPLAINED: How can Ukrainians seek asylum in Sweden?

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There are a number of different options available to Ukrainians arriving in Sweden. These include standard entry under Schengen rules, entry under the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, and seeking asylum in Sweden.

Entry under Schengen rules

Sweden is in the Schengen area, which means that Ukrainian citizens are able to stay here for 90 days without a permit or an entry visa, so long as they have a valid biometric passport, adequate funds to live on, and adequate funds for their home journey. This rule has been in place since 2017 and has not changed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

If you are entering Sweden via this route, you do not need to contact the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) once you arrive.

Ukrainians entering Sweden via this route will not be seeking asylum status or refugee status in Sweden.

In order to qualify for this rule, you must fulfil the following requirements:

  • a passport that is valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave Sweden
  • a return ticket for a date within the next 90 days
  • a written invitation from the person that you will be staying with, or a booking confirmation if you are staying at a hotel
  • enough money for living costs and the trip home, or a document from someone else stating that they will cover these costs

According to the Migration Agency, those entering Sweden via this route must have at least 450 kronor per person for each day you plan to stay in Sweden. This amount can be lower for children, or if you have paid for accommodation in advance or are staying with someone else.

Sufficient funds can be documented via a bank account statement or a document from the person you will be staying with, stating that they will cover your costs during your visit.

If you are a Ukrainian citizen without a biometric passport, you can enter Sweden and stay for 90 days, but will need a Schengen visa.

If you already know you want to stay in Sweden for longer than 90 days, you should apply for a visitor’s permit.

If you choose to apply under these rules, you will not be granted the same benefits that you would be granted under the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, such as the right to medical care, the right to work, and the right to housing.

The EU’s Temporary Protection Directive

A special meeting of European interior ministers on March 3rd agreed to apply a little-used measure known as the Temporary Protection Directive to any Ukrainians who want to come to an EU country.

The activation of the Temporary Protection Directive means that Ukrainian citizens can stay in Sweden for a year without having to apply for a visa or make a claim for asylum.

During that time you will be permitted to work and children can access education.

The status applies immediately and covers both Ukrainians who have already arrived and those who come in the days or weeks to come.

If you choose to apply under these rules, you will qualify for benefits such as help with finding a place to live, the right to work and basic healthcare, the right to education for any children you are applying with, and limited financial support.

The following people can apply under this directive:

  • Ukrainian citizens who were resident in Ukraine prior to February 24th 2022
  • people holding residence permits as refugees in Ukraine, or people with subsidiary protection status in Ukraine
  • family members of the above

You must also have left Ukraine after February 24th, must not have committed criminal acts such as war crimes, and must not otherwise pose a threat to Sweden’s security.

Applicants must also be able to present Ukrainian identity documents – this does not have to be a biometric national passport, although these are accepted. You apply for this status at a National Service Centre. There are ten of these across Sweden. See here for a list (choose “Service Centre” in the menu).

Apply for asylum

If you want to, you can apply for asylum upon arrival in Sweden. You cannot do this before you enter the country. You should tell border police at your point of entry that you wish to apply for asylum, or contact the Migration Agency directly if you are already in the country. You can apply for asylum at a Migration Agency application unit in Stockholm, Malmö or Gothenburg.

In order to apply for asylum, you must:

  • provide identity documents such as a passport to prove your identity
  • be photographed and have your fingerprints taken by the Migration Agency
  • meet with an investigator for an interview into who you are, why you want to apply for asylum, and information on the rights you have while you wait for your application to be considered

If you seek asylum in Sweden, you have a right to accommodation, financial support, health care and education for your children, and are allowed to remain in Sweden while your application for asylum is being considered.