How do you find a job in Sweden? Talk to people

Syrian marketing strategy coordinator Roula Bazerbashi talks to The Local about how she landed her dream job in Sweden.

How do you find a job in Sweden? Talk to people
Roula Bazerbashi, from Syria. Photo: Emma Löfgren/The Local

When Roula Bazerbashi finished her Masters in Tourism Management — which brought her from Syria to Europe in 2013 — and moved to join her husband, who was studying in Sweden, she was careful not to get her hopes up about finding work in a job market where more than one in five foreign-born are unemployed.

But thanks to a mix of fearlessness, luck, being in the right place in the right time, a love of talking to new people, hard work and talent, she landed her first job in less than a month.

“My husband was a singer in a choir and I went to their rehearsal. We were sitting at a dinner table and I was talking to a lovely lady, whose name was Ulrika Karlsson,” explains Bazerbashi.

“I told her I had worked as a marketing manager in Syria and was looking for a job.”

Her new acquaintance then turned out to be a human resources manager at Stockholm-based PR company Mynewsdesk and volunteered to try to pull a few strings.

It led to Bazerbashi meet Jonathan Bean, Mynewsdesk Chief Marketing Officer, who believed in her talent and offered her a three-month internship, which was soon extended and is now being turned into a permanent contract.

“When I first came to Mynewsdesk I was so impressed with their red colour because it's my favourite. And I was wearing a red shirt, so I thought 'I love this place',” jokes the 32-year-old.

Roula Bazerbashi in Mynewsdesk's offices in Stockholm. Photo: Emma Löfgren/The Local

Today, she is an executive assistant for the CEO and works on a series of strategic projects for Mynewsdesk. The work itself is in many ways similar to what she did in Syria, but the company culture is completely different, with Sweden's famously non-hierarchical structures playing a big role.

“People in Syria and Sweden are both nice and helpful. What Sweden excels at is that talents are used in a very effective way,” Bazerbashi explains.

“In Syria it's a bit hierarchical. Here it's more of a flat organization. It's easy to sit with the CEO and have lunch and talk about your ideas.”

In the Swedish business and tech industry, English usually gets you a long way even if your Swedish is not fluent. But Bazerbashi is learning the language, and advises fellow internationals to do the same.

“It's important not just for work but for your social life within the company, just talking to your colleagues at lunch. Everyone is nice and switches to English when I'm around, but it's important to feel part of the company.”

But Swedish companies also need to give foreign workers a chance, she says.

“A lot of the foreigners coming here have really good talents and the companies need to be open for meeting people they don't know. For me it was not so difficult, and Swedish people are very nice and when you tell them what you're doing they try to help you.”

In the end, she says, it all comes down to not being afraid to talk to new people, whether you are a manager looking to hire someone, or a job hunter trying to get a foot in the door.

“I was pretty lucky and it was all about networking. Don't just send out CVs – that works too, but it is slower. Talk to people and take the opportunity to tell them what you are doing and that you are looking for a job – you never know who can help you.”

For members


READER QUESTION: How can I move to Sweden as a self-employed person?

Are you self-employed and thinking about moving to Sweden? Not sure what to do, or what rules apply to you? Here's our guide.

READER QUESTION: How can I move to Sweden as a self-employed person?

The process for moving to Sweden as a self-employed person varies depending on where you come from. Your citizenship will determine whether you apply to the Tax Agency or the Migration Agency, as well as whether you need to apply for a permit (uppehållstillstånd) or whether you have the right of residence under EU law.

Here’s a rundown of the rules for each different group.

Nordic citizens (Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland)

As a Nordic citizen, you don’t need a residence permit (uppehållstillstånd) or right of residence (uppehållsrätt) to live in Sweden. All you need to do is go to the Tax Agency upon arrival in Sweden and register yourself and any family members as resident in Sweden.

You may need to prove that you are planning on living in Sweden for at least a year in order to be registered in the population register and given a personnummer.

EU/EEA citizens

As an EU/EEA citizen, you have the right to work, study or live in Sweden without a residence permit (uppehållstillstånd), and that this includes starting and running your own company.

You do, however, still need to meet certain criteria in order to fulfil the requirements for right of residence under EU rules (uppehållsrätt).

There are different options for fulfilling the right of residence requirement as a self-employed EU/EEA citizen, and both require registering at the Tax Agency rather than the Migration Agency.

The first is as a self-employed person, which means you’ll have to prove that you have a business which either is currently running in Sweden, or is in the planning stages.

You’ll need to provide documents to back this up, which could include things like proof that you have F-tax (the tax status for self-employed people and freelancers), a marketing plan, a registration certificate for your company, and a copy of the lease for any premises you will be using.

You may also need to prove that you have previous experience and skills relevant to your company or the work you’re planning on doing in Sweden, receipts and invoices for any material you’ve purchased, as well as accounting documents showing how much VAT you have paid or are expecting to pay.

You’ll need to take these to the Tax Agency along with your passport and any documents proving your relationship to any family members you’ll be registering at the same time, such as your marriage certificate or registered partnership certificate for your spouse or partner, and a birth certificate for any children.

The second route is as someone “providing or performing services“, which is the route you should use if you’re self-employed abroad but will be providing a service to a recipient in Sweden, such as as a consultant or freelancer, for a limited time.

Under this route, you’ll need to take your passport and any family documents along to the Tax Agency, as well as a certificate describing the service you’ll be providing in Sweden, where you will be working or carrying out the service, and how long for. This needs to be signed by whoever you’ll be carrying out the service for in Sweden.

Note that you can only be registered in the Swedish population register and given a personal number if you can prove that you’ll be in Sweden for more than a year, but you still need to register your stay in Sweden as an EU citizen if you’re planning on being in Sweden for more than three months.

Non-EU or ‘third country’ citizens

If you’re a non-EU/EEA citizen and you want to be self-employed in Sweden you need to apply for a residence permit at the Migration Agency before you come to Sweden, with a few exceptions.

“You can ‘swap’ from studying to work permit and self-employed under certain conditions. And you can swap between work permit to self-employed and self-employed to work permit,” Robert Haecks, press spokesperson at the Migration Agency, told The Local.

So if you’re already in Sweden as an employee or student you don’t need to leave Sweden to apply for a permit to become self-employed.

For students, your permit to be in Sweden as a student must still be valid, and you must have completed at least 30 credits of your studies or a whole term as a research student.

If you’re planning on working in Sweden for less than three months, you do not need a residence permit, but you may need to apply for a visa depending on your citizenship.

Non-EU citizen working in Sweden longer than three months

If you’re planning on working in Sweden for longer than three months, you’ll need to apply for a “residence permit for people who have their own business”, as there is no specific residence permit for self-employed non-EU citizens.

There are quite a few conditions that need to be met in order for the Migration Agency to be satisfied that you can really run a business in Sweden.

First off, you need a valid passport, and it’s a good idea to make sure this has at least a few years of validity left as you can’t get a permit for longer than your passport is valid.

Applicants will need to prove that they have experience in the industry and previous experience of running their own business, as well as relevant knowledge of Swedish or English (if most of their suppliers or customers will be Swedish, the Migration Agency will expect applicants to speak good Swedish).

You’ll need to prove you run the company and have responsibility for it, provide a budget with plausible supporting documentation and show that you have customer contacts or a network which you can use in your business via contracts or similar.

You will also need to provide a slew of financial and legal documents, such as a registration certificate for your company in Sweden, copies of contracts with customers, suppliers and premises, your two most recent financial statements if your company has already been in operation, and a balance sheet for the current financial year up until the month you apply. See a full list of the required documents here.

Finally, you’ll need to prove that you have enough money to provide for yourself and any family members who will be joining you. The Migration Agency states that this corresponds to “the equivalent of SEK 200,000 for you, SEK 100,000 for your accompanying wife/husband and SEK 50,000 for each accompanying child for a permit period of two years”. So, an applicant moving to Sweden with their spouse and two children will need at least 400,000 kronor in savings in order to qualify.

You will also have to pay a fee of 2,000 kronor in most cases.

The Migration Agency will then carry out an analysis of your plans for a business and decide whether it is good enough to grant you a residence permit.

If you get a permit to stay for six months or longer then your spouse and children may also live in Sweden. They can apply for a residence permit at the same time as you, or afterwards.

If you have a permit to be in Sweden as a self-employed person, your family members moving with you also have the right to work (as long as they are aged 16 or older). However you still must show that you can support them.

If you get a residence permit for Sweden as self-employed you will only be allowed to work in your own business.

Talent visa for non-EU citizens

There is another option for highly-qualified applicants who want to move to Sweden to research setting up a new business, which you may also qualify for if you’re interested in moving to Sweden as a self-employed person.

This is the “talent visa”, more specifically referred to as a “resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons to look for work or start a busi­ness”.

This permit allows non-EU citizens with a higher-level degree to apply for a visa of between three to nine months, which they can then use to stay in Sweden while they look for work or research setting up a new business.  

You can read more on how to apply for the talent visa here.

By Loukas Christodoulou and Becky Waterton