Moving to a new country is not as easy as packing your bags and taking a flight. You must first receive permission from that country’s government by obtaining a visa.
In Sweden, there are several situations that may allow a person to become a resident such as marrying a Swede, studying in Sweden, or seeking asylum. However, in order to live in Europe, I knew that what I needed was a work visa.
Several people have asked me how to obtain a work visa and live in Sweden, and I must admit that it's not easy. Generally, a Swedish company works on your behalf to help you acquire this visa. So, basically, your task is to convince a company that you are the best candidate for a certain position and hope that they will hire you over any applicants that may already live in Sweden.
You can either do this (as I did) through online applications and Skype interviews, or in person during the 90-day maximum visit that you are allowed in Sweden. Once you have been offered a job and that company decides to help you apply for a work visa, a long process of paperwork and bureaucracy follows.
However, living in Sweden is awesome! You can do it!
First, the school or company that plans to hire you must get plenty of paperwork and identification from you (and your partner if you have one). Typically, they will require you to send in:
- Signed power of attorney form
- Completed work permit application
- A marriage certificate (or a document stating that you’ve lived with your partner for at least two years)
- A scan of passports
Once all the proper documentation is in, the company’s economist or HR department will communicate on your behalf with Migrationsverket, the agency in Sweden that regulates migration and approves visas. The process can take up to a few months, but as long as everything goes according to plan, your request will be granted and you will be eligible for at least a one-year work visa.
Sign in Migrationsverket. Photo: TT
Next step: Pack your bags, you're moving to Sweden! Once you land, one of the first things you must do is schedule an appointment at Migrationsverket to be fingerprinted and photographed for a residency permit card. This card is important and shows that you have permission to live in the country for one year. Make sure you have a reliable physical address that it can be mailed to.
You are now one huge step closer to being a bonafide Swedish resident!
However, to be considered a real person in Sweden, you still need the all important personal identity number. Each Swede is given this 12-digit person number when they are born, and people that move here must apply for one as well.
This number is needed to get medical treatment, open a bank account, purchase a cell phone plan, and even apply for grocery store loyalty programs.
It is also important that your employer is given this number because it is associated with your taxes. In fact, the tax agency, Skatteverket, is where you need to go to apply for a person number.
Make an appointment and bring your passport, residency permit cards, marriage certificate, and birth certificates for any children you may have. If all goes well, your person number will be mailed to you in a few days.
Once you have a person number you can open a bank account. Since my school had an agreement with Handelsbanken, opening an account was not too difficult, though we did need more documentation as Americans than my Canadian coworkers did.
Throughout the last year, I have heard a few horror stories of endless back and forths when applying for a bank account. If you want to save time and a headache, do your research and find out exactly what a person from your country needs before going in to set up an account.
At this point, you basically have everything you need to live in Sweden. However, you may also want to consider applying for a Swedish ID card. This is not required, but it can be helpful to have an ID card that shows your person number. To get this ID card, you must have a Swedish bank account so that you can transfer the 400 kronor fee for the card.
Now that you have completed all of this seemingly endless paperwork, your one-year permit in Sweden may be up. The good news is you (through your company) can now apply for a two-year residency permit.
However, keep in mind that if your passport will be expiring within a year, you will need to renew it before your two year work permit will be approved. Be proactive and renew your passport in advance so that you don’t force yourself into a stressful situation.