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EXPAT

‘Do your research!’: tips on applying for residence in Sweden

American Kevin Buckley explains his experience of applying to become a Swedish resident after moving from the USA.

'Do your research!': tips on applying for residence in Sweden
Central Stockholm. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

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.


Photo: Pexels

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.


Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

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.

Kevin and JoEllen Buckley moved from Nashville, Tennessee, to Stockholm two years ago. Read their blog here. Do you want to write a guest blog post for The Local? E-mail [email protected] 

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WORK PERMITS

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Many foreigners living in Sweden need to have a residence permit to live in the country legally. Permits are issued for two years at a time and can be renewed 30 days before expiry, at the earliest. But with waiting times exceeding 8 months for many applicants, just what are your rights while you wait to hear back?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swedish residence permit to be extended?

Can I keep working in Sweden?

It depends. If you have a residence permit which allows you to work in Sweden, have held that residence permit for at least six months and apply for an extension before your old permit expires, you still have the right to work in Sweden while you wait for the Migration Agency to make a decision on your permit application.

You can apply for a new residence permit 30 days before your old permit expires, at the earliest, and you can’t get a new residence permit before your old one has run out.

Can I leave Sweden?

Technically you can, but it might not be a good idea. This is due to the fact that if you leave Sweden after your residence permit has expired, it can be difficult to enter Sweden again before your new permit is granted, even if you can prove that you’ve applied for a new one.

In the worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to Sweden at the border and forced to wait in another country until your new residence permit is granted. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in some cases, apply for a national visa allowing you to re-enter Sweden. These are only granted under exceptional circumstances, and must be applied for at a Swedish embassy or general consulate in the country you are staying in. If you are not granted a national visa to re-enter Sweden, you can’t appeal the decision, meaning you’ll have to wait until your residence permit is approved before you can re-enter Sweden.

The Migration Agency writes on its website that you should only leave Sweden while your application is being processed “in exceptional cases, and if you really have to”.

It lists some examples of exceptional cases as “sudden illness, death in the family or important work-related assignments”, adding that you may need to provide proof of your reason for travelling to the embassy when you apply for a national visa to re-enter Sweden.

What if I come from a visa-free country?

If you come from a visa-free country, you are able to re-enter Sweden without needing a visa, but you may run into issues anyway, as visa-free non-EU citizens entering Schengen are only allowed to stay in the bloc for 90 days in every 180 before a visa is required.

If you are a member of this group and you stay in Schengen for longer than 90 days without a visa, you could be labelled an “overstayer”, which can cause issues entering other countries, as well as applying for a visa or residence permit in the future.

The Migration Agency told The Local that “a visa-free person waiting for a decision in their extension application can leave Sweden and return, as long as they have visa-free days left to use”.

“However, an extension application usually requires the individual to be located in Sweden,” the Agency wrote. “Travelling abroad can, in some cases, have an effect on the decision whether to extend a residence permit or not, in a way which is negative for the applicant, but this decision is made on an individual case basis (it’s not possible to say a general rule).”

“The right to travel into the Schengen area for short visits is not affected, as long as the person still has visa-free days left.”

The Local has contacted the Migration Agency to clarify whether days spent in Sweden count towards the 90-day limit, and will update this article accordingly once we receive a response.

Does this apply to me if I have a permanent residence permit?

No. This only applies to people in Sweden holding temporary residence permits. If you have a permanent residence permit and your residence permit card (uppehållstillståndskort or UT-kort) expires, you just need to book an appointment at the Migration Agency to have your picture and fingerprints taken for a new card.

How long is the processing time for residence permit renewals?

It varies. For people renewing a residence permit to live with someone in Sweden, for example, the Migration Agency states that 75 percent of recent cases received an answer within eight months.

For work permit extensions, it varies. In some branches, 75 percent of applicants received a response after 17 months, others only had to wait five.

This means that some people waiting to extend their residence permits could be discouraged from leaving Sweden for almost a year and a half, unless they are facing “exceptional circumstances”.

You can see how long it is likely to take in your case here.

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