Carlos from Honduras has a co-ordination number (a temporary number issued by the tax authority so agencies can identify a person) but not a personal number, and the preference given to the latter is something he experiences in his everyday life:
“It's quite an obstacle. It feels like I don't have the same access to services as residents or the same opportunities. It's quite discouraging and always reminds me that I don't quite belong. I am a high risk to organizations because I don't have a personal number.”
While many Swedish banks will allow EU citizens to open accounts without a personal number, for non-EU citizens like him, it's much more difficult.
“I was refused bank accounts many times until one finally accepted my coordination number along with a certified copy of my passport. Even though I have an account, I don't have BankID (a form of electronic authentication used extensively in Sweden) and have been refused all credit cards and internet access to the account. So I can only access it if I go in person or use the debit card.”
The Swedish Migration Agency currently has his passport while his application for asylum is processed, and without both that and a personal number, he is left without an accepted form of ID. As a result he faces regular reminders that he is on the outside of Swedish society.
“Once a friend invited me to have some drinks with his friends downtown. I got ready, took the bus and at the first place we went I was told at the door by a police officer that I couldn't come in using my Asylum Seeker Card (LMA). My friends tried to tell him I wasn't a bad person but the police officer ignored it, and he was right to do so according to the law.”
“After that, I don't go places that ask for ID, I don't buy alcohol at Systembolaget, I don't travel using airports and I can only subscribe to services if I pay for them first. It has been very difficult to find and rent accommodation and I can usually only do that through people who know me. I can't subscribe to discount or loyalty programmes from the grocery store. I know It has become the norm to be scrutinized or even denied, and I don't take it personally, I just come home hoping that someday things will be different,” he concluded.
Even buying groceries can be a different experience with a personal number. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT
Kristina from Lithuania was denied access to Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) courses when she lived in Karlskrona because she didn't have a personal number – even though as an EU citizen she should have been allowed to sign up.
“Both me and my husband tried to convince one of the teachers and the head of SFI, back in 2013. We received a plain 'no' from the teacher and the same from the head. No numbers, no SFI. I was hoping to get an exception because of the high demand for nurses, but I didn't. I didn't know I had the right to SFI. I complained to EU regulatory institutions about troubles getting a personal number, and they said they are familiar with the issue but it takes time to change rules,” she wrote.
Eventually Kristina had the matter resolved, but only by first spending a lot of money on private Swedish lessons:
“After intensive courses in private lessons I went for a job interview and got it in 2014. With the job I got personal numbers for the whole family of five. Now we live a normal life.”
American Stanley had problems getting paid because not having a personal number made it difficult to get a bank account:
“I have a bank account in six countries, yet could not obtain an account to deposit my pay cheque from my Swedish employer for over six months. I even had my American passport refused as proof of identification.”
“I was refused a bank account, gym membership, medical treatment, an apartment, language courses and even the rewards programme at my local supermarkets,” he added.
Durga from India said that not being able to access many services in Sweden despite paying taxes was a bitter pill to swallow.
“None of the basic services work, such as getting the internet, a bank account, Swedish for Immigrants classes, social benefits. Yet we have to pay the same level of taxes. It's a feeling of complete deception, where I have to pay full tax like any other Swedish citizen but am denied services.”
“I'm not even able to access my payslips which are tied to BankID authentication. Almost everything is tied to the personal number in Sweden, so either provide a personal number to every immigrant immediately after entering Sweden, or relax the mandate for basic services.”
No personal number? Working out finances could be tricky. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
The Local reader Saima said not having a personal number complicated her health.
“I suffered three years without a personal number. I delivered a child and could not get regular visits to the doctor during pregnancy as it costs too much, so me and my child were at risk during the whole pregnancy. I paid 35,000 kronor for the delivery and couldn't get a job or interact with people due to a lack of Swedish knowledge.”
“I couldn't even open a bank account. At times I got toothache, but had no money, so lost two teeth during the period,” she concluded.