The internship programme offering new arrivals a ‘headstart’ in the Swedish job market

Three years after its launch, an internship programme targeted at new immigrants in Sweden has led to over two thirds of its interns gaining permanent employment.

The internship programme offering new arrivals a 'headstart' in the Swedish job market
The programme is open primarily to immigrants from outside the EU with a university degree in a range of fields. Photo: Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The idea behind the programme was to help immigrants enter the labour market much quicker than the five to ten years it typically takes after arriving in Sweden, according to the Swedish Confederation of Enterprise. By reducing that time, the Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences aimed to help skilled new arrivals find work in their field while offering employers a way of plugging skills shortages with talent already in the country.

Saroja Kandula is one of those who found an internship, and now a full-time job, through the Jobbsprånget programme. She came to Sweden from India in late 2018 after her husband got a job here, but when she started her own job search, she found it hard to get a foot in the door.

Despite having a degree in computer science engineering and three years’ work experience, she found that most full-time positions required Swedish skills which, after just a few months, she didn’t yet have.

“I had a plan to search for work or an internship, I was also trying to apply for a Masters’ because I didn’t want to sit idle,” she told The Local.

Kandula heard about the Jobbsprånget programme through Facebook, and after applying, she got interviews and eventually internship offers from two companies in Gothenburg, and accepted an internship with manufacturing company SKF.

She was recently offered a permanent job there once her internship ends.


“Sweden’s work environment is very friendly. If you want to do something, the culture is ready to test things so you can try out new ideas,” Kandula says of her experience.

Like many internationals, she has found that socializing and networking is key to career progression in Sweden, and for this she has been working on Swedish skills. “The language is important if you have long-term plans. Fika at work is helpful because it gives people a reason to socialize and have small conversations, and I’ve joined SFI,” she says.

Entry to the programme requires a high level of English and does not include formal Swedish language training, but according to organizers, the idea is that most interns will be able to significantly improve their Swedish language skills simply through fika breaks and chatting to colleagues.

Saroja Kandula came to Sweden in late 2018 and has now been offered a permanent job after carrying out an internship. Photo: Jobbsprånget

Jobbsprånget was first launched in 2016, initially targeting only engineers with a focus on those who had recently arrived in Sweden from outside Europe. The majority of interns in the first year came from Syria and Iraq.

Since then, it has been expanded to include internships for newcomers with a degree in engineering, economics, science, architecture, and engineering, with a continued focus on new arrivals from outside Europe. 

There is no salary offered for interns, but they receive allowances from the Swedish Public Employment Agency as the internship is considered part of their route to work. Petra Bunsop, a strategist at Swedavia, says that one big benefit for her company was that the scheme works with all the necessary paperwork with the Public Employment Service around hiring new arrivals, making it easier than going through a typical probation period.

Swedavia has taken on seven interns and hired five of them full-time. “”We, like many other companies today, have challenges in finding relevant competence and we need to work in many different ways to ensure the skills we need. And Jobbsprånget helps us to reach out and get in contact with recently arrived talents,” Bunsop said.


Swedavia is one of 150 participating employers across the country, including private and public sector companies of varying sizes.

“For the interns it’s primarily a speedy entry to the Swedish job market,” explains Alexandra Ridderstad, who runs the Jobbsprånget programme in Sweden. “”It is a huge chance to show the employer one’s potential and gain Swedish experience within one’s area of expertise, and last but not least get a Swedish professional network.

“For the employers, they get to meet so many talented people that are not yet on the Swedish job market, and they get to know people from other backgrounds, to get new insights and perspectives,” Ridderstad adds.

When asked about the steps taken to ensure the internships remain productive for participants, she says there is an ongoing evaluation process for both interns and employers, and that so far the results have been positive. 

Almost three quarters of participants (70 percent) have been offered employment once the internship is over, making it a much speedier entry to the workforce than is typical for immigrants. For those who don’t receive a job offer, the hope is that the experience will give them Swedish references and a professional network as well as an understanding of how their industry works in Sweden.

This figure came as a positive surprise to Ridderstad. “We didn´t know what to expect but we are so happy that 70 percent actually are offered an employment. After four months!”

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For members


How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years.