In numbers: How many people got a work permit in Sweden last year?

More people applied for work permits in Sweden in 2019 than the year before, a continuation of an upward trend. But who were they, and what kind of jobs did they end up in? The Local takes a look at the data.

In numbers: How many people got a work permit in Sweden last year?
More than 20,000 foreign professionals were granted work permits to move to Sweden last year. Photo: Simon Paulin/

Throughout the year, 59,307 applications for Swedish work permits were submitted, according to new figures by the Swedish Migration Agency. Decisions were reached on 52,547 cases, though the latter number includes decisions made on applications that were submitted in previous years too. 

As the new year began, 16,330 people were waiting for a decision on their work permit. 

The majority of applications where a decision was reached were approved, with a huge 42,095 work permits granted.

Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

Of these, 9,226 went to people working for so-called 'certified employers'. These are companies that have already proved to the Migration Agency that they meet certain criteria (including a recurring need for non-EU hires and fulfillment of legal requirements in previous work permit cases) and for whom processing takes a maximum of 20 days.

The figure of 52,547 doesn't just include international workers, but also any partners or relatives who were included on the same permit (this is typically the case if both partners will move to Sweden and the partner with a job offer will work for at least six months) as well as people on temporary permits, which includes au pairs, visiting researchers, and athletes, and self-employed people.

Of the 52,547, a total of 21,950 people received permits to work for a Swedish company. 

Most months saw around 1,200-1,500 permits granted, but there was a peak in early summer, with 2,872 permits approved in April, 3,050 in May, and 4,146 in June. December was the slowest month for work permit applications with only 917 approved.

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The most common category was “technicians and associate professionals”, which made up 8,414 of all approved permits and primarily included berry-pickers and fast food workers. This was followed by the 6,547 work permit grantees defined as “specialists”, referring to jobs requiring education beyond tertiary, including architects, healthcare specialists, some teachers, legal professionals, HR specialists, doctors and others.

A total of 1,745 permits went to employees defined as “professionals” (a category of jobs requiring at least tertiary education and including some engineers and technicians as well as chefs, for example). A further 1,696 permits were granted to those working in “service, care and sales” and 1,579 to people in the “construction and manufacturing” industry.

The vast majority were made by people who applied from overseas, although 896 were made by former asylum seekers and 845 from people currently studying in Sweden. A further 21 applications came from people already in Sweden on a visa.

As for where Sweden's new professionals come from, the top five countries of nationality for work permit grantees were Thailand (6,489), India (4,975), Ukraine (1,119), Turkey (878) and China (875). That was the same top five as in 2018, and in 2019 Iraq (639), the USA (487), Iran (413), Brazil (383) and Pakistan (338) completed the top ten.

In 2019 foreign workers moved to each of Sweden's regions, but unsurprisingly Stockholm was the most common region, where 11,669 of them ended up, 8,687 of whom moved to Stockholm municipality itself. Gotland was the least popular region for work permit grantees, with just 38 new arrivals last year.

After Stockholm, it was Västra Götaland which welcomed the most foreign workers (3,728), followed by Skåne where 2,156 international professionals moved.

If you're one of Sweden's new foreign workers, congratulations and welcome! You can find out more about working life in your new adopted country at our Working in Sweden section here, and if there's a particular topic that's puzzling you or which you think we should look into, please get in touch and let us know. Considering taking the leap here? Make sure you've looked through our questions to ask before you move to Sweden.

Graphs by Tim Marringa

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EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden’s new ‘talent visa’?

In the new work permit law which comes into force on June 1st, Sweden is launching a new nine-month 'talent visa', which will allow “some highly qualified individuals” to get temporary residency while they look for jobs or plan to launch a business. What do we know so far?

EXPLAINED: What do we know so far about Sweden's new 'talent visa'?

When was the law passed and when does it come into force? 

The parliament passed the new law on April 21st, and the final text of the change in the law was published on May 5th. It will come into force on June 1st. 

What does the new law say about the ‘talent visa’? 

It says that “in certain cases”, a temporary residency permit can be granted to a foreigner who wants to “spend time in the country to look for work or to look into the possibility of starting a business”. 

To qualify the applicant must: 

  • have completed studies equivalent to an advanced level degree 
  • have sufficient means to support themselves during their stay and to cover the cost of their return trip 
  • have fully comprehensive health insurance which is valid in Sweden 

How long can people initially stay in Sweden under the talent visa? 

The residency permit will be valid for a maximum of nine months.

Which agency will assess applications for the talent visa? 

The government has decided that applications should be assessed by the Migration Agency. The Migration Agency will publish more details on the requirements, such as what qualifies as an advanced degree, what documents need to be submitted, and how much capital applicants will need to show they can support themselves, in the coming weeks. 

The Migration Agency is also likely to develop a form for those wishing to apply for the talent visa. 

What level of education is necessary? 

What is meant by an “advanced degree” has not been set ou in the law, but according to Karl Rahm, who has helped draw up the law within the Ministry of Justice, a master’s degree (MA or MSc), should be sufficient. 

How much capital will applicants need to show that they have? 

According to Rahm, the amount of money applicants will need to show that they have is likely to be set at the same level as the minimum salary for those applying for a work permit, which is currently 13,000 kronor a month. If he is right, this means that someone applying for a nine-month visa would have to show that they have 117,000 kronor (€11,259) in saved capital, plus extra for their trip back to their home country.

READ ALSO: How will the new work permit law just passed in Sweden affect foreigners?

Can applicants bring children and spouses? 

“You will not be able to bring your family with this kind of visa, since the idea is that it’s for a relatively limited amount of time,  just to see if there is employment for you, or if there is a chance of starting a business,” says Elin Jansson, deputy director at the Ministry of Justice, who helped work on the new visa. “And if you do decide to stay in Sweden, then you apply for a regular work permit for starting up a business, and then you can bring your family.” 

Where will detailed information on the requirements for a talent visa be published? 

The Migration Agency will publish detailed requirements on the talent visa on its Working in Sweden page when the law starts to apply on June 1st. 

What is the reason for the talent visa? 

Those searching for a job or researching starting a new business in Sweden can already stay for up to 90 days with a normal Schengen visa. The idea behind the talent visa is to give highly educated foreigners a little longer to decide if they want to find a job or set up a business in the country before they need to go the whole way and launch a company. 

How many people are expected to apply? 

In the government inquiry on the new work permit law, experts estimated that about 500 people would apply for the new talent visa each year, but it could end up being either much more, or less. 

“It’s really hard to tell. There could be a really big demand. I don’t think it’s anyone can really say before this comes into effect,” Jansson said.