The fast-track to your first Swedish job

As Faryal Sajjad recalls the challenges she faced after moving from Pakistan to Stockholm, she admits she began to lose hope of finding work. “You need Swedish experience to get a job here but you need a job to get the experience,” she says.

The fast-track to your first Swedish job
Faryal Sajjad and Yohannes Asresu. Photo credit: Laras Piniji.

Yohannes Asresu, from Ethiopia, had even more reason to despair – he made an incredible 237 job applications with no success. Today, both have full-time jobs and speak enthusiastically about Sweden’s work culture. How did they do it?

The answer is they signed up to Jobbsprånget, a nationwide government-backed programme that offers internships to university-educated new arrivals in Sweden. The internships last four months and 70 percent of those who complete one find employment. 

Opening the door

Sweden has been rated as one of the toughest jobs markets for newcomers to crack. It’s not unusual for expats to remain without work for years. 

“There can be a lack of trust in your capabilities or ability to get inducted into the Swedish way of working if you didn’t go to school here,” says Faryal, who now works as a junior brand manager at Unilever. 

The fast-track to a Swedish job: apply now for Jobbsprånget's next round of internships

Yohannes, now a data intelligence analyst at Snow Software in Stockholm, agrees. “Employers want somebody that can talk about your experience in the Swedish market,” he says. “You need someone to help open the door for you.”

Jobbsprånget offers the chance of a fast-track route to opening career doors that had seemed firmly shut. The programme is in English, so you don’t have to worry if you haven’t mastered Swedish. 

But you must have a degree in engineering, architecture, science or business and be registered at Sweden’s Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen). Non-European English-speaking graduates looking for work in Sweden are a priority group – find out more about the requirements via this link

Showcasing your skills

Faryal secured an internship at Unilever, during which she applied for and was awarded a different role at the multinational after seeing it advertised on LinkedIn. 

“With a Jobbsprånget internship, you're not treated as an intern just out of college,” she says. “You get to showcase that you’ve got the skills to be employable. I did my internship with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and I now work in Unilever’s foods category.”

Photo: Faryal Sajjad

In Yohannes’s case, Jobbsprånget helped him get an internship at Nordea Bank working on IT procurement. 

“Every day was an opportunity for me to learn about the Swedish working environment,” he says. “Nordea made it clear it wouldn’t lead to a job there but I didn’t take that as a negative.”

His manager helped him review his CV, update his portfolio and constantly encouraged him to apply for permanent jobs. Before finishing his internship in August last year, Yohannes had secured his current position. 

“Jobbsprånget was my reference to get an internship at Nordea, and Nordea was my reference to get my job,” he says.

Kick-start your Swedish career with Jobbsprånget – find out how to apply now

Personal fulfilment

Yohannes was the editor-in-chief of a weekly news magazine in his home country before he fled to Sweden in 2014 in fear for his life after the government accused his publication of threatening national security. After doing a two-year Masters in Information Systems at Uppsala University, he began job hunting. 

But after more than 200 applications, his fortunes only began to change when he saw an advert for Jobbsprånget on Instagram.

Working full-time again gives him “a sense of fulfilment as a person”, says Yohannes, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Uppsala. “It also has a good benefit financially so that I can provide for my family.”

Faryal says she was “at a pretty low point” and losing confidence when she first saw a Jobbsprånget advert on Facebook. Despite attending networking events and doing job applications, she usually received nothing more than an automated email. 

“You question whether you’re right for the market,” she says. “But my husband gave me a big push – he knew someone who had gone through Jobbsprånget and was working full-time.”

Photos: Yohannes Asresu/Faryal Sajjad

Opportunity knocks

Both Faryal and Yohannes are now full of positives about working in Sweden – and want to encourage job-seekers to persevere.

Faryal appreciates the culture of sharing a Swedish fika – a traditional coffee break with a sweet snack – with colleagues. “It’s an opportunity to learn about Swedish society and culture,” she says.

She advises people still waiting for their breakthrough to go to networking events and sign up to Jobbsprånget. “Realise that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she says.

Yohannes says he never felt like an outsider at his new employer: “The working environment is relaxed and you’re invited to come up with ideas.” 

The man who refused to give up is clear about what job-seekers should prioritise. “Most people subscribe with Arbetsförmedlingen and go through the daily job emails,” he says. “But it’s not enough. Participate in Jobbsprånget and take it seriously – it’s a big opportunity if you show the commitment to learn and grow.”

The next application process for Jobbsprånget opens on July 16th and runs until August 16th. Click here to apply now.

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.