Swedish court decision set to ease work permit headache for border commuters

A new work permit ruling by Sweden's Migration Court of Appeal could make life easier for border commuters.

Swedish court decision set to ease work permit headache for border commuters
Thousands of people commute across the bridge between Sweden and Denmark every day. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

A non-EU national who lives outside of Sweden but commutes to the country for work on a daily basis may be granted a temporary residence permit, according to a new ruling by the top migration court in Sweden.

The court ruled on the case of an American citizen who lives in Denmark but works in Sweden.

He was granted a temporary work permit in 2016, but when he applied to extend it in 2018 the Migration Agency rejected his request, arguing that since he did not generally live in Sweden and had no plans to move there any time soon, he could not be seen as staying in Sweden and was therefore not entitled to a residence permit.

There are two Swedish concepts that are important to understand this conflict. One is dygnsvila ('daily rest'), a term that is often used to denote that someone resides at the place they sleep. Because the applicant did not spend his nights in Sweden, the Migration Agency argued he could not be seen as residing in the country.

The second is vistelse ('stay', which to complicate matters has a broad meaning ranging from living somewhere to just being in that place), one of the requirements for being given a Swedish residence permit. The American applicant argued that since he worked in Sweden he spent most of his day in the country and therefore met the vistelse requirement, while the Migration Court, which upheld the rejection, countered that “the term stay in the Swedish language refers to something other than daily commutes to work”.

But the man then took the case to the Migration Court of Appeal, which ruled in his favour. The court's decisions set a legal precedence and will therefore affect other work permit applicants in a similar situation in the future.

It wrote in its judgment that the man's commute did in fact meet the requirements for staying in Sweden to the extent required by the law. It added that there was no legal requirement for the man to spend the nights (his dygnsvila) in order for him to be considered to be staying in Sweden as far as the vistelse condition went.

It based its decision on preparatory work by legislators when the law was created, finding that the intent of the law was to help ensure Sweden's demand for labour was met as well as to facilitate international mobility across borders. That applies even if the applicant does not intend to permanently live in Sweden, wrote the court.

“The traditional notion that migration is to do with moving from one place to another, where the migrant intends to settle permanently, has proved increasingly insufficient to describe the migration patterns of our time,” read the court judgment, paraphrasing one of the original bills where the reasons behind the law were laid out.

“The term circular migration describes human movements between countries that may be temporary or more permanent and that can make a positive contribution to the growth of everyone involved.”

As such, the court dismissed the Migration Agency's grounds for rejection and sent the man's case back to the agency, which will now have to review whether or not he fulfils other requirements for a work permit.

The full court jugdment can be read (in Swedish) here.

Do you have any questions about this or life in Sweden? You are always welcome to contact our editorial team at [email protected]. We are a small team and may not be able to reply to every email, but we read them all and they help guide our editorial coverage.

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CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).


You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).


If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.