How international residents in Sweden can take ‘a giant leap’ to finding a job

If you’re new to Sweden and having trouble finding a job, you’re not alone. As many as seven out of every ten jobs in Sweden are estimated to come through personal networks.

How international residents in Sweden can take ‘a giant leap’ to finding a job
Photo: Mamtha Pullat

If you don’t know the language and perhaps have few or no connections in the country, the situation can look bleak. But international residents can give their prospects a huge boost by applying to Jobbsprånget, a government-backed internship programme aimed at professionals with degrees in engineering, architecture, science or business/finance.

It enables you to make real use of your skills once more – and seven out of ten participants find a permanent job. The Local spoke to two foreigners, who had worked in their respective fields for years before moving to Sweden, about why an internship was a necessary step to bigger things.

A giant leap to a Swedish job: find out more about how to apply for Jobbsprånget’s next round of internships – open until January 16

Get paid for your competence, skills – and passion

“I was starting from scratch,” says Mamtha Pullat, recalling the period after moving from India to Sweden in 2018 following five years working in the development sector in her home country. “I attended a lot of job fairs and handed my CV to a lot of companies. I landed a couple of interviews, but I didn’t get any offers and I really wasn’t getting any feedback that could help me.” 

Pullat discovered Jobbsprånget through the network she’s been building over the past two years. She said the programme is a win-win for both those looking for work in Sweden and companies in need of talented professionals. 

“It’s very different from other internship programmes because it caters to people with a degree and professional experience,” Pullat says. 

She did an internship with Telia, which she was then able to convert it into paid employment as a diversity and inclusion specialist at the multinational telecoms firm. The job fits well with her personal interests, her background in development and her degree in business administration. 

“I’m extremely happy that it ties in with what I’m passionate about,” she adds. 

Pullat’s path has been complicated by the pandemic. She decided to move from Gothenburg to Stockholm for the internship in March – but was sent back to work from home after only a week.

“Even though it’s been remote, I don’t feel I missed out on anything because Telia has done a really good job of adapting to the new normal. It’s been very easy to connect with people, build my network and work on different projects,” she says. 

Applicants to Jobbsprånget don't need to speak Swedish, as the programme language is English – but you do need to be registered at Arbetsförmedlingen, the Swedish Public Employment Service.

Kick-start your Swedish career with Jobbsprånget – find out how to apply now or to learn more about the requirements to apply click here

The architect with new grounds for optimism

Ahmad Shawi, an architect originally from Syria, is blunt about his initial job search process after moving to Sweden two years ago from Cyprus. “It went really badly. Joining the Swedish job market is very hard,” he says, estimating that he applied for over 50 jobs to no avail. 

Soon after being accepted to Jobbsprånget, Shawi landed an internship with Stockholmshem, the capital region’s largest housing company.

Photo: Ahmad Shawi/Stockholmshem

“I help digitize and update existing floor plans for older buildings,” he says. “I believe you need to be an architect to have a good understanding of this stuff. You have to recognise changes between the old drawings and the current realities and then take those into account when you draw up the new floor plans.”

Stockholmshem had previously been contracting with an architecture firm every time it needed to update floor plans, a complicated and expensive process. But the company’s head office learned what Shawi was doing at its Skarpnäck branch and offered him a paid job that runs until the end of the year. He dreams of one day opening his own architecture firm and now feels confident about his chances. 

“I feel positive. The company is well-known and trusted, so it’s a really good name to have on my CV,” he explains. 

Although has been working almost entirely remotely, he's still made new friends and important professional contacts. “I’m very satisfied because I think it’s now going to be a lot easier to get a job. It’s difficult right now with coronavirus but I think I’ll find something,” Ahmad says. 

Taking the initiative

It’s common for skilled workers to feel they have a mountain to climb to crack Swedish workplace culture, according to Sofi Tegsveden Deveaux, an expert on introducing foreign professionals to Sweden and co-author of ‘Working in Sweden: The A–Z Guide’.

Deveaux says many newcomers, and probably many Swedes, have a too rosy picture of the country’s openness to foreign professionals. “I think Swedes aren’t as international as they believe,” she says. “They’re in their own bubble. It’s very difficult for Swedish employers to recognise foreign qualifications because they just don’t know much about it.” 

Foreigners’ unfamiliarity with how Swedes do things can also create problems once you have landed a job. “Many people come from very hierarchical cultures, so they tend to be very loyal and obedient, whereas a Swedish workplace often expects you to take the initiative,” Deveaux said. This can create big problems during internships, she warns.

“If you’re sitting there waiting for something, it’ll be seen from a Swedish perspective as being quite passive. Even though you’re an intern, you’re expected to speak up and behave more as an equal,” she says.

Photo: Sofi Tegsveden Deveaux

Deveaux offered an online webinar on the dos and don’ts of Swedish work culture to Jobbsprånget participants during the pandemic. She said companies were initially hesitant to take on interns who would work remotely but most have since adapted. 

So the opportunities are there – especially as you don't need to speak Swedish to join the programme but can learn it on the job. “A ‘språng’ is a leap,” says Deveaux. “Instead of taking a slow route to a job, this allows you to take a giant leap.” 

Seven in ten participants on Jobbsprånget's internships find employment. The current application period runs from December 16th until January 16th – click here to find out more or 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.