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

In numbers: How many people got a work permit in Sweden last year?
How many were granted a work permit in 2020, and where did they come from? Photo: Christine Olsson and The Local
Far fewer people than forecast moved to Sweden for work during 2020, but thousands relocated despite a pandemic.

In total, 15,231 people had their work permit applications approved, according to statistics from the Swedish Migration Agency. That was down from 21,950 in 2019 and 20,841 the year before that.

The figure includes only people whose permits were approved outright, not those whose applications were approved at the appeals stage, whose permits were extended, or family members of people moving to Sweden for work (who are usually included on the same permit).

It also omits a few other categories of work which fall under different permit rules. In addition to these 15,231, Sweden issued permits to a further 114 sole traders, 905 guest researchers, and 2,534 people who fell into the category of interns, people on international exchange, or athletes.

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In the months January to March, more than 1,500 people were granted a work permit to come to Sweden each month, but that dropped sharply to to 923 in April as the impact of the coronavirus slowed down work migration. The months with fewest permits granted were June (699) and August (644) though July saw a peak of 3,523 permits granted in one month.

The most common category was “technicians and associate professionals”, which made up 5,409 of all approved permits and primarily included berry-pickers and fast food workers. This was followed by the 4,037 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.

By some margin, most of Sweden's new workers moved to Stockholm, where 7,424 of the permit grantees were registered. This was unsurprisingly followed by the other two major city regions, with 1,942 people moving to Västra Götaland for work and 1,805 to Skåne. Gotland was the region with fewest new workers: just 27.

Sweden's new workers came from six continents, with most foreign professionals (3,426) coming from Thailand. This was followed by India (2,660), Ukraine (1,604), China (537), Iraq (520), Turkey (463), Iran (411), the USA (411), Serbia (347) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (298).

These figures only include non-EU workers, since EU citizens do not need to apply for a permit in order to live and work in Sweden. In 2020, British citizens were also exempt from that requirement, although are now subject to third country rules.

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.


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  1. “Sweden’s new workers came from six continents, with most foreign professionals (3,426) coming from Thailand. This was followed by India (2,660), Ukraine (1,604), China (537), Iraq (520), Turkey (463), Iran (411), the USA (411), Serbia (347) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (298).”
    Why Brazil with 383 is not in the list above?

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