Sweden’s travel ban: The difference between exempt and approved countries

passport control in an airport
Do you know which documents you need when entering Sweden? Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Sweden's travel ban can be confusing for international travellers trying to figure out if they can enter Sweden. What is the difference between an exempt and approved country, and how will this affect you?

Sweden’s travel ban is confusing at the best of times, with different rules for Nordic countries, EU and non-EU countries, “exempt” countries and “approved countries”.

If you’ve had a look at the recommendations recently to see if you’re allowed to enter, you may have been left scratching your head over which rules apply to you and whether your vaccination certificate is valid or whether you also need a negative test for entry in to Sweden.

An important point to note here is that these rules apply to the last country you were in before arriving in Sweden. So if you flew to Copenhagen Airport and are planning on taking the train to Malmö in Sweden – or changing flights and flying to Stockholm – you count as an arrival from Denmark, and not an arrival from the country where your journey began. Note that just because you’re allowed in to Sweden doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allowed in to Denmark, so make sure to check the rules for entering any transit countries before travelling.

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The general rules are as follows:

Arrivals from Nordic countries

This applies to Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland. Arrivals from these countries have no ban on entry and do not need to provide a negative test or documentation on vaccination or recovery. 

Arrivals from other EU/EEA countries 

This applies to all non-Nordic EU/EEA countries. There is no ban on entry, but travellers will need to provide an EU-issued vaccine certificate or a vaccine certificate from an approved country, a negative test result under 72 hours old, or a recovery certificate.

Arrivals from non-EU/EEA countries

As a general rule, people arriving from these countries are subject to Sweden’s travel ban unless one of the following apply:

  • you are a Swedish citizen
  • you are an EU/EEA citizen
  • you have long-term residence status or a residence permit in Sweden or another EU country
  • you are a UK citizen who has applied for or been granted post-Brexit residence status
  • you have a visa for Sweden or another EU country
  • you have a vaccine certificate from an approved country
  • you have a “close family connection” to someone who is in one of the above categories (this includes spouse, cohabiting partner or children under 18)
  • you live in an exempted country

You will usually also have to provide proof that you are not currently infected with Covid-19 – an EU-issued vaccine certificate or a vaccine certificate from an approved country, a negative test result under 72 hours old, or a recovery certificate.

There are also exceptions for different professions, asylum seekers and students holding a residence permit for studies in Sweden. A full list of these exceptions are listed on the Swedish police’s website.

What is the difference between an exempt and an approved country?

Exempt countries are countries whose residents are no longer subject to the travel ban but whose vaccine certificates have not been approved. “Exempt” refers to the travel ban – they are exempt from the travel ban, but not from the testing requirement.

This means that residents of these countries are allowed to travel to Sweden, but must provide one of the following as proof that they are not infected with Covid-19:

  • a negative Covid-19 test
  • an EU Covid Certificate
  • a vaccine certificate from the EEA or an approved country

This also applies to people vaccinated in a non-EU country which is not currently on the approved list. This list is not based on citizenship, so if you are a foreigner living in an exempt country, you just need to prove your residency.

The only situation where vaccine certificates from exempt countries are valid for travel to Sweden is if you are transiting through another EU country before entering Sweden. In this case, you do not need to have an EU Covid Certificate, a negative test or a vaccine certificate from an approved country.

Approved countries are countries where vaccine certificates have been approved as being equal to an EU-issued certificate. These countries are also exempt from the travel ban.

Residence or citizenship in an approved country does not matter – fully vaccinated travellers holding a vaccine certificate from an approved country can enter Sweden without a test.

For a list of current approved and exempt countries, see here, under “Exempted countries and approved countries”. This list is regularly updated, so make sure you check that your country is still listed if planning a trip to Sweden.

Note that the Swedish government recently agreed to add the US to the list of approved countries, with this rule applying from the 5th November 2021. US travellers wanting to enter Sweden before this date must qualify for another exemption to be allowed in to Sweden.

The above information was correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. Please be aware that we are not a government authority and cannot issue any guarantees about whether or not you will be able to travel to Sweden. We always advise readers to also consult the official information on the Swedish border police’s website before travelling.

If you have any questions, you are always welcome to contact our editorial team at [email protected]. We may not be able to reply to every email, and we cannot advise on individual cases, but we read all emails and use them to inform our future coverage.

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