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How will Sweden’s ban on unregistered pre-paid phone sims affect foreigners?

From this month, people in Sweden will no longer be able to activate a pre-paid mobile phone sim without registering their identities. How will this affect foreigners living in the country?

How will Sweden's ban on unregistered pre-paid phone sims affect foreigners?
A woman examines her mobile phone. Photo: Comviq

What’s changing? 

From August 1st, people in Sweden will no longer be able to activate a pre-paid sim without proving their identities and registering the number with their name. Existing pre-paid sims will continue to work until February 23rd.  

Why is this change being brought in? 

Sweden’s police argue that banning unregistered pre-paid sim cards will make it easier to fight organised crime, as criminals will find it more difficult to use unregistered sims for so-called ‘burner’ phones that they use for a short period and then discard, making them harder for police to tap and trace. 

“Unregistered pre-paid sims for mobile telephones are often used by criminals to make the police’s work more difficult,” Sweden’s justice minister, Morgan Johansson, said when the law was proposed in February. “Now we are bringing an end to that and as a result giving police better tools to fight crime.” 

Shortly before the law came into force, Fredrik Joelsson, an officer with the Swedish police’s anti-fraud section, told state broadcaster SVT that the change would “make it easier for the police and for other crime-fighting agencies”.  

What will people need to provide to register a new pre-paid sim? 

People who have a personal number and access to Sweden’s BankID online identity service can register online. (Here are links to registration for Comviq, Halebop, and Hallon)

To register a pre-paid sim online, Halebop requires you to provide your personal number, the mobile number of the pre-paid sim, and the sim card number. Comviq has a simple service on its website, which means you can receive an sms code rather than fill in the sim card number. 

Can I register without BankID? 

Yes. If you don’t have a personal number or BankID, you may still be able register your pre-paid card in person, either at a mobile phone provider’s shop, or at a retailer such as Pressbyrån or 7-Eleven. 

According to Comviq, all you need is to take your phone and valid Swedish or foreign ID to a retailer selling Comviq cards, such as Pressbyrån, 7-Eleven, or even your local  independent corner shop. They will then be able to register you.  

To register a Halebop sim, you need to visit a Telia mobile phone shop, but, according to their website, they require that those applying fulfil one or more of the following criteria: 

  • Holding a social security number (for example a coordination number (samordningsnummer) or personal number (personnummer)
  • Holding a residence permit 
  • Holding a certificate of study abroad in Sweden 
  • Holding a certificate for work in Sweden
  • Owning a property in Sweden 

Can I register without a Swedish address, Swedish documentation, or a Swedish identity number of any kind? 

Yes, so long as you can prove your identity, it should be possible to use foreign documents. 

Halebop says it will also register people at Telia stores who are: 

  • Tourists with a valid passport
  • Refugees with a valid passport

Comviq says that all its retailers will require is a valid foreign ID. 

What happens if I already have a pre-paid sim and don’t bother to register it? 

According to Comviq’s website, people with older pre-paid sims need to register by February 1st, 2023 “in order to avoid the risk that their number is deleted”. This suggests that you might be able to continue to use your card after February 1st, but that it could be cancelled at any point after that.  

Will the new rules bar new arrivals in Sweden from getting a pre-paid sim? 

It doesn’t look like they will.

According to Sally Stenberg, head of legal affairs with the The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS), the new law itself is unclear about what sort of identity documents will be sufficient. In the preparatory work leading up to the law, however, it is quite clear, she says, that the government does not want to block anyone, including foreign tourists, from being able to get a pre-paid sim. 

“The government has been pretty explicit that this isn’t intended to shut anyone out from having a pre-paid sim card,” she said. “The law says that if you don’t have a personal number you can use another identity number, and in the preparatory documents, they say that can be a passport number or your date of birth.” 

There was even a suggestion in some preparatory work that if someone has no documents at all, foreign or Swedish, they may be able to get a pre-paid sim if they can get a relative or close friend can vouch for them and provider their own documents. 

Can people register sim cards for their children? 

Yes. Pre-paid sim cards used by children should be registered using the identity documents one of their parents or another adult responsible for looking after them. 

Is there a limit to how many sims a person can have?

No. Under the law, there is no limit to the number of pre-paid sims a person can register, but if a sim is used by someone who isn’t the person it is registered to or a member of their family on more than a few occasions, the mobile phone operator is supposed to shut it down.  According to Stenberg, the law gives no suggestion on how mobile phone operators should determine this. 

What happens to the information people provide when registering a sim? 

Unless you ask for your identity to be kept secret, you name will be coupled to the mobile number of the pre-paid sim in Sweden’s online telephone directories, and Your personal number, name, address, photos of your ID documents, and other information collected will be kept by the mobile phone operator (and passed over to them by retailers).

If police require information on the identity of the person behind a certain number, or the numbers used by certain individuals, the mobile phone operators can then pass that information on. 

“Tele2 is, as all other operators in Sweden, legally obliged, under certain circumstances, to disclose stored customer data to government agencies, normally the police authority or the security police authority,” Fredrik Hallstan, press officer for Comviq’s owner Tele2, told The Local. “The data stored in accordance with the new registration provisions will fall under this obligation as well.” 

How did mobile phone operators view the new law? 

They have been critical, with Tele2 in particular complaining that the law is “not proportional”, and “not sufficiently motivated”. 

“When comparing the foreseen upsides with the foreseen downsides of the proposal, Tele2 found – like the government has done in previous analyses of a registration obligation – that such an obligation would not be proportional,” Hallstan said.

What will happen over the next few months? 

Stenberg said that PTS aimed to develop “more detailed rules regarding the identification of users” within a few months, based on how they see the new law working in practice. 

“We have the possibility to monitor the operators and collect information on how they are applying the law, and if consumers have complaints, we will collect them as well and monitor the reactions of consumers,” she said.

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For members


Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question.