Visas & Permits
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains a list of countries whose citizens need a Visa as a tourist, business traveler, while visiting friends and relatives, or when passing through Sweden in transit. You can find that list from the Swedish government.
For those wishing to study in Sweden read everything you need at StudyInSweden.com. If you are a citizen from outside of the E. U. and the Nordic countries, and plan to study for longer than three months, in addition to your Visa, you will need a resident permit. This must be obtained in your home country prior to your arrival in Sweden. Resident permits are issued by the Swedish Migration Board. You can apply for this permit at the Swedish Embassy in your home country. Students are allowed to work during their stay in Sweden.
A resident permit may also be obtained if you are married, cohabiting, or intend to marry or cohabit with someone who is a Swedish citizen or permanent Swedish resident. It also applies to unmarried children under 18. You can get an application for a resident permit under these circumstances from the migration office.
If you want to work as an employee in Sweden and you are not a student or an E. U. citizen, you must obtain a work permit prior to arriving in Sweden. Check with the Swedish authorities in your home country for information on how to apply for a work permit.
What to do once you arrive
Once you are in Sweden you will need a personnummer. You need this number to get an ID card, bank account, loyalty card at the department stores, medical appointment, basically everything. You may apply for your personnummer at your local Skattemyndigheten. When you arrive at the office, ask which button you should push for a number for the queue, so you don’t wait in the wrong place. Once you have your personnummer you can apply for an ID card at the post office. A Swedish resident will have to go with you with their personbevis, and you will need two passport photos.
Keeping in touch with friends and family back home
You are probably familiar with Skype to call free to someone who has Skype on their computer. But to reach your parents or grandparents or aunts and uncles who don’t use Skype, you can Buy Skype Credit now to make cheap calls internationally, but you may not have heard about Rebtel, a relatively new way to make Cheap International Calls and save up to 90%.
Driving in Sweden
EU citizens with valid driving licenses can continue to use their license or trade it in for a Swedish license. Citizens outside of the E. U. can use their valid permits for one year, but then must pass the Swedish driving permit exam. You can find more details here from the authorities, along with information on registering your foreign car. Be warned that Sweden has a zero tolerance policy against drinking and driving.
Swedish language lessons
Adult immigrants to Sweden can take a course called Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) in your local municipality. This course is free of charge to the students. Once you have your personnumer ask the tax office where you can take the SFI course where you live. I have studied online at Dalarna University. You can find university classes at Studera. Other in class choices include Berlitz. To learn Swedish at your own pace you may want to use Learn a New Language in Just a Few Days, How to Learn Any Language or The Ultimate Language Secrets.
The Employment Office
With your ID card in hand you have the right to register with the Arbetsformedlingen, the Swedish Employment Agency in your region. You will be asked to enter your education and work details in their database, receive a login and password, and be given an appointment with a counselor who will work with you until you are employed. If you don’t speak Swedish your counselor can find language classes for you. You will also learn how to prepare a Swedish CV and application letter, interview etiquette, and how to get your university diplomas evaluated for the Swedish job market. This will determine if you will need additional qualifications.
Editor’s note: The Swedish Employment Agency can be depressing and of course you have to do a lot of the work yourself. They won’t find you a job, but if you press them you can find out what resources they have so you can give it your best shot. It takes an immigrant an average of 7 years to find a job in Sweden. But I know people who have found good jobs within months of arriving in Sweden.
Here is a link to general information about working in Sweden. Legally, any employment contract can be oral or in writing, but the employer has an obligation to inform the employee in writing of the terms of the employment within a month. The information must include the name and address of each party, date when the employment starts, place of work, specifics regarding the work to be done and the title of the job, what kind of employment in question i.e. full-time, part time, temporary employment etc., the salary, vacation and working hours, denote if any union agreement is applicable, and state if it is an employment abroad, specifics regarding the length thereof, in what currency the salary is paid and eventual benefits.
Before a person can be fired from his job the employer is to consider alternative employment. If no other position can be found within the company then notice of termination can be issued. The notice must be in writing and contain terms to be upheld by the employee if he wants to dispute the notice or claim damages. Furthermore the notice shall inform the employee that s/he has a right to reemployment and state those terms. This notice must be given in person. If applicable, the union must also be notified.
Taxes – Individual taxes
Here is a link to information on paying income taxes in Sweden.
Sweden’s Value Added Tax (VAT) referred to as “moms” (short for mervardesskatt), is 25 percent. However, a reduced rate of 12 percent applies to for example food and hotel charges. A rate of 6 percent applies to personal transportation, newspapers, books and magazines, entrance fees to commercial sport activities and cultural events. Certain services are exempt from VAT, including medical and dental care, social services, banking and financial services etc.
Voting at home while in Sweden
Find a place to live in Sweden
Depending on where you live finding an apartment may be hard to do. For example, affordable places are hard to come by in Stockholm. If you want to have your name on the lease be aware that there is a waiting list that can take up to 10 years. Second hand apartments are more common but they can involve short-term leases. However, starting your search early can make it easier in the long run. Try your luck on Blocket, and put the word out that you are searching on Facebook and all of the expat forums and networks.
Public transportation covers all of Sweden. Here is a website that helps you plan your journey on public transportation, be it by bus, boat, or tram, where ever you live in Sweden.
Finding a doctor and dentist
Finding a doctor in Sweden is easy as they actually find you. You will receive a letter in the mail from your regional medical agency telling you to which medical facility you have been assigned. You are given a list of additional facilities in your region from which you can choose if you do not want to accept their assignment. Finding a dentist is more of a challenge since they work outside of the medical system. Ask for a recommendation from a neighbor or colleague to find a good dentist near you. Your first visit will include an exam and x-rays. Cleanings are performed by dental hygienists who share the dentist’s office. A separate appointment must be made with them.
You will need to take your ID card with you to the local library to get a library card. Here is a list of the regional libraries in Sweden.
Po Tildom (Po Tidholm, who lives in Halsingland, is a freelance journalist and a critic with the Stockholm daily, Dagens Nyheter) says the nice thing about customs and traditions is that they are constantly changing. When no longer of use, they are either forgotten or re-cast in a different mould. They often have ancient roots, and some date as far back as pagan Sweden. Many traditions have been introduced from other countries, for example by German traders or by the Protestant church. Read Po’s take on celebrating the Swedish way.
It’s not easy knowing how to act when you arrive in a new country. But to succeed socially and in business you must not behave badly. For example, do not be surprised by “straight talking” in Sweden as it is normal practice to be direct. And spouses are often invited to business dinners, but not to lunches. Here’s a source for learning Swedish etiquette.