Work in Sweden: Getting a Swedish work visa


Sweden is famous for being the ‘land of the midnight sun’, and is viewed as liberal and progressive; both politically and economically. With stunning natural beauty, cosmopolitan cities and a vibrant, developed work culture, it's a popular place for expats to both live and work. The cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo in particular have large and active foreign communities.

Although taxes are fairly high, this is offset by access for all to extensive state support in healthcare, education and childcare. The standard of living overall has a great rating, and new arrivals acclimate very well, according to the Migration Integration Policy Index report.  

If you're thinking about moving to Sweden for a job, you might need a work permit before you can do so. To make sure you have all your paperwork in order before you go, check out this quick guide to getting a Swedish work visa.

Do I need a Swedish work visa?

Your first priority should be to figure out if you need a work permit at all. In some cases, depending on your nationality and the role you’re going to take on, a permit might not be necessary.

Visas for Sweden are managed by the state Migration Agency. Their website (available in multiple languages) gives helpful advice about visa and permit requirements according to your nationality.

EU citizens don't need a permit to visit, work or live in Sweden. You may also be able to work in Sweden without a permit if you have long term residence in another European country, even if you're not an EU citizen.

Most other ‘third country nationals’ will need a work permit but there are certain professions which are exempt from the regulations. This covers athletes, performers, people attending for short term work with locally registered companies, and those involved in commercial transport. However, you should check the full details online before you decide whether or not a permit is needed in your case.

What’s the process to get a Swedish work visa?

To get the full details for the application process relevant to your nationality and work type, check on the Migration Agency website for the details applicable to you.

The basic principle applied is that the visa must be in place before you arrive in Sweden. The application can be mainly completed online, which can help to simplify the process.

If you’re from outside of the EU then you must have a job before you can apply for a visa. Your new boss will also have to show that the role was advertised in Sweden and Europe for ten days before an offer was made to you. Your new employer will then complete an offer of employment for you which is given to the migration authorities. Your email address is collected at this point, so the Migration Agency can then deal directly with you.

You should receive an email which confirms the job offer that's been registered, and gives you the details of how to progress your application online. You’re advised to double check that all the job offer details are the same which you agreed to, as they can not be changed later without submitting a new application. You can then send over your documents in a scanned or photographed form.

You'll also have to pay a fee when you apply for your work visa. This is currently 2,000 SEK for a work or self employed visa, 1000 SEK for an adult family member, and 500 SEK for children. There are lower fees for some visa types, including au pair and working holiday. You can pay the fees online or at your local embassy. The only exception made is for Japanese citizens who don't have to pay any fees for a work visa.

Once your application is made and the fees paid, your new boss will get an email confirming this process is complete. The authorities then assess your application. You can get an idea of the approximate waiting time on the Migration Agency website by inputting details such as the visa type and industry. Some companies have a special arrangement with the authorities which means that their applications are processed within a month or two. For companies without this special status and in some industries such as hotels or service, the waiting time can be a lot longer. Currently, the expected time for processing an application for a work visa for the hotel industry, is ten to thirteen months.

If you fulfil the criteria for an EU Blue Card (see below for details), processing times might be better through this route.

What documents do I need?

The exact documents needed may vary according to your visa type. You’ll be notified by the migration authorities of the exact paperwork required - but you can expect in all cases to be asked for copies of relevant pages of your passport.

If you're applying on behalf of family members, they'll also have to prove their relationship to you, while those applying for self employed visas will need an extensive array of paperwork to back up their application.

It’s possible to have an agent deal with the application process on your behalf as long as you give them legal power of attorney to do so.

Depending on the type of work you're planning on doing it might be possible to apply for an EU Blue Card. Similar to the US Green Card, this document gives you the right to work across most EU member states (excluding Denmark, Ireland and the UK). To be eligible for a Blue Card, you must be from a country outside the EU, be highly skilled (typically meaning you have completed a bachelor's level university degree, or have five years of senior professional experience) and have a binding job offer or active work contract.

The Blue Card application process is fast tracked by member states, meaning it's typically quicker than other forms of work visa application. However, it may still take up to three months. Although you start the application process online and through a single point of contact, the process may vary depending on your personal circumstances. The Blue Card network has a good website and offers support to applicants to help them understand the process.

Swedish work visas for part time, fixed term and seasonal workers

In some cases, if you're coming to Sweden for under three months, you might require both an entry permit and a work visa. Full details are available on the Migration Agency website, or through your local embassy.

If you’ve been studying in Sweden in a higher education institution, you can change your student visa to a residence permit which allows you to work as long as you apply while you're still in Sweden. You'll be asked to show you have the funds to support yourself while you look for employment.

If you're a citizen of Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand or South Korea, and under 30 years old, you might be able to apply for a working holiday visa in Sweden. This allows you to visit and take on some work in the country for up to a year and doesn’t require you to have a job lined up before you apply. However, you do need to have funds to support yourself during your stay.

There’s also a specific visa intended for those travelling to Sweden as au pairs. You must be under 30 years of age, have a contract in place before applying, and plan on studying the Swedish language and culture during your time there.

How do I get a Swedish work visa as an entrepreneur?

You can get a specific self employed visa if you're travelling to Sweden to work for yourself or start a business. There’s quite a list of documentary evidence which must be submitted to secure this visa type, so be sure to have all of your paperwork in order. To be eligible you must prove that your business has a financially sound business plan, that you have the experience and skills to make it a success, and that you can speak either Swedish or English.

You'll also need to have funds to support yourself in the short term as your business grows. This is calculated as the equivalent of 200,000 SEK for yourself, 100,000 SEK for your spouse, and 50,000 SEK each for any accompanying children.

How might my Swedish work visa affect my spouse and family members?

If you're coming to Sweden with a work or self employed visa then your family can apply for permits of the same length as the one issued to you. If your visa is at least six months long, your family can also apply for work permits to allow them to work legally in their own right. The application can be submitted at the same time as yours or later if you prefer.

For these purposes family is considered to include a spouse, cohabiting partner, registered partner and children under the age of 21. Older children may be issued a permit if you have sufficient funds available to support them.

I have my Swedish work visa - what next?

In some cases, if you haven't already done so as part of an entry visa process, you'll be required to visit the migration agency upon arrival in Sweden to give fingerprints and have a photo taken for a residence permit card. Your embassy will advise you whether this is necessary.

Even if you come to Sweden as an European citizen and therefore don't need to apply for any form of visa, you still need to register your residence with the authorities if you intend to stay in the long term. Full details of the process and requirements are available on the Migration Agency website.

How can I move money to Sweden from my bank account abroad?

To get the most of your money in Sweden, you'll want to open a bank account in Sweden, which you can do before you arrive.

Once you send money to Sweden, consider using a money conversion service like Wise to avoid unfair exchange rates. There's a small transparent fee, and when your money is converted from one currency to another you’ll get the real exchange rate - the same one you can find on Google. Not only that, but Wise receives and sends money via local bank transfers instead of internationally, further saving you money by cutting out hefty international transfer fees.

If your trip is short or opening a bank account in Sweden isn't an option, you can always withdraw money from your foreign account using a Swedish ATM. Just keep in mind it'll be more favourable to agree to be charged in the local currency, not your home currency.

Regardless of when you start your new job abroad, it should be fairly straightforward to get yourself a visa if you follow the right steps. Once sorted, be sure to enjoy your new adventure.

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