How to move to Sweden: step by step guide

Gabriela Peratello
25.03.22
9 minute read

Swedes are known for spending a ton of time outdoors, excellent food, and a friendly culture known for its social warmth and inviting people. It’s no surprise so many people want to join in on the fun, with thousands of expats from many countries flocking to Sweden to enjoy the nordic way of life. 

Whether you’re heading to Sweden for work, an adventure, or to study abroad, relocation can feel like a daunting task. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about getting settled in Sweden, including full details on how to move to Sweden from the US.

📑 Table of Contents

Living in Sweden: overview

CurrencySwedish Krona (SEK, kr)
Population10 million
CapitalStockholm
LanguageSwedish
WeatherNorthern Sweden is colder, southern regions have 4 distinct seasons with cold winters and temperate summers
Amount of expatsAround 500,000
Biggest citiesStockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö
Average yearly salaryAround 57,000 USD

Step 1: Figure out the legal aspects of moving to Sweden from the USA

You’re probably already wondering: how hard is it to move to Sweden? In fact, moving to Sweden has different requirements for different people, depending on where they’re from. Your personal situation and your reasons for moving to Sweden will also make a difference. 

We’ll get right into the details of the processes for Americans moving to Sweden in just a moment, whether you’re relocating for work, study or even moving to Sweden with family.

Getting a residence permit as an American

If you’re a US citizen and you intend to move to Sweden — or stay for more than 90 days on a shorter term visit — you’ll need to apply for a residence permit in advance. 

You can do this on the Swedish Migration Agency’s¹ website. Assuming your application is approved, you’ll then be able to travel to Sweden using the approval notification, and complete the process including submitting biometric information, upon arrival.

If you’re not planning to work in Sweden, you may also be able to apply for residence if you’re married to a Swedish citizen, or if you can prove you are the child of at least one Swedish citizen. 

Getting a Swedish work permit as an American

If you’re an American you will be required to get a work permit in order to live and work in Sweden legally. You actually have to secure a job before you can apply for a work permit as your employer has to initiate the application by offering you employment. 

After that, the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket)² will send you an email with the information you need and how you can apply, so make sure to give your correct email address to your employer. 

There are a few requirements that you have to meet, in order to apply for a work permit
  • You need to have a valid passport
  • You need to have a job offered to you
  • The salary offer has to be on par with the salary customary for the job or industry
  • The position your employer has offered you has to enable you to support yourself
  • Your employer has to offer you insurance covering health, life, employment and pension

Registering with the Tax Agency

If you’re going to be in Sweden for a year or more, you’ll usually have to register with the Swedish tax agency³.

You’ll do this in person once you arrive in Sweden by visiting an agency service center. Make sure you take along:

  • Your passport
  • Your Swedish residence permit card
  • Documents showing your civil status — such as a marriage certificate — as required
  • Birth certificates for any children you have

Getting a Swedish ID

If you’re registered to live in Sweden, aged over 13 years old and have a valid ID document which can confirm your identity, you can apply for a Swedish ID card. You’ll be able to do this at a tax agency office — but not all offices are able to issue ID documents, so do check in advance to make sure you’re visiting one which can. 

You need to make an appointment to apply for a Swedish ID card, which can be done on the Swedish Tax agency website⁴.

move-and-manage-money

Step 2: Plan your finances for immigrating to Sweden

It’s well known that the quality of life in Sweden is high — but with that can come increased costs of living too. That means it’s extremely important to think about your budget for moving to Sweden from the US, and also your day to day living expenses once you’re there.

The cost of living in Sweden

While the quality of life in Sweden is excellent, it’s also important to consider how much it will cost. The following table outlines some prices for basic day-to-day expenses.

ItemCost in Sweden
Meal, inexpensive restaurant10.60 USD
3 course meal for 2 at a mid-range restaurant74.18 USD
Transportation pass (1 month)86.37 USD
Rent 1 bedroom apartment, city center809.96 USD/month
Rent 1 bedroom apartment, outside of city center614.89 USD/month

Don’t forget to consider the cost of moving to Sweden

Once you have an idea of the big costs on your day to day budget you’ll also need to factor in the costs of your actual move. These can vary widely depending on how you choose to make arrangements. 

Unsurprisingly turning up with little more than a backpack will be cheaper than shipping your entire household goods — so it’s worth thinking through your options before you make any firm plans. 

🎯 Consider the following costs as a starting point
  • Flight costs
  • Visa and permit fees, which can include legal or translation costs
  • Shipping of household goods
  • Deposit on accommodation in Sweden
  • Extra charges if you’re moving with family or taking your pets along
  • Temporary accommodation when you first arrive
  • Daily living costs when you first arrive and before your first paycheck

Know which taxes you’ll have to pay when moving to Sweden

Most people in Sweden pay local taxes on their income, which are set according to where they live. These taxes can be from 29% to 35%. Top earners may also have to pay an extra 20% state income tax. 

There are deductions available which can vary based on your situation. Sweden doesn’t have inheritance tax or wealth tax, but there is a 30% capital gains tax⁶.

Open a bank account

One of the first things you’ll need to do when you move is open a bank account in Sweden. There are plenty of local banks for you to choose from, including Nordea Bank, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, Svenska Handelsbanken, and Swedbank. 

If you’re planning a short term stay, you can also check if your bank works internationally. Just make sure to be aware of all the possible fees and exchange rates you might be charged when moving your money internationally.

In case you don’t want the hassle of reaching out to your bank, you might want to check online international accounts and transfers such as Wise, which we’ll cover in more detail below.

Make quick, cheap and secure international payments with Wise

If you do find your bank is offering a bad rate, you can send money to and from Sweden with Wise to the mid-market exchange rate, and cut down on fees in the process. Alternatively, you can open a Wise Multi-currency Account, which allows you to manage your money in 54 different global currencies. 

You can convert your money between all supported currencies whenever you have the need for it, or when the exchange rate is favorable. You can also get a debit card connected to your Wise account, which will make it even easier to pay for your life in Sweden.

Get started with Wise 🚀

Step 3: Get a job or start a business in Sweden

The job market in Sweden is fairly insular, so getting a position as a foreigner is considered to be pretty difficult. The best thing you can do to increase your chances of finding a job in Sweden is learning the language. 

That being said, there are some English-language jobs available in the country, but be prepared for some stiff competition to get them. We’ll look at some good resources for jobs in Sweden for US citizens in just a moment.

If you’re an entrepreneur and want to register a business in Sweden you might also be able to do that — but you’ll need to make sure your legal status in Sweden permits this. Assuming you’re legally able to register your business, you’ll usually need to register your business for tax with the Swedish tax agency and register your company name at the Swedish Companies registration office — Bolagsverket

All the key paperwork is typically filled in in Swedish, so you might need an agent’s support on this. However, there’s plenty of information available from government agencies in English to make sure you understand the process of registering your business in full.

How can you find jobs in Sweden for US citizens?

Finding a job in Sweden will be easier if you speak Swedish already or if you have a local network. In this case you’ll be able to connect with others who may be able to point you in the right direction to look for positions. 

Another option is to search online — some good sites to get started on your job search include:

  • The Local⁷
  • Swedish Jobs⁸
  • Neuvoo⁹
  • Jobbsafari¹⁰
  • The Swedish Wire¹¹

Step 4: Find a place to live in Sweden

Sweden’s rental market isn’t too friendly to anyone, let alone expats. The reason for this is simple — there’s simply more demand than there is supply. 

In order to increase your chances of finding a place, however, writing an outstanding rental application (in Swedish) will be key, as well as adjusting your expectations; finding an apartment is much easier outside of the city center. 

You can also seriously cut down on costs by living in one of Sweden’s cheaper cities, like:

  • Solna
  • Nacka
  • Lidingo
  • Lund
  • Danderyd

Where to live in Sweden

If you’re able to be flexible about your location in Sweden — or about your housing budget — you can take the pick of a whole range of great cities, depending on your personal preferences. Let’s take a look at a few:

Stockholm

stockholm

Sweden’s capital and home to a large expat community. If you’re coming to Sweden to work there's a good chance this is where you’re headed. Stockholm is built on an archipelago, allowing for fun summer trips around the small islands, although Swedes do tend to get out and about in all weathers, so you may also find yourself skating on the frozen sea in winter. Rent is expensive in Stockholm, but the infrastructure and amenities are great.

Gothenburg

gothenburg

In the west of the country, Gothenburg also has many expat residents and a relaxed vibe. Gothenburg has a slightly lower cost of accommodation, although this is also reflected in salaries which can be a little lower than in the capital.

Malmö

malmo

The third largest city in Sweden, Malmö is further south and has a milder climate than Stockholm. Known as a startup hub, you’ll find lots of entrepreneurs and a younger crowd than in the capital, too. Rents here are quite a bit cheaper than in the other large Swedish cities, which makes it a good pick for new arrivals.

Step 5: Sort out your health and childcare coverage

The healthcare system in Sweden is public, and is covered in entirety by the government — the only way you’ll pay for health care is through your taxes.

State healthcare is decentralized, and provided on a local level. It’s available automatically and for free for all legal residents, and is considered to be a pretty high quality.  That being said, private healthcare services do exist in Sweden and can be used at your own expense if you’d prefer.

If you’re moving to Sweden with your family, you’ll usually be able to put your kids into public daycare from age 1, with compulsory schooling starting at 7 years old. Many day care operations charge based on family income, with public daycare classes being around 15 — 20 children. Home based municipal childminding options are also available. 

Write down the emergency numbers and information

While you’re sure to have the emergency numbers in your home country down pat, it’s important to remember that these are different in Sweden. Luckily Sweden’s emergency services are centralized to one number: 112.

You may want to also keep your local consulate’s number in mind:

US Embassy: (+46) 08 783 53 00

Step 6: If you haven’t already, learn the language

Adjusting to life in Sweden is all but contingent on learning the language. Despite the fact that many Swedes speak English well, it’s not considered socially acceptable to live there without learning any Swedish, and you’ll struggle to find a job or a social circle if you don’t. 

To get started on your Swedish language learning, you can use apps like Duolingo or Babbel. You can also take courses at many Swedish universities for a low cost, or hire a tutor.

Step 7: Make friends and meet other expats in Sweden

One of the easiest ways to quickly feel at home is to make friends who are also foreigners in Sweden. Internations¹² expat forum is super active, and there are many meetup groups¹³ that connect expats every week. 

Another good way to meet other expats is by taking courses at a local university, or checking your local bars for expat sporting events or language exchange nights.

Some international dating apps, such as Bumble, also offer the option of meeting friends — so it might be a good shot to meet people this way.


As you can see, the hardest part of moving to Sweden is finding a job and getting your visa. Once you’ve got that process in check, actually relocating will be a breeze, and you’re sure to be enjoying life in the Nordic country in no time. Good luck with your move to Sweden!


Sources:

  1. Sweden Abroad - Moving to someone in Sweden
  2. Migration Sverket
  3. Skatteverket - Moving to Sweden
  4. Skatteverket - ID card
  5. Numbeo - Cost of living in Sweden
  6. Sweden - Taxes in Sweden
  7. The Local
  8. Swedish Jobs
  9. Neuvoo
  10. Job Safari
  11. Swedish Wire
  12. Internations
  13. Meet Up

Sources checked on 03.24.2022


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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