Sweden is a Northern European country which is known for its seaside towns, islands, many lakes, taiga forests, and ice-capped mountains.
Sweden's breathtaking natural and historical landmarks draw a multitude of tourists, but for immigrants, the allure lies in different factors. Many foreigners choose Sweden as their destination due to its robust and stable economy. Sweden boasts one of the world's highest standards of living, ranking 7th globally in the 2022 UN World Happiness Report. Additionally, Sweden is often hailed as the "Scandinavian Silicon Valley," with Stockholm earning its reputation as a hub for startups and cutting-edge technologies. While moving here may present challenges, it's entirely feasible. Keep reading to learn how, understand the necessary documents, and discover where to apply.
- Reasons for Obtaining a Swedish Residence Permit
- Residence Permit for the EU, EEA and Swiss Citizens and Permanent Residents
- Who Can Invite Their Family Members to Sweden
- Who Is Eligible for a Family Reunification Residence Permit
- How to Obtain a Residence Permit to Reunite with Your Family in Sweden
- Work Permits
- Residence Permits for Students
- Permanent Residence Permits
- Residence Permit Cards
Reasons for Obtaining a Swedish Residence Permit
You can get a residence permit in Sweden if:
- You are a citizen of the European Union, the European Economic Area, or Switzerland.
- You are a citizen of another country, but you come to Sweden to work, study, or reunite with your family.
- You are a refugee or need subsidiary protection.
In these scenarios, you can obtain a Swedish residence permit after residing here legally for a specified period, ranging from two to seven years. However, meeting this requirement is not the sole criterion for becoming a resident of Sweden.
Skilling village, Sweden, Skilling. Photo: Julius Jansson (Unsplash)
Residence Permit for the EU, EEA and Swiss Citizens and Permanent Residents
EU and EEA citizens can apply for a residence permit in Sweden through a simplified process.
First of all, they do not need any permit to come to Sweden to study, work, launch or run a business as a self-employed person. The main requirement is to be able to provide for yourself. If a foreigner has a legitimate reason to stay in the country and does not receive any state benefits, they do not need any special permits. In this case, you just need to contact the Swedish Tax Agency to get a personal ID number in the National Population Register. There is no need to confirm your status in any other way.
If the members of an EU citizen's family are not citizens or residents of a country within the EU or the EEA, they must apply for a residence permit. To get it, they have to submit their valid ID, prove their family ties and financial solvency. They must be able to support their lifestyle through a scholarship, salary, or otherwise. If you need a visa to enter Sweden, you can apply for a Family Visa and then apply for a residence permit in Sweden.
According to Swedish law, family members are the following:
- Cohabiting or registered partners,
- Children under the age of 21,
- Parents of the main applicant or of their partner, and
- Other people who are financially dependent on an applicant who is a European citizen.
Cohabiting partners are defined as two people who live permanently together, maintain their relationship, and run a household as a couple. Unlike registered partners and spouses, cohabiting partners will have to prove their relationship in order to obtain Swedish residency.
Entrepreneurs should register their companies at the Swedish Companies Registration Office and the Swedish Tax Agency.
Interestingly, citizens of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Iceland can live in Sweden without any additional requirements. They do not even have to work, study or run a business here. They can just come to Sweden and register at the Swedish Tax Agency.
As for Swiss citizens, they must apply for a residence permit as Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. On the bright side, Swiss citizens do not have to meet any other conditions like confirming their reason to stay in the country.
Who Can Invite Their Family Members to Sweden
A Swedish citizen, a permanent or sometimes a temporary resident can invite their spouse, registered or cohabiting partner, and a minor child (under 18 years old). To do so, they must be able to financially support themselves and their family members as well as provide them with a good accommodation of sufficient size.
The applicants can provide data on their wage, whether they receive an unemployment benefit, sick pay, or a pension. All of this can serve as proof of funds. The authorities can also accept a bank statement if there will be enough money to live in Sweden for two years.
Let's take a look at the exact amount of income applicants must have:
- 5,717 SEK ($519) per single person.
- 9,445 SEK ($858) per two spouses/partners.
- 3,055 SEK ($278) per child from 0 to 6 years old.
- 3,667 SEK ($333) per child of 7 to 10 years old.
- 4,279 SEK ($389) per one child of 11 to 14 years old.
- 4,889 SEK ($444) per one child of 15 years old or over.
A suitable accommodation must meet the following criteria:
- There is a kitchen and a room for two adults.
- There is a kitchen and two rooms for two adults and two children.
If a family has more than two children, you should ensure that no more than two people live in one room. A Swedish citizen or resident can bring family members either to their own or rented place of living, but they cannot make them stay at their parents' or other relatives' houses. Besides, the inviting party must prove their right to stay in Sweden for at least one year ahead of the invitation date.
However, there are many exceptions to the rules of financial support and accommodation of the family members you are inviting to Sweden. Some people can invite their family without providing proof of funds. Check out the website of the Swedish Migration Agency to find all the details.
Photo: Laurent Perren (Unsplash)
Who Is Eligible for a Family Reunification Residence Permit
You can apply for a Swedish residence permit to reunite with your family if you come to Sweden for one of the reasons listed below.
- You are visiting your spouse, a registered, or a cohabiting partner. You can apply for a residence permit in Sweden if your spouse or partner is a Swedish citizen or has a study or work permit here. Refugees and individuals in need of subsidiary protection can also reunite with their families in Sweden. Spouses must be legally married, and partners must be registered with the Swedish Tax Agency. Additionally, EU citizens who wish to reunite with their EU partners or spouses residing in Sweden do not need to obtain any residence permits.
- You are coming to Sweden to join your future spouse or partner. It is possible to get a residence permit in Sweden even if your relationship is not registered yet. In other words, people coming to Sweden to marry their future spouse or register their relationship with a partner living in Sweden are eligible for a residence permit, too. As a rule, only Swedish citizens or permanent residents have the right to bring their foreign partner to the country. However, sometimes, temporary Swedish residents can also do it. Contact the Migration Agency for more details. Anyway, the fact of receiving an invitation from a local to come to Sweden is not enough to become a resident. You must prove your relationship status, the ability to provide for your family, and organise suitable accommodation that meets the living standards. You can apply for this type of residence permit abroad at the nearest Swedish Embassy or Consulate. The only exception is the cases when two people decide to have a relationship while both of them are in Sweden. For example, a foreigner lives in Sweden on a study or work permit, which is about to expire, and decides to marry a local citizen.
- You are coming to Sweden to visit your parents. Minor children can become Swedish residents if they are adopted by a Swedish citizen (in cases, when the immediate granting of citizenship is not possible). They can also get a residence permit if they were born to a Swedish resident or want to reunite with their parents living in Sweden. Sometimes, the Migration Agency grants residence permits to children moving to their distant Swedish relatives. The same applies for children of 18 years old and over, wishing to join their parents, but it is usually an exception.
- You are coming to Sweden to join your adult children. Sweden does not welcome immigrants who want to reunite with their children of 18 years old or over, but you can still try to get a residence permit. It is not forbidden by the law, but very few people actually become Swedish residents on this basis. The Migration Agency rarely grants residency to parents moving to join their adult children. However, all Swedish citizens, permanent residents, and some of the temporary residents have the right to bring their parents to the country in order to make them Swedish residents.
- You are coming to Sweden to join your minor child. This is yet another exception to the Swedish migration laws. Usually, this basis for immigration applies to refugees, victims of human trafficking, and so on. If children came to Sweden on one of these grounds, they can bring their family, too. Obviously, they do not have to show proof of funds or have suitable accommodation as in most cases when people move to Sweden to reunite with their families.
How to Obtain a Residence Permit to Reunite with Your Family in Sweden
First and foremost, the inviting party must ensure that their relatives have adequate living conditions. Additionally, the Swedish citizen or resident must demonstrate that they possess suitable accommodation and sufficient financial means to support their foreign family members before the latter can apply for residency at the Swedish Embassy or Consulate. If a foreigner has legally resided in Sweden for some time, they can apply for residency through the Swedish Migration Agency. The application must include:
- A copy of the ID.
- A birth certificate.
- Documents confirming your civil status (a marriage, divorce or death certificates).
- Your spouse's consent to move the child to one of the parents in Sweden.
- Documents establishing the relationship between the inviting and visiting parties, along with proof of the dependency of the latter on the Swedish relative. The applicants must convincingly demonstrate to the migration service that they cannot live separately from their Swedish family.
All foreign documents must be translated into Swedish or English by an authorised translator.
The fee for applying for a family residence permit is the following:
- 2,000 SEK ($182) for adults.
- 1,000 SEK ($91) for minors.
If you apply abroad, you must also pay the consular fee. The amount depends on the country, so contact the Swedish Embassy or Consulate to learn more.
By the way, your Swedish relative can also apply for your residence permit in Sweden. All you need is to provide them with a power of attorney and all the necessary documents for the application.
Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: Anna Hunko (Unsplash)
Working in Sweden is another reason to apply for a residence permit. The crucial step is to secure a job in Sweden before relocating and obtaining a work permit. Importantly, if you are already residing in Sweden under another type of residence permit, you don't need to leave the country to find employment. In such cases, you can apply for a work permit and, if needed, a new residence permit at your local Migration Agency office. It's important to note that obtaining a residence permit in Sweden solely for the purpose of job searching is not possible.
However, if you obtain a work permit for three months or longer, you automatically become a resident of Sweden.
The responsibility of initiating this process lies with the employer. The initial step is to advertise the job vacancy to Swedish citizens through the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen). This advertisement is automatically shared with the European Employment Services. There are additional steps that the employer must complete before being eligible to hire a foreign worker. Once all the necessary formalities are addressed, the employer can submit an application to the Migration Agency. Subsequently, the Migration Agency will send a detailed guide to the foreign worker outlining the next steps to follow.
After the employee receives the letter, they should submit their work permit, contract, and a copy of their ID to the nearest embassy or consulate.
When you move your whole family to Sweden, you must confirm you are able to provide for every member and attach all the documents: passports, birth certificates, and so on.
The next step is to pay the fee, which depends on your qualifications. For example, an au pair must pay 1,500 SEK ($136), an entrepreneur or a highly-skilled specialist, who is eligible for a Blue Card, must pay 2,000 SEK ($183). The fee for the majority of foreign workers is 2,200 SEK ($200).
If workers bring their family with them, the fee is to be paid per each family member, i.e. 1,500 SEK ($136) for adults and 750 SEK ($68) for minor children.
The worker's relatives should apply separately for their own residence permits.
Another pathway to becoming a Swedish resident is by establishing a business in Sweden. Entrepreneurs must furnish evidence of either registering or purchasing a company in Sweden and demonstrate their capacity to support their family. The minimum financial requirements are 200,000 SEK ($18,299) for the entrepreneur, 100,000 SEK ($9,150) for the spouse, and 50,000 SEK ($4,575) for each child. If the application is approved, the work permit is valid for two years.
Residence Permits for Students
Anyone intending to study in Sweden for a period exceeding three months must secure a residence permit. Different study programs have specific requirements for obtaining such a permit. For more detailed information, please refer to the official website of the Swedish Migration Agency.
In any case, you can apply for a study permit either in person or online. However, the online option is only available to citizens of specific countries, while individuals from other countries must visit the nearest Swedish Embassy or Consulate to apply for the permit.
The application must include copies of your passport, a letter of admission from a Swedish educational institution, proof of sufficient financial support of at least 9,450 SEK ($865) a month, and health insurance valid in Sweden.
To confirm your income, you should provide a bank statement with the amount of money enough to cover the entire period of your residence permit for studying in Sweden. For instance, if you come to Sweden to study for 12 months, you must have 9,450 x 12 = 113,400 SEK ($10,376) in your bank account.
If you have free accommodation and meals in Sweden, the monthly minimum can be less. Check the official website of the Swedish Migration Agency for details.
The fee for this type of residence permit is 1,500 SEK ($136) for adult applicants and 750 SEK ($68) for minors.
Sundsvall, Sweden. Photo: Peter van der Meulen (Unsplash)
Permanent Residence Permits
There are several key things you must do to become a permanent resident in Sweden:
- Meet the requirements for your previous type of residence permit. If you were a temporary resident in Sweden, you can apply for a permanent residence permit when extending your previous permit. This means that you must still have the same reasons to stay in Sweden as for your original residence permit.
- Live in Sweden for a certain period of time. The number of years varies in each case. For example, self-employed individuals can apply for permanent residency after two years of living in Sweden, while refugees within the Swedish quota can do so immediately. EU/EEA citizens, on the other hand, can become permanent residents in Sweden only after five years.
- Verify your financial stability. Swedish immigration law does not establish a universal minimum financial requirement for those seeking Swedish residence permits. The authorities assess the required minimum on a case-by-case basis. In any case, you should have sufficient funds to cover housing expenses and basic needs, equivalent to what is considered a normal salary. This amount is updated annually, and in 2023, it stands at 5,717 SEK ($520) per month. If you are responsible for rent and utilities, your monthly income must exceed this amount. Consequently, you must submit all housing-related bills along with your residence permit application. The calculation of an applicant's income is quite interesting. The Swedish Immigration Agency accepts income or salary certificates from the last 18 months as evidence. However, they will not consider your financial situation satisfactory if you are financially supported by family members, receive income from capital, grants, scholarships, engage in subsidised business activities, receive state unemployment benefits, or have other sources of income. It's important to note that income from informal employment or from periods of work without a permit does not qualify as proof of funds. If you are retired, you can provide evidence of pension payments, bank statements, or tax documents used to receive retirement benefits from abroad.
- Submit a certificate of no criminal record. Swedish law does not impose strict requirements regarding the type of crime or the duration of imprisonment. In theory, even individuals with a prior criminal record may be eligible for permanent residency in Sweden. However, this exception does not apply to individuals who have committed serious or extremely serious offences. Nonetheless, individuals with a completely clean criminal record are more likely to obtain permanent Swedish residency.
Let's take a look at the list of documents you need to include with your application:
- Copies of your passport or other ID.
- PAYE tax return forms from the Swedish Tax Agency for the last five years (required for employees).
- Employer certificates from all the companies you have worked for in the last five years (if applicable).
- Company's tax reports from the Swedish Tax Agency for the last five years (for self-employed applicants).
- Documents confirming your status as a student in Sweden (for students).
In addition, applicants must provide proof of their eligibility to reside in the country long-term. This can include a work contract, a certificate of enrollment in a study program, a marriage certificate, and other relevant documents.
Additionally, it's important to note that you can lose your permanent residency if you reside outside of Sweden for an extended period. Therefore, remember to inform the Migration Agency whenever you intend to leave the country to avoid jeopardising your Swedish residency. In this scenario, you are permitted to stay outside of Sweden for up to two years. If your absence exceeds 24 months, you risk losing your permanent residence permit.
Residence Permit Cards
A Residence Permit Card is a document that confirms your permission to stay in Sweden. It is not a substitute for a passport or an ID, nor does it grant you the ability to travel within the Schengen Area. However, when accompanied by your travel document, the Residence Permit Card enables you to travel visa-free within the EU and stay for up to 90 days in any European country every six months.
You don't need to carry this card with you at all times, but it's advisable to have it with you whenever you visit public or medical institutions.
The Residence Permit Card is the primary document for foreigners residing in Sweden on a temporary or permanent residence permit. The card includes the following information:
- Personal data – your full name.
- Work permit if you have it (Får arbeta). If you are a permanent resident in Sweden, your card may not include this data as employment restrictions do not apply to you. Another reason your card may not contain information about work permits is if you obtained it before receiving the Residence Permit Card.
The card also features a microchip containing your fingerprints and a photo. Therefore, it can only be obtained in person. Children under six years old are exempt from providing fingerprints for the card but are still required to have a photo. Keep in mind that all this personal data is stored on the microchip, so it's essential to collect the card in person, such as when applying for an extension of your residence permit.
You can apply for a residence permit both in Sweden, at the Migration Agency, and abroad, at the embassy or consulate. If you apply abroad, you should obtain a PR visa.
Once your request is approved, the Swedish Migration Agency will send your Residence Permit Card by mail. However, if you apply outside of Sweden, it is better to ask at the embassy or the consulate whether you can receive the card by mail or only in person.
The application processing time varies depending on where you apply. If you apply in Sweden, it typically takes one to two weeks. However, if you apply abroad, the processing time can be up to four weeks due to the time it takes to send the Residence Permit Card to the embassy or consulate. While you cannot expedite this process, you can apply in advance. Keep in mind that you will not receive your card earlier than three months before the residence permit's validity begins.
The card is free of charge. You need only pay the application fee for the residence permit.
Permanent residents also receive an ID card, which is valid for five years if you have permanent residency in one of the EU countries and for three years in other cases. The Residence Permit Card remains valid as long as your temporary permit has not expired. Typically, these permits are valid for 24 months, although some may last for only 12 months.
When the card expires, you must renew it by visiting the Swedish Migration Agency again. During this process, they will take a new photo and scan your fingerprints. Be sure to bring your expired card with you.
In a Nutshell
There are several reasons for obtaining a residence permit in Sweden. One of the simplest ways to become a Swedish resident is to be a citizen of the EU, EEA, or Switzerland. These individuals can apply for Swedish residency whether they are already in Sweden or abroad.
Other applicants must provide substantial evidence to secure the right to stay in the country. This could include having Swedish relatives, a job, or enrollment in a study program in Sweden.
It's also possible to obtain a permanent residence permit after legally residing in Sweden for a specific period, which varies depending on your type of residence permit. You can apply for temporary residency online and include a certificate of no criminal record and proof of your financial solvency with your application.
Cover photo: Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden. Adam Gavlák (Unsplash)