How to Obtain Permanent Residence in Sweden

How to Obtain Permanent Residence in Sweden

Renowned for its lush forests and serene lakes, the Kingdom of Sweden captivates expatriates with its northern vistas, balanced lifestyle, cutting-edge technologies, rich culture, ecologically conscious approach to nature, and tranquil demeanour. Sweden boasts a remarkable waste recycling rate of 99%, has abstained from military conflicts since 1814, stands as a pioneer in European investments in science and technology, and is globally recognized for its unique social system, often referred to as 'Swedish socialism'. Here's a comprehensive guide on relocating, establishing roots, and acquiring a permanent residence permit in this captivating nation.

Swedish Migration Policy

While Sweden is a member of the European Union, it maintains a degree of sovereignty. The nation operates with its own currency, the Swedish krona, and exhibits its utmost accommodation not exclusively towards EU passport holders, but particularly towards individuals from the northern nations: Norway and Iceland (non-EU members), as well as Denmark and Finland (EU members). Those possessing Scandinavian passports enjoy the privilege of residing, studying, working, and establishing businesses in Sweden on par with native Swedes, devoid of excessive bureaucratic hurdles.

EU citizens are welcome to enter Sweden and explore employment opportunities without requiring a distinct permit. Yet, for an extended stay, obtaining a temporary residence permit is necessary, which can subsequently be transitioned to a permanent one.

Having an EU passport enables you to relocate to Sweden to join your partner, and upon arrival, secure a residence permit even if formal marriage isn't pursued. Swedish law formally acknowledges cohabitation as a valid relationship status.

Non-EU citizens need to prioritise acquiring a specific visa or a temporary residence permit before considering entry into Sweden. This preliminary step is imperative. For instance, it's not possible to enter the country with a Schengen tourist visa and then secure a residence permit on-site for job-seeking purposes.

The Swedish Migration Agency is responsible for working with expats. Its website has the necessary forms, information, and contacts.

Stockholm. Photo: Alexandre Van Thuan (Unsplash)

Advantages of Acquiring Permanent Residency in Sweden

Individuals possessing a permanent residence permit in Sweden enjoy nearly identical rights to those of the country's citizens, with the sole exception of their non-participation in the political affairs of the nation.

Permanent residency grants the freedom to reside and work unrestrictedly within the country, eliminating the necessity for renewal. Citizenship eligibility can be pursued after five years from obtaining permanent residency.

Who Can Obtain a Permanent Residence Permit in Sweden?

The applicant must have resided in Sweden for a cumulative duration of four to five years within the last seven years (varies based on eligibility criteria) and must also attain proficiency in the Swedish language. For EU and Scandinavian country citizens, the requirement is notably shorter, standing at just two years.

Overall, the nation offers a broad spectrum of reasons for relocation, encompassing study, employment, research, business ventures, and family reunification. Nonetheless, each category of long-term visa and residence permit has its own details, and not all residence permits guarantee the path to eventual permanent residency.

For example, a student residence permit is granted to individuals who enrol in programs at Swedish universities for a duration of at least one year. However, this permit does not automatically confer eligibility for a permanent residence permit. The period spent in education will not be factored in by the Swedish Migration Agency during the permanent residence application process.

Nevertheless, many use their studies at a Swedish university as a convenient springboard to integrate into the local society and get hold of the peculiarities of life in the country. For instance, for those who plan to open an innovative startup or find a job in the future, it makes sense to study under a master's program in Sweden in order to gain contacts, immerse themselves in the community, and settle down.

Another type of residence permit with a somewhat ambiguous standing to take note of is the ICT (Intra-Corporate Transfer) permit. This permit is granted for a maximum duration of three years to employees of multinational firms who arrive to work at a Swedish branch under the terms of a contract.

This form of residency is a comparatively recent inclusion in Sweden's practices, and both expatriates and immigration authorities have had limited exposure to it. On one hand, the ICT permit aligns with the category of employment-related residence permits that can lead to permanent residency in Sweden. On the other hand, the span of three years is insufficient for obtaining permanent residency, necessitating that individuals who have fulfilled their ICT tenure must depart the country.

Stockholm. Photo: Gunnar Ridderström (Unsplash)

Moving to Sweden for Work

Sweden issues a range of distinct residence permits tailored to specialists, contingent upon their specific activities and qualifications. After several years, individuals employed here can pursue a permanent residence permit. Typically, this time frame spans around four years.

Family members of an expat who has secured a work contract in Sweden can obtain a dependent residence permit. This permit is granted to a spouse (including a partner in an unregistered marriage) and unmarried children under the age of 21.

Scientific Research

Sweden is one of the three world leaders in terms of investment in science and new technologies. There is a state innovation agency called Vinnova that issues grants and is ready to help the authors of promising technology start-ups and research in naturalising their projects in the Kingdom.

You can secure a residence permit by collaborating with universities and scientific institutions as a visiting fellow researcher or doctoral student within a university program. Sweden particularly values professionals in fields like physics, biology, chemistry, environmental studies, IT engineering, biotechnology, and individuals conducting advanced research in social sciences and humanities. A compelling offer from a research organisation is adequate for expatriates; the hosting party is responsible for managing all necessary procedures with the Swedish Migration Agency.

Malmo. Photo: Alex Ghiurau (Unsplash)

Work Contract

In order to move to Sweden under a work contract, you need to receive an offer from the employer for a position with certain requirements:

  1. The vacancy must be posted on Platsbanken, the website of the Swedish Employment Service. At the same time, those moving from the EU and Scandinavian countries have an advantage in obtaining a job: before sending an offer to a specialist from a third country, a Swedish employer must place the vacancy in the public domain for at least 10 days and consider prioritised candidates.
  2. In order for the Migration Agency to issue a working residence permit, the contract period must be more than three months, and the salary for the published position must be at least $1,254 (13,000 SEK) before taxes. That is not much considering that the average salary in Sweden is $3,250 (33,700 SEK) before taxes. On average, working people in Sweden pay between 31% and 55% in taxes, depending on their income level.
  3. The employer is obliged to arrange for the expat all the necessary insurance and pension payments, and to make sure in the future that the rights of the employee are respected. For instance, a residence permit can be cancelled if it turns out that the employee has taken fewer vacation days than they should have or worked extra hours on a regular basis.

Normally, a work-related residence permit is initially granted for a period of one or two years, and it can be extended as needed. If you are employed by a single employer and hold the same position for a duration of four years, you become eligible to apply for permanent residence. If an expatriate chooses to change jobs prior to completing this timeframe, they are required to apply for a fresh short-term residence permit.

Blue Cards for Highly Qualified Specialists

You can relocate to Sweden using an EU Blue Card, which is granted to third-country nationals who possess substantial qualifications – a university education comprising at least 180 credits (based on the study and work hours conversion system) or five years of pertinent work experience. However, not all fields of specialisation qualify for this permit type. There exists a list of sought-after occupations, and the prospective employer in Sweden must extend an offer to the applicant with a minimum monthly salary of $5,000 (51,900 SEK) to meet the eligibility criteria.

You will need to submit the EU Blue Card paperwork to the Migration Agency on your own, pay a fee of $200 (2,000 SEK), and fill in an application.

Uppsala. Photo: Ayadi Ghaith (Unsplash)

Family Reunification 

Establishing residence in Sweden through close family connections is a viable pathway to securing a residence permit. This option is available exclusively to spouses and minor children, and it does not extend to other relatives within the country.

Sweden recognizes cohabitation, including gender-neutral cohabitation, on a par with marriage. However, in this case the civil partners will have to prove that the relationship is not fictitious.

The family of an expat receives the same type of residence permit as their relative. At the same time, the expat must prove that they have sufficient income to provide for their family. If a foreigner for some reason loses their residence permit, their family loses theirs, too.

The family of an expatriate cannot acquire a permanent residence permit ahead of the expatriate themselves. If a spouse joins a permanent residence holder, they will initially receive a temporary residence permit. Following two years of cohabitation in Sweden, the temporary permit can be upgraded to a permanent one. In instances of cohabitation, the couple will need to undergo a series of interviews to substantiate the authenticity of their relationship.

Business Immigration to Sweden and Investor’s Permanent Residence

Sweden stands among those European nations where obtaining a business visa, followed by temporary and eventually permanent residence permits, is notably accessible. This can be achieved through either registering a new business entity or acquiring an existing registered one, including its shares.

Expatriates from the EU or Scandinavian countries have the option to establish a sole proprietorship or engage in self-employment within Sweden. For third-country nationals, the possibility extends solely to registering a limited liability company with a minimum share capital of $61,700 (SEK 640,000). However, this entity must engage in the production and sale of goods or services within Sweden, and one of the business founders must possess a residence permit or EU citizenship.

Startups can also get you a business visa if you manage to defend your idea before the Swedish Migration Agency.

Chernskaya commune. Photo: Drahomír Posteby-Mach (Unsplash)

To do this, you must:

  1. Prove that you have significant experience in the chosen field. For instance, you can demonstrate the success of a similar startup in another country and confirm the level of education.
  2. Provide a certificate of English proficiency. If the nature of the business requires constant communication with Swedish citizens or suppliers, you will also need to prove proficiency in Swedish.
  3. Compile a business plan and defend it before the commission.
  4. Demonstrate legally acquired capital sufficient to run a business and support yourself and your family in Sweden.

The applicant must possess at least $19,285 (200,000 SEK) in their account for them, $9,642 (100,000 SEK) for their spouse and $4,821 (50,000 SEK) for each child to get a residence permit for a period of two years.

Engaging in business should not be regarded as a mere formality: Swedish regulatory bodies conduct assessments of an entrepreneur's tax compliance, report submissions, and the profitability of their company. Attaining permanent residence status is feasible only after four years of running a successful business in Sweden.

Peculiarities of Buying and Renting Real Estate in Sweden

It is not possible to obtain a residence permit in Sweden through the purchase of real estate.

There is a huge shortage of real estate in the kingdom, primarily residential. For reasons of ecology, reasonable consumption, and a ban on high-rise buildings, new houses are barely ever built, which is why the rental market generates fantastic queues up to 20 years.

It's worth mentioning that young Swedes join an electronic queue for renting individual apartments through a designated state service once they reach the age of 18. They'll have the chance to secure independent housing no earlier than seven years later, around the age of 25, typically after completing their university studies and securing a job. It's important to note that this scenario primarily pertains to the capital city and larger urban areas. In the northern regions of the country and smaller towns, renting a house is notably more accessible.

Those who move to Sweden for study or work usually have the assistance of the inviting party to find accommodation. However, in general, the issue of renting an apartment in any Swedish city remains the most relevant problem for both migrants and residents of the country.

Skilling. Photo: Julius Jansson (Unsplash)

Undoubtedly, making choices when it comes to renting a place in Sweden is a challenging endeavour. When any form of accommodation becomes available, even if it doesn't align perfectly with your size or location preferences, it's common practice to accept it and subsequently seek out opportunities for housing swaps.

In addition, the Swedish state model has a certain socialist touch in the way they treat the proprietary rights to flats. De facto, housing in an apartment building is acquired as a share, by the right of cooperative ownership, with the inhabitants owning the structure in shares. 

That is why you cannot rent out your apartment in Sweden without the permission of the management company and more often than not, the council of the house refuses to allow it. Moreover, if the owner does not live in their apartment for more than a year, they are obliged to sell the property through an auction, especially if it was bought with a mortgage.

In general, the Swedish real estate market is divided into housing for rent (usually state-owned or owned by large landlords or institutions, for instance, for students or researchers) and housing for personal purchase. Swedes, as a rule, buy flats for themselves, not for rent. They rarely move and do not sublease their places, which is prohibited. If the house council finds out that the apartment was illegally rented out, the tenant will be evicted and the landlord will be forced to sell their share.

You can buy real estate in Sweden as a full-fledged private property only if it is a detached house or, for instance, a townhouse with a plot of land. It is also possible for large investors to put money into Swedish commercial real estate or plots for development (if they are not part of a forest or nature conservation area), but the ownership of such a property does not confer any additional immigration rights.

Stadion metro station in Stockholm. Photo: Claudio Schwarz (Unsplash)

In a Nutshell

Individuals holding Scandinavian passports (from Norway, Finland, Denmark, or Iceland) can reside and work in Sweden without encountering significant bureaucracy. Similarly, moving to Sweden with a passport from any EU country presents ease in terms of job hunting, establishing a business, and initiating a residence permit application directly on location.

Expatriates from other nations have the option to relocate to Sweden for employment, with the possibility of obtaining permanent residence after residing in the country for four years. Family reunification also serves as a valid motive for migration. Cohabitation holds equal recognition to official marriage, allowing for primary and subsequently permanent residence permits if an individual moves in with a partner who holds Swedish citizenship or permanent residency. Pursuing studies at a Swedish university does not automatically grant eligibility for permanent residence. However, the years spent in the university environment provide an opportunity to acclimate, grasp the intricacies of the labour market, and potentially secure a job offer or launch a startup in the future.

Finally, entrepreneurs from any country can emigrate to Sweden. Here you can start a new company or buy an existing business.

Cover photo: Jon Flobrant (Unsplash)

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