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Sweden – Work Permits and Working Legally

Working Legally in Sweden

Sweden, with its high quality of life, strong economy, and welcoming culture, is an attractive destination for expats seeking employment opportunities. If you’re considering working in Sweden as an expat, it’s important to understand the country’s work permit requirements and procedures. In this comprehensive guide, we will address the necessity of work permits for expats, who must make the application, types of work permits, eligibility criteria, application procedures, required documents, costs involved, and sources of reliable information for expats.

Necessity of a Work Permit in Sweden

Yes, in most cases, expats are required to obtain a work permit to work legally in Sweden. The work permit, also known as a “work and residence permit” (arbets- och uppehållstillstånd), is a legal requirement that allows foreign nationals to work and reside in Sweden for a specified period of time. The permit is designed to ensure that expat workers have the necessary authorization to engage in employment activities within the country.

Who Applies for a Work Permit

In Sweden, the responsibility for applying for a work permit typically falls on the employer who intends to hire an expat worker. The employer must initiate the application process and fulfill the necessary requirements to secure a work permit for their prospective employee. As an expat, you do not directly apply for your work permit; instead, your prospective employer should handle this process on your behalf.

Employers in Sweden are required to demonstrate that they have a legitimate need for hiring a foreign worker and that they will provide fair treatment, compensation, and working conditions in accordance with Swedish labor laws. They are also responsible for sponsoring the expat worker throughout their employment in the country.


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While most expat workers in Sweden require a work permit, there are specific categories of individuals who may be exempt from this requirement:

  • EU/EEA/Swiss Nationals: Citizens of European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland enjoy freedom of movement and work within Sweden without the need for a work permit. However, they are still required to register with the Swedish Migration Agency upon arrival and may need to obtain a residence permit if their stay exceeds a certain period.
  • Family Members of EU/EEA/Swiss Nationals: Family members of EU/EEA/Swiss nationals may also be exempt from work permit requirements, provided they meet certain conditions.
  • Long-Term Residents: Individuals who hold long-term resident status in Sweden may have specific work authorization rights.
  • Researchers, Students, and Volunteers: Certain categories of individuals, such as researchers, students, and volunteers, may have different visa requirements that allow them to work under certain conditions.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements and exemptions may vary based on individual circumstances, so expats should check with the Swedish Migration Agency or their potential employers to determine their eligibility.

Types of Work Permits for Expats in Sweden

Sweden offers various types of work permits for expats, each tailored to different categories of foreign workers and their specific employment situations. The type of permit you may be eligible for depends on your circumstances and the nature of your intended employment in Sweden. Here are some of the primary types of work permits:

Employment-Based Work Permit

The Employment-Based Work Permit is the most common type and is intended for expat workers who have secured employment in Sweden. To be eligible, applicants must have a valid job offer from a Swedish employer and meet specific salary and skill requirements.

Specialist Work Permit

The Specialist Work Permit is designed for highly skilled individuals, experts, and specialists in their field. It offers a faster processing time and allows for easier family reunification in Sweden.

ICT (Intra-Corporate Transfers) Permit

The ICT Permit is for employees of multinational companies who are transferred to a Swedish branch or subsidiary. This permit allows for shorter processing times and flexibility in terms of job changes within the same company.

Seasonal Work Permit

The Seasonal Work Permit is for individuals employed in seasonal work, such as agriculture, tourism, or event-related activities in Sweden. It is typically granted for a limited duration.

Self-Employment Permit

The Self-Employment Permit is for entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals who intend to establish and operate their own businesses in Sweden. It requires a detailed business plan and proof of financial stability.

Procedure to Apply for a Work Permit in Sweden and Processing Time

The process of applying for a work permit in Sweden involves several steps, and it’s essential for both the employer and the expat employee to be familiar with these procedures. Here’s an overview of the typical steps involved:

  1. The employer initiates the work permit application process by submitting an offer of employment to the Swedish Migration Agency. The offer must include details of the job, terms of employment, and salary.
  2. The expat employee must provide necessary documents, including a valid passport, employment contract, proof of qualifications, and other supporting documents.
  3. The Swedish Migration Agency reviews the application, conducts an assessment of the labor market to ensure that there are no suitable Swedish or EU/EEA candidates for the position, and assesses the employer’s ability to provide fair working conditions.
  4. If the application is approved, the Swedish Migration Agency issues a work permit decision to the employer, who must then inform the expat worker.
  5. The expat employee can then apply for a residence permit to live and work in Sweden at the nearest Swedish embassy or consulate in their home country.
  6. The processing time for a work permit application in Sweden can vary depending on factors such as the type of permit, the workload of the authorities, and individual circumstances. In general, it may take several months from the initial application to receiving the work permit decision.

Expat workers should be aware that the residence permit is often a prerequisite for obtaining the work permit. Therefore, it’s important to follow the correct order of application and ensure that all required documents are submitted promptly.

Documents Required for a Work Permit Application in Sweden

When applying for a work permit in Sweden, both the employer and the expat employee must provide a set of documents to support the application. These documents are essential to demonstrate the legitimacy of the employment and the need for hiring a foreign worker. Here are some of the key documents typically required:

  • A copy of the employment contract between the employer and the expat employee, specifying terms and conditions of employment.
  • Proof of the expat employee’s qualifications and skills, such as diplomas, certificates, or professional licenses, authenticated and translated into Swedish (if not in Swedish).
  • A copy of the expat employee’s valid passport.
  • Recent passport-sized photographs of the expat employee.
  • Statement from the employer explaining the need for hiring a foreign worker.
  • Health insurance coverage for the expat employee (required for certain types of permits).
  • Additional documents may be required depending on the specific type of work permit being applied for.

It’s essential to ensure that all required documents are complete and accurate, as incomplete or incorrect submissions can lead to delays or even the rejection of the application.

Costs Involved in Applying for a Work Permit in Sweden

Applying for a work permit in Sweden comes with certain costs, which are typically shared between the employer and the expat employee. These costs can vary depending on the type of permit and other factors. Here are some of the typical expenses associated with obtaining a work permit:

  • Work permit application fee: The fee for submitting a work permit application varies depending on the type of permit and the duration. It may range from SEK 1,000 to SEK 2,000 or more.
  • Visa application fee: expat workers must pay a visa application fee when applying for their residence permit at the Swedish embassy or consulate in their home country.
  • Legalization and translation fees: If any documents need to be legalized or translated, there may be additional costs involved.
  • Health insurance expenses (if required).
  • Biometric residence permit card fee (if applicable).

It’s essential for both the employer and the expat employee to budget for these expenses when planning to work legally in Sweden. Understanding the associated costs can help ensure a smooth application process.

Reliable Information on Working Legally in Sweden

For expats considering employment in Sweden, accessing reliable information on the legal requirements and procedures is crucial. Here are some reliable sources and websites that provide valuable information on working legally in Sweden:

1. Swedish Migration Agency (English): The official website offers comprehensive information on immigration and work permits for foreign nationals in Sweden.

2. Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) (English): The agency provides information on employment and job opportunities in Sweden.

3. Swedish Embassies and Consulates (English): Swedish diplomatic missions worldwide offer information on visa and residence permit applications.

4. The Local Sweden (English): The Local provides news and practical advice for expats living and working in Sweden.

5. Invest Sweden (English): Invest Sweden offers information for entrepreneurs and investors interested in doing business in Sweden.

These sources can serve as valuable references for expats seeking up-to-date and reliable information on working legally in Sweden. Staying informed and consulting official sources is essential when navigating the legal requirements and procedures for employment in the country.