How to move to Sweden: Step-by-step guide

TransferWise content team
25.12.17
6 minute read

Coffee lovers rejoice-- one of Sweden’s most loved daily rituals is the fika, or the social coffee break. Beyond a love of caffeine and sweet treats, 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 if you’re not prepared with the right information. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about getting settled in Sweden.

Living in Sweden stats:

  • Money in Sweden: Swedish Krona (also written as SEK or kr)
  • Number of inhabitants: 9.903 million
  • Capital: Stockholm
  • Number of expats in Sweden: ~65,000
  • Official language: Swedish
  • Weather: Mild
  • Biggest cities: Umea, Örebro, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Malmo
  • Average yearly salary: 399,660 kr

Step 1: Figure out the legal requirements to move to Sweden

figure out legal requirements

Moving to Sweden has different requirements for different people, depending on where they’re from.

Requirements for UK and EU citizens

People from the EU have it the easiest, with almost no hurdles to moving to the Scandinavian country. EU citizens who study or work in the country (with the means to support themselves) have the automatic right of residence in Sweden. They do not need to apply for a residence permit nor do they need to contact the Swedish Migration Agency. Even family members of EU citizens have a right of residence as well. After five years in Sweden, these individuals can receive permanent right of residence. However, don’t forget to register yourself in the population registry, and obtain a Swedish personal identity number.

Requirements for US and Australian citizens

People from outside of the EU, however, will be required to get a work permit in order to live 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) 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. If you’re not planning to work in Sweden, you may also be able to get a visa if you’re married to a Swedish citizen, or if you can prove you are the child of at least one Swedish citizen.

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

Step 2: Make sure you can afford the cost of living in Sweden

figure out the cost of living

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.

Cost of Living examples
Meal, inexpensive restaurant 99kr
Monthly public transportation pass 780kr
Gasoline 1 liter 13,70kr
Monthly rent, 1-BR apartment, city center 7.027kr
Pair of Nikes 863kr

Step 3: Set up your finances in Sweden

set up your finances

One of the first things you’ll need to do to support yourself financially in Sweden is opening a bank account. There are plenty of local banks for you to choose from, including Nordea Bank, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, Svenska Handelsbanken, and Swedbank. You may also be able to use one bank between your account at home and your account in Sweden, if you use one of the larger international banks like BNP Paribas, Barclays, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Santander, RBS, or UBS.

Your bank will likely offer a currency exchange service, though it’s important to keep an eye on the exchange rate they are offering. These rates are often marked up so the bank can make a greater profit on your transaction. You may want to use an online currency converter to check what you should be getting before you go ahead with the exchange.

If you do find your bank is offering a bad rate, you can use TransferWise to get the mid-market rate, and cut down on fees in the process. Alternatively, you can open a Transferwise borderless multi currency account, which allows you to manage your money in 27 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. From the beginning of 2018 you’ll also be able to get a debit card connected to your borderless account, which will make it even easier to pay for your life in Sweden, but you can of course also transfer the money to your local bank account in Sweden.

Step 4: Find a job and get to work in Sweden

get work

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.

Some good sites to get started on your job search include:

Step 5: Get a place to live in Sweden

get a place to live

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

Step 6: Make sure your healthcare is covered in Sweden

get healthcare 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. That being said, private healthcare services do exist in Sweden and can be used at your own expense.

Step 7: If you haven’t already, learn the language

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 8: Don’t be lonely - make friends and get in touch with other expats in Sweden

make friends

One of the easiest ways to quickly feel at home is to make friends who are also foreigners in Sweden. Internations expat forum is super active, and there are many meetup groups 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.

Step 9: Make sure you’re prepared with important contacts in Sweden in case of an emergency

know emergency phone numbers

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:

Consulate Numbers
US Embassy (+46) 08 783 53 00
British Embassy (+46) 08 671 30 00
Canadian Embassy (+46) 08 453 30 00
Australian (+46) 08 613 29 00

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!

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