Moving to Sweden Expat Guide
Sweden has a population of around 10.4 million people, which means they rank 88th in the world. The Nordic country is located in Northern Europe and is a member state of the European Union. However, 87% of Swedes live in urban areas, and the country has a low population density of 25.5 inhabitants per square kilometer.
You can characterize Sweden by its numerous lakes, lush green forests, and long coastlines. Much of the country is undeveloped, especially towards the North, where the winters are long and coldest. Sweden has a constitutional monarchy with a democratic government.
This informative guide provides the information you need to know about moving to Sweden as an expat. You will learn about what visa is required, the cost of living, and what you can expect from the local climate.
Types of Visas When Moving to Sweden
The visa type you need when visiting Sweden depends on the reason for the visits and how long you stay. However, EU passport holders can enter Sweden freely without acquiring a visa. Here are the common options available for visitors that are coming from outside the EU:
Sweden Schengen Visa for short stays: This visa type allows visitors to stay for up to 90 days. There are various types, which include airport transit, business, tourists, visitor, cultural and medical visas. Each one represents various reasons for entry, so you need to apply for the right one. Depending on your reason for entering, you may have to prove yourself using documentation. Therefore, have the paperwork ready to make a case for acquiring the visa.
Sweden Schengen visa for extended stays: this visa type is applicable for visitors who want to stay longer than 90 days. The different types of visas that you can apply for in this category include student, employment, job seeker, family reunion, researcher, freelancer, language course, student internship, partnership, work, and relative. The documents required will differ for each application. Overall, documenting your reason for entry with proof and relevant documents will make getting the visa easier.
Expat Way of Life in Sweden
Swedes enjoy relaxing at home, they insist on guests taking their shoes off and leaving them at the door. The winters are long and cold, so indoor activities are the norm during these months. Many Swedes have light and white interior décor to increase the amount of light indoors during the winter.
Overall, Swedes are friendly and welcoming people that generally speak good English. They are proud of their culture and are prideful about keeping their environment safe. Work and life balance are top-of-mind for many people in Sweden. The family laws reflect this, and there is a big emphasis on fairness for all types of people.
Sweden has a cold climate that requires acclamation if you are not moving from a similar climate. The country is one of the most Northern in Europe, which means the winters are cold, and daylight lasts for only a few hours. Especially further north, where there is a lack of urban areas. Sweden enjoys warm summers with average temperatures of 23 degrees, but they last for just a few short months in July and August. So overall, expats moving to Sweden should pack warm clothing to make it through the winter comfortably.
Locals use the public transportation system frequently. Therefore, it is possible to buy coupons for the public transportation systems at kiosks and information centers. Also, travelcards can be purchased that last for 24 hours or up to a year. These are great to save money if you plan on traveling frequently.
Train: the extensive rail system in Sweden is mainly operated by the national carrier SJ. Rail in Sweden is a good choice for traveling between cities, but the speed is slower than most other European countries. Other rail operators you might encounter include MTRX, Snalltaget, Norrtag, Flixtrain, and Famous rail lines. There are also regional public train transportation networks that consist of trams, metro, and commuter rail. The ticket rules are different for each system and are sold by the country-owned traffic company.
Buses: in 1999, the intercity bus network became deregulated in Sweden. Flixbus is the leading bus operator in the country, and they run an efficient system in Sweden and throughout Europe. Bus fares are generally cheaper than train travel. Buses are a great choice to reach remote ski resorts and villages.
Plane: Sweden has 41 active airports, but only half of them are for commercial flights. The top airports include Stockholm Arlanda, Gothenburg Landvetter and Stockholm Bromma Airport. Many flights are operated by Ryanair, which offers lower prices. Daily excellent links exist with the rest of Europe, so reaching Sweden by plane is straightforward.
Expats living in Sweden can use the driving license of their home country if it is still valid. However, this is only valid if the expat has not been a resident in Sweden for over a year and they do not have a Swedish driving license that is suspended.
To rent a car in Sweden, you must hold a valid driving license, and there are many companies offering affordable rates. Renting a car for travel in Sweden could be the best choice depending on where you want to visit. Reaching remote areas is easier with a car than waiting for buses that frequently visit the same locations.
Crime and safety
Sweden is considered one of the safest places to visit in Europe and the world. The low crime rates and welcoming locals allow expats to feel safe while visiting Sweden. The Swedish police crackdown hard on violent crimes, and there is a police presence in the major cities. Also, the already low crime figures are somewhat inflated because of how violent crimes are reported in Sweden – a single crime can be counted several times statistically.
Working in Sweden
Citizens of the European Union or European Economic Area do not need a work permit to gain employment in Sweden. However, expats from countries outside these regions need to apply for a work visa to gain legal employment. The applicant needs to have a written letter from a Swedish company offering them work to receive a work permit. The popular job opportunities that exist for expats in Sweden include pharmacists, teachers, engineers, chemists, software and system developers, dentists, doctors, nurses, and university professors.
Cost of Living in Sweden
To live comfortably in Sweden, you need about 8,568 SEK (911.98 USD) per month, so on average, the cost is 0.72% lower than the United States. Also, compared to the rest of Europe, this country is an affordable place to live. However, finding a place to rent in the desired location and on a budget can be challenging.
Transportation in Sweden is relatively expensive, especially if the expat chooses car rental over public transport. However, groceries are affordably priced, and eating out will not set you back more than most European countries.
Property and housing in Sweden
The cost of renting in Sweden is 36.17% lower than in the United States. Since accommodation tends to be the highest cost of living, it is the reason why Sweden is a great place for expats on a budget. Nevertheless, finding a suitable rental property can be a challenge. However, websites like Airbnb and Booking.com can be short-term solutions to find accommodation quickly.
Not many expats in Sweden rent directly from the property owner. Instead, a system called Bostadsförmedlingen is in place that redistributes vacant housing, which is a government organization. The waiting list to receive property is long, and you need to pay a fee to be put on the list. However, it is easier to use this system than seek rental directly from a homeowner.
Expats who want to buy real estate in Sweden should know no restrictions. Also, the property prices are generally lower than what you will encounter across the rest of Europe. To find properties, expats can look in local newspapers and contact real estate agencies online. Hiring a solicitor is a good idea to ensure that the process is uncomplicated and legal. Also, once a property is purchased, you need to apply for the title deeds within three months.
Healthcare in Sweden
European Union expats can receive free healthcare in Sweden just like the locals if they hold a European Health Insurance Card. This card can be obtained in the expat’s home country before travel. Healthcare agreements also exist with the Canadian province of Quebec, Turkey, Israel, Chile, Algeria, Australia, other Nordic countries, and Switzerland. Expats from other counties will need to have their own private medical insurance.
Overall, the quality of healthcare in Sweden is excellent. The entire range of services is included, and doctors’ quality is high. Swedish taxpayers fund the national healthcare system.
Education in Sweden
For children between the ages of 7 and 16, it is compulsory to attend public schools. Furthermore, the parents of expat children can send kids to an international or public school. Education in public schools is free and funded by taxpayers. Private schools are funded by local contributions and are open to receiving donations.
All children in the country follow the Swedish National Syllabus, but international schools focus on a more comprehensive approach to the studied material. As a result, there are many programs to choose from, and most teachers speak English to assist expat children.
Banking in Sweden
Expats from any country can legally open a bank account in Sweden. You will need to bring documentation such as proof of identity and address. The top banks have branches throughout the country, and the options include:
However, expats outside the EU/EEA who do not have a Swedish tax number will face some restrictions when using a bank account. Expats living in Sweden for longer than six months are expected to register for this tax number to use the bank account legally.
Read our guide on the best international bank for expats to learn more about choosing the right bank for your needs.
Sending money to Sweden
If you need to send money from your home country to Sweden, you can choose from one of many specialist transfer providers. They charge low fees, competitive FX rates, and fast processing times. Also, most come with a convenient mobile app that allows you to send money internationally.
Popular places to live in Sweden
This section outlines the best places to live for expats. These hotspots have the infrastructure to support a welcoming experience for foreigners unfamiliar with life in Sweden.
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden, with a population of 1.7 million people. It is a unique place to live since it consists of 14 islands. It borders the Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren. Expats that are looking for work in the tech sector will find a lot of opportunities in Stockholm. It is a green city, and the transportation links are excellent.
Malmo is an excellent choice for younger expats that want a diverse experience. It has a population of 330,000 people, and the drive to Copenhagen is only 30 minutes. In addition, the trendy hipster community in Malmo offers a different experience to the rest of Sweden. However, work is harder to find in Malmo compared to Stockholm.
This is one of the most beautiful cities in Sweden along the West Coast. The population is 625,000, and there are two universities. This means there is a vibrant nightlife and a young population. It is a multicultural city that also hosts the largest film festival in the Nordic countries.
Other popular destinations in Sweden include: