Sweden is one of the best countries to live in as a student or researcher. Here are some practical things to know before you move to help you quickly settle in.
Permits and Visas
If you are a citizen of the EU/EEA, you will not need a visa or residence permit to work or study in Sweden. Make sure your travel documents and health insurance will be valid for the length of your stay.
If you are not a citizen of the EU/EEA, you will need a residence permit to study or work in Sweden and you may also need a visa. PhD students should apply for a residence permit for studies while postdocs, professors, and guest researchers should apply for a residence permit for visiting researchers. Your permit will only be issued for the period your passport is valid, so you may need to renew it before you apply.
Once your arrive in Sweden, you must make an appointment at the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) to register your biometrics and get your picture taken for your residence permit card. The card is proof of your Swedish residence permit and need to be shown along with your passport each time you enter the country.
Bringing Your Family
If you have a permit as a visiting researcher or student, your family members can get residence permits for the same period. If the permit is valid for more than six months, your spouse or partner will get a work permit as well. Family members include a spouse, cohabitating partner, registered partner, and unmarried children under 18.
Swedish Personal Identity Number
International students or researchers who are going to be in Sweden for one year (more than two semesters) or longer must register with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) and apply for a Swedish personal identity number (personnummer). The personal identity number is an integral part of daily life in Sweden and is used for things such as accessing public health care, getting insurance, mobile banking, and getting a cell phone.
You must visit a Swedish Tax Agency office in person to register in the Swedish Population Register and apply for a personal identification number. The exact documents you have to bring with you will depend on your citizenship. Once you receive your personnummer you can apply for an ID card.
Students or researchers who will be in Sweden for less than a year and will be paid during that time must register with the Swedish Tax Agency to get a coordination number (samordningsnummer) for tax purposes.
As stated above, the Swedish personal identity number entitles you to pay the same patient fees as Swedish citizens. If you will be in Sweden for less than a year, you will have to arrange your own health insurance to cover any costs that may arise while you are in Sweden. You may want to buy travel insurance for at least 30 days to cover the time between when you arrive and when you receive your personal identity number and ID card.
If you are staying over a year it’s a good idea to get a Swedish bank account. There a four major banks in Sweden, SEB, Handelsbanken, Nordea, and Swedbank, and they all offer banking services in English. You should be able open a bank account before you have received your personal identity number, but you will need it as well as an ID card and Swedish cell phone number to access the full range of banking services. If you will be in Sweden for less than a year, talk to your university about payments to a foreign bank account. Swedish salaries are usually paid on the 25th of each month.
It is a good idea to have a few weeks worth of living expenses available in your home bank account as it may take some time to get your Swedish bank account and salary deposit set up. Check with your home bank before you travel to make sure you will be able to use your bank card abroad. Note that it is not necessary to bring cash with you when you move; Sweden is essentially cashless. Many banks no longer handle cash and many stores and businesses no longer accept it.
While English is the working language of many universities and research institutions, learning Swedish will help you establish yourself and improve your experience in the country. Many universities offer Swedish courses for their PhD students. There is also a free Swedish language program called Swedish For Immigrants (Svenska för invandrare) that is open to adult immigrants with a personal identity number. SFI courses provide a basic knowledge of the Swedish language and society. Check with your municipality to register.