As an immigrant coming from a country outside the European Union or the European Economic Area (EU/EEA), you need a valid Schengen visa (less than 90 days) or Swedish residence permit (more than 90 days) to be allowed in Sweden. There are a series of various checkpoints from the time one enters Sweden as a student until one stops to wait on that slow-coming decision from the Migrations office every year or every other year.
A visa issued by an embassy representative grants visits to Sweden and/or the Schengen region for a period of less than three months. On the other hand, a residence permit card issued by the Migrations office (Migrationsverket) in Sweden grants stays longer than three months. A residence permit card shows the reason for the stay i.e. study, work or permanent. Temporary residence permits are the student permits and work permits.
This is a type of permit that allows you to stay in Sweden for the main purpose of the study. It is valid for up to one year and it needs to be extended every year until the studies end. The type of permit, as written on the front side of the card, is UPPEHÅLLSTILLSTÅND (residence permit). The permit may have the text “Får arbeta” to imply that you are permitted to work.
Permit extension after studies
When the studies are complete (all studies credits registered), you can request a residence permit for looking for work after studies. Nowadays, the requested duration is up to a maximum validity of one year, provided that you can financially sustain yourself (and the dependants, if applicable) for the entire length of the requested period. This is a minimum of SEK 8,568 per month as of this writing.
For studies less than one year, usually you are not registered in the Swedish Civil register (no personal number) and therefore you are not covered by a comprehensive health care insurance. In this case, you must also show proof of comprehensive healthcare insurance for the entire extension period you applied for.
Work permits and permits for PhD research
The permit relating to PhD research studies follow the same conditions as a work permit.
When you get a job, the employer offering the job initiates the process of applying for a work permit. The Migrations office reviews your application and it issues a work permit card if all the paper. The type of permit, as written on the front side of the card, is UPPEHÅLLS- OCH ARBETSTILLSTÅND (residence and work permit). The permit may also have some remarks.
Some general rules apply such as a minimum pay of SEK 13,000 per month (as of now) and insurance cover comparable to the applicable collective agreement. Special terms and conditions apply depending on how long you have held the work permit in Sweden.
The first two years
Normally, Migrationsverket issues work permits for two year validity periods (it can be less depending on the type of employment). Within the first two years (exactly 24 months) of work in Sweden on a work permit (not student permit), the work applies to;
- A given occupation.
- A given employer.
The work permit card will have these remarks i.e. the occupation and the employer.
In summary, if your occupation changes even with the same employer, you need to apply for a new work permit. If you change the employer, you need to apply for a new work permit.
Between two and four years
When you have held a work permit for at least two years, the caveat on the employer is lifted and the permit is then only bounded to the occupation for which the permit is given.
Therefore you can change the employer without applying for a new work permit as long as the occupation remains unchanged. You must apply to extend the work permit when the previous one is about to expire.
Loss of a work permit
When you lose your job/work permit, you are upto 3 months to get another job.
As an example, if someone finished their university studies and obtained a 1-year permit to look for work. If in the first month of this, the person gets a job, they would apply for a work permit. If the person got laid off in say two months time and they did not get a new job within the permitted 3 months, they would be expelled from Sweden.
Permanent residence permits
Usually, the Migrationsverket grants a work permit for a maximum period of 4 years (Alien’s Act (Utlänningslag) Chapter 2 Section 2a). The permit extension after you have held a work permit for 4 years leads to what is called Permanent Residence (permanent uppehållstillstånd) provided you fulfil the same conditions;
- Work permit(s) amounting to 4 years within the past 7 years (Alien’s Act, Chapter 5).
- Having worked in Sweden for a minimum of 44 months within the work permit periods.
- Fulfilled the permit requirements for all the previous work permits.
The type of permit, as written on the front side of the card, is PERMANENT UPPEHÅLLSTILLSTÅND (permanent residence permit).
According to the Alien’s Act, Chapter 7 Section 7e, if you did not move to Sweden and start work within the first four months of your first work permit, your request for extension of a work permit is denied. The Migrationsverket revokes the work permit and orders you out of the country.
More than 5 years of habitual residence
The Migrationsverket defines habitual residence as a long-term resident (the continuous period of five years) with the intension of remaining in Sweden. For non-EU/EEA citizens, this implies that time during studies does not apply.
Refer to Tatiana Sokolova’s articles on Becoming a Swedish citizen.
Selected corner cases: What to keep in mind
If your permit periods do not fit the discussed timelines, then it is time to practice some algebra.
- Work permit: If you need to make an application for a work permit after you have worked say 1year and 10 months (this is still less than 2 years), you get a 2-year extension with the conditions as discussed in the section “The first two years”.
- Work permit: If your employer changes the company organisation number, this by definition is a different employer. Therefore terms and conditions apply depending on how long you have held the work permit. See section under work permits.
- Permanent residence: You do not fulfil the 44 months of work within 4 years but you have worked for more than 3 years during the work permit period. Migrations office may grant you a discretionary extension to the work permit so that you can be eligible for a permanent residence permit. See related article on changes to the requirements for permanent residence (skattenatet.ey.se, 2020-07-07) by José Vaz and Elsa Tirén.
- Permanent residence scenario: You fulfil the 44 months of work but have a held a work permit for less than 4 years (e.g. 3 years, 10 months). Migrations office grants you a permit long enough for you to reach the 4 years (slightly over 2 months in the example). Then you can reapply for a new permit. The law is the law.
Useful Direct Links
- Information on a Residence Permit Card.
- Process of How to apply for a work permit.
- Process of Extending a work permit.
- Work permits frequenty asked questions.
- The Alien’s Act of Sweden (in Swedish) for rules on residence permits, deportations and citizenship.
** The law is a complex framework. Please drop a comment if you feel something is missing or missinterpreted by me. Thanks!!!