If you’ve arrived in Sweden on a visa that doesn’t allow for you to obtain a personal number, all is not lost. It can be a challenge to access certain services, such as banking, the library, and signing up for a gym. With a little effort and the right provider, you can not only survive but thrive in Sweden without a personal number.
What is a Personal Number?
A personal number (personnummer in Swedish) is the Swedish national identification number. It is a 10 or 12 digit number used throughout the country to identify individuals. It is obtained when a person is entered in the Swedish population register by the Swedish Tax Agency.
Similar to the American Social Security number or the Canadian Social Insurance Number, Swedish personal numbers are used by government and educations institutions, as well as healthcare organizations.
But that’s not all. Personal numbers are also used by banks, insurance companies, utility providers, gyms, and even grocery stores to record membership. In many cases, you will be asked to provide your personal number instead of giving an address, phone number or even membership number.
Basically, a personal number is your golden ticket to life in Sweden.
But what happens if arrive in Sweden on a short-term visa that won’t allow you to obtain a personal number? When you first arrive, it will seem as though you can’t do or sign up for anything.
When I first arrived in Sweden without a personal number, I tried to access many services only to be denied. I was frustrated as my Swedish dream was quickly turning into a nightmare. But I persevered. Over the past five months, with a little research and a lot of trial and error, I’ve learned you can not only survive but thrive in Sweden without a personal number.
How to Survive in Sweden Without A Personal Number
Opening a bank account without a personal number is a challenge. Many banks will flat out deny your application if you arrive without all the necessary pieces of information.
SEB is a great option for foreigners. Instead of signing up with a personal number, many branches will allow you to open an account using your passport.
To sign up for an account, pop into your local branch with your passport and the necessary documents ready, explain your situation and they should be able to get you up and running.
Signing up for any gym membership or fitness program is fraught with hurdles when you’re without a personal number. For starter, you most certainly won’t be able to sign-up for classes online. Instead of giving up and counting yourself out, pop down to your local SATs (or any other gym of your choice) and speak with a manager. Explain your situation and they may be able to offer you a temporary membership. In these cases, you will most likely have to pay for your 6- or twelve-month membership upfront, but that beats not having access to the facilities at all.
If you’re looking for a more specialized form of fitness, such as yoga, barre or pilates, contact the studio to see if you need a personal number to sign-up for classes. Many of these private organizations don’t require you to have a personal number to purchase a membership.
Even without a personal number, European Citizens can still access Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) classes. SFI classes are an awesome option as they are free and intense, so you’ll learn the language quickly.
For those of us not from the continent, SFI classes are not an option until you have a personal number. Thankfully there are other options. Schools like Folkuniversitet and Grow Internationals offer Swedish language classes to those of us without a personal number. Unfortunately, they aren’t free, but they are a great way to immerse yourself in the language and meet new people.
Life in Sweden without a personal number can be a challenge. From opening a bank account to obtaining a gym membership, you may feel like you’re facing hurdles around every turn. But with a little bit of effort and by contacting the right people, you can not only survive but thrive in Sweden without a personal number.
Written by: Kate Slean
Kate Slean is a Canadian freelance writer and graphic designer who has spent the last three years living throughout Europe. She moved to Stockholm in 2017 and has since been indulging her inner Scandophile and immersing herself in Swedish culture. When she’s not trying to learn and navigate all things Swedish, Kate can be found sharing her travel and living abroad adventures on her blog Petite Adventures.