Immigration to Sweden

Den reglerade invandringen, på svenska

Work permits
Secondary immigrants
Refusal of entry and expulsion
Residence permits for EU/EEA citizens
Further reading
The Immigrant Institute gets many questions regarding work and residence permission in Sweden. We can not help individuals with information in these areas. We however recommend that you contact the Swedish embassy or consulate in your respective country. For application of work, you may directly contact the employers or through employment offices. For studies or research you are advised to contact the universities directly or through their websites.

Immigration controls Swedish industry expanded heavily after the Second World War. Working hours were reduced at the same time, and this created a big demand for immigrant labour. Many Swedish companies therefore actively recruited workers from various European countries. This uncontrolled immigration continued until 1967, when Sweden introduced immigration controls.

Already in the 1950s, though, the Nordic countries had signed agreements between themselves setting up a free, common labour market, which means that citizens of one Nordic country are at liberty to work or study in any other Nordic country Labour immigration practically ceased in the mid-1970s. Instead a growing proportion of immigrants now came to Sweden as refugees.

Rules of immigrations The rules of immigration mean among other things that a person from a non-Nordic country wishing to settle or work in Sweden must obtain a residence and work permit first, before coming here. If he applies for a permit after entering the country, the Immigration Board can refuse his application for that reason alone, without examining his grounds for applying. There are exceptions to this rule, as will be explained below.

Since the 15 of December 2008 nevertheless the rules have changed so that a person getting an offer of work for at least one year can apply for work permit. The person is entitled to visit Sweden during three months of the period for visa, and return to his/her country. The application for work is done at the Swedish Embassy.

Immigration controls have been adapted to the EEA Agreement, which came into force on 1st January 1994. One important provision of that agreement is that citizens of any one EU/EEA country may live in any other, Sweden included, in order to work, start a business, study etc. The EEA Agreement does not affect the immigration rules applying to Nordic citizens.
This page briefly describes the grounds on which citizens of countries outside the Nordic area are permitted to settle in Sweden. It also describes the role of authorities involved.
Immigrants from the European Union coming to Sweden can check the Union's information "Dialogue with citizens" to settle or study in another EU-country. Check here and choose your own language.

The role of the authorities

The Swedish Immigration Board

The Migration Board is responsible for the investigation and receiving of asylum seekers and making decisions concerning visas, Work and residence permits and Swedish citizenships. In addition, it concludes refugee reception agreements and observes refugee and immigrant affairs.

The Board falls under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for immigration questions, and the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for immigrant affairs within the Government Chancery. "Immigration questions" mean rules indicating which aliens may settle in Sweden. "Immigration affairs" comprises measures to facilitate the social integration of immigrants in Sweden.

The awarding of permits is governed by the Aliens Act, the Aliens Ordinance and special Ordinances issued by the Government, as well as precedents created by the Government and the Migration Appeal Court in their determination of individual cases.

Just like other administrative authorities or like courts of law, the Immigration Board can lay down guidelines of its own, within the framework defined by the Government and Riksdag (Parliament).

The Migration Court

The Aliens Appeals Board is the supreme instance for nearly all aliens questiones. Its decisions, in other words, are final. The Board examines certain new applications, appeals against refusal of entery an expulsion orders made by the Immigration Board, and other matters. The Government´s adjudication is reserved for certain important questions of principle referred to it by the Alieans Appeals Board or the Immigration Board.

Information available at the site of the Courts can also be searched here

The police

The police verify that aliens entering to this country have the permits which are required. This is done either by checking at the border or through checks carried out by the police in Sweden and are known as "internal aliens control".

The police receive permit applications from aliens in Sweden and aliens are entitled to renew permits in certain cases. On the other hand, they may not refuse an application. These duties will be transfered from the police to the Immigration Board as from 1st October 1997.

In certain cases the police may refuse entry to a person who has come to Sweden without a valid entry document in the form of a permit, passport or money for his lliving and travelling expenses.

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Citizens of many countries are able to visit Sweden for up to three months without a permit. The visitor must have a valid passport document and money to live on in Sweden and to pay his fare home. Citizens of most African and Asian countries need to have a special permit, a visa, in order to entre Sweden at all. They apply for visas at Swedish diplomatic missions (meaning a Swedish embassy or consulate) in their home country or in the country they are living. Visa questions are most often decided by the diplomatic missions. Otherwise the decision is made by the Immigration Board. A visa can be issued for, at most, 90 days´ residence per application.

Svenska ambassader och konsulat i världen, official site
LinkS to Swedish Embassies and Consulates, international site

Work permits

Citizens of countries outside the Nordic area and the EU/EEA area wishing to work in Sweden have to obtain a work permit before coming here. In order to obtain a work permit they must, among other things, have a written offer of employment in Sweden. They apply for a work permit through a Swedish diplomatic mission in their country of origin or residence. Permit applications are decided by the Immigration Board, usually after consulting the county labour board.

Residence permits

Aliens wishing to stay in Sweden for more than three months must have to obtain a residence permit. Normally this has to be obtained and entered in the alien´s passport before he or she comes to Sweden.

Residence permits are applied for through a Swedish diplomatic mission in the applicant´s country of orgin or residence. Permit applications are decided by the diplomatic mission or the Immigration Board. A permit may be either fixed-term or permanent. Both types entitle the bearer to re-enter Sweden after visiting another country. The holder of a residence permit does not require a visa.

Permanent residence permits

The holder of a permanent residence permit does not need a work permit. He is entitled to live here indefinitely and without a passport, but he must have a passport in order to enter Sweden. The permit is valid as long as he remains domiciled in Sweden. His permanent residence permit will be revoked by the Immigration Board if he leaves Sweden and in certain other special cases.

A permanent residence permit cannot be granted to a person living here temporarily, e.g. as a visiting student or trainee.

Residence permits for secondary immigrants

Personal connection with Sweden, as grounds for the award of a residence permit, most often means an alien applies for a permit so as to be reunited with close relatives living in Sweden, or to marry or begin living with somebody who is permanently domiciled here. The main rule is that the residence permit must be obtained before entering Sweden.

The Immigration Board can grant a permit after entry if there are exeptional reasons for doing so or if it is obvious that the alien would have obtained a residence permit if the application had been examined before entry.

Residence permits are applied for through a Swedish diplomatic mission in the country of orgin or domicile. The embassy or consular staff interview the applicant and forward the application to be decided to the Immigration Board. Before making its decision, the Immigrant Board usually supplements the particulars furnished, either by means of a written investigation or by interviewing the personel connection in Sweden.

Residence permits awarded on grounds of marriage or cohabitation are usuelly valid for six months at a time for the first two years. In other words, two years have to pass before the alien can be granted a permanent residence permit. An exception can be made for cases where the parties have been reunited or if they previously lived together for a long time abroad.

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There are two forms of refugee immigration: * Every year the Government sets a "refugee quota" indicating how many refugees are to be transferred to Sweden.
* Asylum-seekers can make their own way to Sweden and apply for residence permits.

Sweden is a signatory of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the "Geneva Convention"), which lays down the rights and benefits which a state signing the Convention is obliged to guarantee refugees living within its borders. The definition of the term refugee in the Swedish Aliens Act is based on the Geneva Convention:
"For the purposes of this Act, a refugee is an alien who is outside the country of his nationality owing to a wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, nationality, membership of a particular social group or religious or political opinion, and who is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. The aforesaid applies regardless of whether the persecution emanates from the authorities of the country or they cannot be presumed to afford protection against persecution by individuals.
"A stateless person who for the same reason is outside the country of his former habitual residence and who is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return there, shall also be deemed a refugee."
Chap. 3, Section 2 of the Aliens Act

In principle, an asylum-seeker is entitled to choose which country he wants to live in. The asylum question must be examined by the state in which an asylum.seeker arrives first. Accordingly, an asylum-seeker who could have applied for asylum in another country before coming to Sweden can be removed to that country. The Aliens Act defines asylum as follows:


"For the purposes of this Act, asylum is a residence permit granted to an alien because he is a refugee. "A residence permit application as referred to in Section 3 shall be treated as an asylum application."
Chap. 3, Section 1 of the Aliens Act

Other persons in need of protection

"For the purposes of this Act, a person otherwise in need of protection is an alien who, in cases other than referred to in Section 2, has left the country of which he is a citizen because he
1. entertains a well-founded fear of incurring capital punishment or corporal punishment or of being subjected to torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
2. needs protection on account of an external or internal armed conflict or, by reasons of an environmental disaster, is unable to return to the country of his nationality, or
3. on account of his sex or homosexuality, entertaines a well-founded fear of persecution.
"A stateless person who, for the same reason, is outside the country of his former habitual residence and is unable, on the grounds indicated in subsection one, or unwilling, owing to his fear, to return there shall also be deemed in need of protection."
Chap. 3, Section 3 of the Aliens Act

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Refusal of entry and expulsion

Aliens not having permission to stay in Sweden are refused entry or expelled.

Refusal of entry

The commonest reasons for refusal of entry are that the alien:
* lacks a passport and a permit for entering Sweden
* has no money for his subsistence and fare home
* is passing through Sweden on his way to another Nordic country but does not have permission to travel there
* seeks asylum but is considered by the Immigration Board to have manifestly no grounds för doing so.

He is normally removed to the country which he last came from.
The police may decide on refusal of entry (and removal) within three months of the alien´s arrival in Sweden. If he has been in Sweden for more than three months, the decision is made by the Immigration Board instead.

It is also the Immigration Board that decides on refusal of entry if the alien seeks asylum or has a close relative who is seeking or has obtained asylum in Sweden.

If it is obvious that an alien is not entitled to asylum or any other residence permit, the Immigration Board may decide that he is to be refused entry (removed) immediately. The Board can do this even if the time limit for an appeal against the refusal of entry order has not expired ("immediate enforcement"). Only in exeptional cases can the Immigration Board order immediate enforcement if more than three months have passed since the alien applied for a permit in Sweden. When making a refusal of entry order, the Immigration Board may forbid the alien to return to Sweden within a certain length of time.


An alien who has had a residence permit may be expelled if he has remained in Sweden following the expiry or revocation of his residence permit. The expulsion order is made by the Immigration Board, which can also forbid the alen to return to Sweden within a certain length of time.

A court may order the expulsion of an alien who is convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment or probation, or if a court cancels a suspended sentence. An expulsion order of this kind always means that the alien is forbidden to return to Sweden for a certain length of time or for all time.

An alien who came to Sweden before he was fifteen years old and had been living here for at least five years when prosecuted may not be expelled on criminal grounds.

If an alien has had a permanent residence permit for at least four years or has been domiciled here for at least five years, he can not be expelled on criminal grounds unless there are very strong reasons for doing so.

A refugee may only be expelled if he has committed a very serious crime, e.g. an aggravated drug offence or aggravated robbery, and allowing him to remain in Sweden would entail a serious danger to public order ond safety.

The Government can expel an alien, and forbid him to retur, on grounds of national securety.

Removals to another Nordic country

The Nordic countries have a common outer passport control system, which means that each of them is responsible for deciding which persons are admitted to the Nordic area.

If, for example, a person enters Denmark illegally or with a visa for Denmark only and then goes to Sweden, Sweden can return him to Denmark. This has to be done within six months. The "border country", Denmark in this case, then has to decide the question of a permit. In practice, persons having strong links with Sweden are not returned to the "border country" and their permit cases are decided in Sweden instead.


The authority dealing with the case of an alien, e.g. the police or the Immigration Board, also decides wether the alien is to be taken i nto custody (i.e. kept under lock and key on special premises).

An alien over 18 years of age may be kept in custody if his identity in unclear and an investigation therefore has to be made of his right of entry or abode in Sweden. He may also be taken into custody if he is likely to be refused entry or expelled and there is a reason to belive that he will go into hiding or commite a crime in Sweden.

The same applies if there is a refusal of entry or expulsion order to be enforced and there is a risk of the alien going into hiding or committing a crime.

In certain cases, however, it may be sufficient for the police to take charge of the aliens passport or to order him to report to the policestation (surveillance). If a refusal of entry or expulsion order exists, the alien may be kept in custody for up to two months. In other cases there must be very strong reasons for keeping an alien in custody for more than two weeks.

Much stricter rules apply to the taking into custody of children.

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Refusal of entry and expulsion

An alien can appeal to the Immigration Board against a refusal of entry order made by the police. He can appeal to the Aliens Appeals Board against a refusal of entry or expulsion order by the Immigration Board. A court expulsion order is appealed in the same way as a judgement, with the Supreme Court as the ultimate instance.

Custody and surveillance

An alien wishing to appeal against a custody order must petition the County Administrative Court in the county where the order was made. The court´s decision can be appealed to the Administrative Court of Appeal in Jönköping, but this requires a review dispensation. There is no appeal against a surveillance order.


Refusal of entry and expulsion order are enforced by the police. The main principle is that the alien must leave the country of his own free will within a certain time after receiving the order, ormally two for refusal of entry and four weeks for expulsion.

If the alien has not left the country within that time, or if the police are virtually certain that he has no intention of doing so, they must remove or expel him as soon as possible. When the Immigration Board has made a refusal of entry order with immediate effect, the police must inform the alien of the order and remove him as soon as possible. If the police make a refusal of entry order, they are to enforce it immediately, even if the alien appeals.

An alien refused entry (removed) or expelled shall in the first instance be repatriated (returned to the country of his nationality) or, if possible, returned to the country from which he came to Sweden.

Legal aid

When investigation whether an alien is to be refused entry or expelled, the Immigration Board assesses and decides whether he is to have the services of a lawyer.

Even if the alien himself requests to be given a lawyer, it is the Immigration Board that decides wether not he is to have legal aid. The alien can appeal against the Board´s decision to the Legal Aid Board (to the Aliens Appeals Board as from 1st December 1997).

Penal liability

An employer hiring an alien who does not have a work permit can be fined or sentenced to up to one year´s imprisonment. In addition, the court can order the employer to pay a special charge.

An alien working without a work permit can be find.

A person helping an alien to enter Sweden without a passport or permit can be fined or imprisoned for up to six months.

A person who, for personal gain, plans or organises activity concerned with enabling aliens to travel to Sweden without passports or necessary permits will be fined or sentenced to not more than two year´s imprisonment.

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Residence permits for EU/EEA citizens

Sweden became a member of the European Union, EU, on 1st January 1995. The following countries are also members: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK.
From May 2004 there are 10 more countries in the European Union: Estonia, Letonia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. The same rules apply for them.
Citizens of the EU countries and citizens of the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) come with the scope of the EEA (European Economic Area) Agreement, which basically provides for the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons between the EU/EEA countries. What is 'Your Europe - Citizens'?
It provides you with detailed practical information on your rights and opportunities in the EU and its Internal Market plus advice on how to exercise these rights in practice. For example, you can learn more about living, working and studying in another EU country.

Employees and au pairs

Citizens of an EU/EEA country are entitled to work in Sweden without a permit if the employment is for not more than three months. For a longer period they have to apply to the police for a residence permit. No work permit is needed. These tasks will be transferred from the police to the Immigration Board as from 1st October 1997.

The residence permit is normally valid for five years an can be renewed thereafter. If the hiring is for less than one year, the EU/EEA citizen will receive a residence permit for the actual duration only. He may, however, start work before the permit comes through.

The same rules apply to au pairs.

Self-employed persons

Citizens of an EU/EEA state can become self-employed in Sweden on the same terms as Swedish citizens. The residence permit is valid for five years and renewable.


Employees and self-employed persons who have been active in Sweden are, like their next-of-kin, entitled on certain conditions to remain in Sweden when they retire.

A citizen of an EEA state who is a pensioner and wishes to settle in Sweden will obtain a residence permit if his or her monthly income after tax equals a Swedish basic pension.

A pensioner´s residence permit can be reviewed after two years and renewed after five.


A student enrolled for an approved study programme will obtain a residence permit if he has enough money to live on. He will obtain a residence permit for the duration of the studies, though not for more than a year at a time. He may also work while studying.

Other persons

Other citizens of an EU/EEA state wishing to live in Sweden can also obtain residence permit if they have enough money to live on. The residence permit can be reviewed after two years and renewed after five.


Residence permits are obtainable by the following next-of-kin of an EU/EEA citizen working, running a business etc. in Sweden:
* Spouse.
* Children aged under 21 or dependent on the parents for their livelihood.
* Parents economically dependent on children living in Sweden.
The parents will not obtain residence permits, however, if the child is studying.

Next-of-kin obtain residence permits for the same period as the person they are related to.

If a citizen of an EU/EEA state does not qualify for a residence permit under the EEA Agreement, e.g. if he is cohabiting with an employee, he can in certain cases obtain a residence permit by virtue of other rules of the Aliens Act.
The same rules apply to next-of-kin of Nordic citizens as to next-of-kin of other EU/EEA citizens.

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Further particulars and reading

A number of temporary residence permits has not been described here. Information on this subject is obtainable from the

Migration Board, S-601 70 Norrköping. Tel. 0771-235 235.

Further reading

* The Aliens Act (2005:716) (in Swedish)
* The Aliens Ordinance (2006:97) (in Swedish)

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