How Americans can move to Sweden

Whether you want to move to Sweden for love, work or simply adventure, there are some hurdles to overcome first. Here's a look at the different ways you can move here as a USA citizen.

How Americans can move to Sweden
Are you moving for love, work, or just the adventure? Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/

The descriptions below outline the processes for people without EU citizenship, since EU citizens have the option to move to Sweden without a permit or visa.

For any permit application, you will need to prove your identity, usually with your passport.

Moving to a partner or family member

You can get a residence permit to move to a family member in Sweden, which most commonly means a partner or spouse or a child aged under 18, but in exceptional circumstances may include other family members. 

You will need documents proving your relationship, which depend based on what kind of relationship it is. It might include a marriage certificate or copies of rental contracts proving you have previously lived together. For couples who have not previously lived together but plan to do so in Sweden, you must also do an interview.

The person you are moving to also needs to prove that they can support you, by having suitable accommodation and salary. This is the case regardless of any income or assets you as the permit applicant have.

You also pay a fee of 2,000 kronor (1,000 kronor for children under 18) which is refunded if your application is refused. Find out more about permits for moving to a family member here.

How long will it take? As of November 2020, the estimate for people moving to a partner was between roughly 8 and 17 months. Factors such as which family member you are moving to, how well you can prove your relationship (including documents showing you have lived together), which country you are from and what your family member's residence status in Sweden is may all affect the processing time.

Photo: Lina Roos/

Moving for work

If you are moving to Sweden for a job offer, the crucial thing is that you need the job offer before you arrive in Sweden; non-EU citizens cannot move in order to look for work.

Certain jobs are exempt from the work permit requirement, typically shorter, fixed-term work such as au pairs, researchers, and seasonal workers. 

A job offer that offers a salary and conditions that both allow you to support yourself (defined as at least 13,000 kronor per month) and are on par with the industry standard. Your employer must also commit to providing several kinds of insurance from the start of your work. Make sure your employment meets all the conditions, otherwise you may run into problems when you try to renew your work permit further down the line

For work permits, it is your employer who starts the permit application process, and you should be contacted by the Swedish Migration Agency after this is done. Then, you submit your documents such as a passport, and the passports of any family members who will be joining you in Sweden, and pay the fee, which varies slightly depending on your profession but is roughly 2,000 kronor.

Family members will also get permits to live and work in Sweden for the same length of time as you. Find out more about moving to Sweden for work here.

How long will it take? As of November 2020, the estimate for employees who applied online was between roughly 1 and 9 months. Factors such as which industry you will be working in, whether or not the employer is certified with the Migration Agency, and whether or not the application included all the necessary information all affect the processing time.

Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/

Moving for studies

If you want to study in Sweden for longer than 90 days, you need a student permit.

To do this, you will need a place on a course of study in Sweden, which means you need to apply and be accepted. Be aware that there are earlier deadlines for international students than for those in Sweden, in order to give you time to get your paperwork sorted.

As well as proof of your place to study, you need to have paid the tuition fees, and have proof that you can support yourself during your studies, as well as proof of health insurance.

You can also apply for permits for any family members who will join you in Sweden while you study, as long as you can provide proof of their identity and that you have sufficient funds to support yourselves. Find out more about moving to Sweden for studies here.

Member comments

  1. Americans who consider moving to Sweden should know that anti-Americanism is tolerated and green-lighted, even by the government. It is ironic, given that Sweden is easily the most Americanized country in Europe. It is not pervasive, but it can be pernicious. It is marbled through all sectors of Swedish society and is most prevalent among the over 50s— the people who hold power. In the course of 20 years, I have seen Americans (even those with Swedish citizenship) get attacked physically and verbally; be denied salary and healthcare; have their property sabotaged and even confiscated; and of course suffer the chronic, daily burden of being framed an “ugly American”— because of Trump or BLM or guns or Hollywood or climate politics or capitalism or . . .

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Renting in Sweden: How to ace the apartment viewing

Foreign tenants in Sweden often face stiff competition for apartments due to a housing shortage in the big cities and a queue system that benefits those who have lived in the country longer. Here are our tips for boosting your chances in the apartment hunt.

A Swedish apartment living room
A few compliments directed at the landlord's furnishing style won't go amiss. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Stand out in your ad

To secure a viewing, you will usually need either to respond to ads put up by landlords on sites like Blocket and Qasa, or to put up your own ad. Either way, make sure you’re making a good first impression.

Include any details that make you a desirable tenant, for example if you have a full-time job or stable income, are a non-smoker, and so on. Many sublets are from people renting out their own homes for a short period, for example if they work or study abroad, so it’s also a good idea to include a few details about you as a person, and show you’ve read the ad by referencing the neighbourhood or another detail. If you can, write in Swedish and have a Swedish speaker translate or check your template. Save your questions for the viewing itself; this initial contact is all about securing your viewing.

Get references ready

As well as proof of income or employment, many landlords in Sweden will ask for references from previous landlords. The housing process can move fast, so you’ll want to prepare these in advance, particularly since landlords in many countries will not be used to providing them.

If you’ve never rented before, consider asking a previous flatmate to provide a ‘character reference’, or you could ask your employer or university tutor if they can vouch for you. If you’ve been staying at a temporary accommodation such as an Airbnb or apartment hotel, you could also ask your host to write something. However, the really crucial thing is your proof of employment or another source of income.

Take off your shoes

Sweden is a shoes-off country when it comes to people’s homes, and this is particularly important in the autumn and winter. Your host may not always ask, but it’s expected that you remove your shoes on arrival — stamping slush into their floor will not make a good impression.

Check on the laundry room

Swedish laundry culture is a big thing. Some apartments have their own washing machines and dryers but if that’s not the case, find out where the tvättstuga (laundry room) is, usually either in a basement or outbuilding. Bear in mind that even a short outside walk could become a hassle on winter evenings.

Be positive

It’s nice to be nice, and it could also help you become the landlord’s top choice. As we mentioned, in many cases the people renting out second-hand apartments intend to return to live there after the rental, so if you’re complimentary about the apartment and their furnishings, it can help persuade them that you’re the right person to take care of their home.

Check the legality

The market may move fast, but you should still look out for scams or ‘black market’ rentals. A legitimate landlord will not have a problem proving their identity to you, and you can do your own research on websites like Hitta and Eniro where you can confirm their personal details. Of course, never hand over any money before viewing an apartment, making these checks and signing a contract, and never sign anything you don’t fully understand.

Find out why the landlord is subletting the place — do they own or rent it, and why is it available? This isn’t about being nosy, but it can affect whether and for how long they are able to sublet. For example, many housing associations have a rule that home-owners can only sublet for up to six months or a year if they are moving in with a partner, but for longer periods if they are working or studying in another location.

You should always ask to see the proof they’ve received to sublet. If your landlord hasn’t been appproved by the housing association to rent out their home, this could cause several problems for you as a tenant. Firstly, you may be unable to officially register at the address, making it hard to receive post and to be ‘in the system’ in Sweden. But if the housing association finds out about the unapproved sublet, you could also be forced to leave.  

If your landlord is renting the apartment on a first hand contract, they should be able to show you the calculation of the rental price. There are strict legal limits on how much they can charge, so check that you’re not being ripped off. Prices are also regulated if the landlord owns the property, but in that case they can base the amount on the current value — which in Sweden’s hot housing market means they can often legally charge a high rental price in the big cities.

Ask about upcoming renovations

One thing which can have a major impact on your quality of life, but which may not be obvious even from a thorough viewing of the property, is building work. Here there are two possibilities to keep in mind; works on the building itself, and in the local area.

You should be able to ask the landlord if any major renovations are planned for the building. The two which generally have the biggest impact are stambyte (replacement of pipes) which can leave you without running water for an extended period, and fasadrenovering (renovation of the outside of the building), which usually means the entire side of the building is covered up for a few months, blocking your natural light. As well as asking the landlord, you can check on the website of the housing association (BRF); you can find out which association an apartment belongs to by searching the website

Planned building work in the local area will likely be described on the website for your municipality, or you may see signs in the neighbourhood if it will be starting soon.

Follow up fast

Unfortunately the rental market in Sweden means the advantage often lies with the landlord. Don’t rush into an agreement before getting all your essential questions answered, but don’t delay once you see a place you like and are confident that it’s legitimate. It’s a good idea to contact the landlord as soon as you’ve decided their apartment is the one you want, and have your proof of income and references ready immediately — you may even want to bring paper copies to each viewing.