Eight things to do once you get a job in Sweden

Grattis! You've finally found the sometimes-elusive expat job in Sweden. You've called your mum and uncorked the champagne – but now what?

Eight things to do once you get a job in Sweden
Photo: Getty Images

Swedish work culture can take you off guard if you’re not prepared. Here’s a checklist to make sure you’re ready for what lies ahead….

1. Join a-kassa

Congrats, you now have a salary. But what happens if you should lose it?

No one likes to think in those terms, but it’s good to be prepared – especially given that different types of temporary jobs are common in Sweden. So join an arbetslöshetskassa. (Long name, we know – it’s affectionately dubbed a-kassa for short.)

Being in an unemployment insurance fund means you can get up to 80 percent of your salary if you become unemployed. That includes if you decide to switch careers and end up in between jobs for a while.

Sometimes banks and other institutions also require you to be in an a-kassa before they grant you a loan, for instance for a mortgage. Again, there are multiple a-kassas to choose from – but one of the largest, and most affordable, is Akademikernas a-kassa, which is open to anyone with a Bachelor’s degree and working in Sweden.

You take it for granted that you insure your house and your car – why wouldn’t you insure your salary which pays for it all? Check out 7 reasons to join here.

Read more about the benefits of joining Akademikernas A-kassa

2. Join a union

In some places in the world union is akin to a dirty word. Not so here. In fact, some Swedes might raise an eyebrow if you’re not in a union.

Yes, a union. There are many. There’s a union for civil economics, for physical therapists, for lawyers, for architects, for dentists, for veterinarians…you get the idea. Check out this list for more.

It’s certainly not a requirement to join a union, and you don’t have to, but there are many perks to being a member.

Not only will they back you up if there’s a conflict at work and give you advice on things like salary discussions, but many unions also have some sort of scholarship or stipend for members to take ”competence development” (kompetensutveckling) classes. Depending on your union that could be anything from learning French to an industry conference to a social media intensive course.

3. Brace yourself for taxes

You’ve heard it said: Sweden has some of the highest tax rates in the world. This is both true and false. Actually the rates are quite reasonable, and comparable to many other places in the world. But it’s true that about 30 percent of your paycheck might magically ‘disappear’ each month.

However, the real magic is what you get in return. Free education (as long as you have a residence permit in Sweden, for the main purpose of something other than studies), almost-free healthcare and prescriptions, remarkably clean streets, paid vacation….In short, it’s worth it.

Read also: 9 reasons Sweden is heaven for employees

Still, knowledge is power – so be prepared and plan the tax rates into your budget, don’t expect to get your full salary in your account each month or you’ll be disappointed!

Photo: Jenny Jurnelius

4. Remember to get dressed before video meetings!

Swedish work culture is known for being pretty relaxed in terms of what you can wear. In most industries, smart casual wear is just fine and you can be fairly liberal in your interpretation of that.

Since the pandemic began, however, the temptation to work all day (or all week!) in your pyjamas may have become overwhelming. 

Don’t make the mistake of joining a video call looking like you just rolled out of bed. Giving a little attention to your hair and what you’re wearing – at least above the waist – won’t be that challenging, surely?

5. Plan your (very long) vacation months in advance

Hooray, you have a job! Now it’s time to start planning when you’re not going to work.

It might sound counterintuitive, but one of the most important parts of Swedish work culture is the time you take off.  Everyone working in Sweden is entitled to 25 days of paid vacation each year, and some companies offer even more than that.

It’s also encouraged to not spread it out too much but to rather take a long period off – even a month at a time in the summer. But obviously Swedish companies have to plan around that, and hire temporary cover during that period – so make sure to notify your boss well in advance of when you’re planning your Swedish holidays.

Oh, and be prepared to get even more in your bank account than you expected – not only is vacation paid, you get an extra amount (semestertillägg) to make sure you have the money to do something fun on your holidays!

6. Learn about types of leave

Speaking of not working, there are plenty of other reasons you might be gone from work.

You’ve probably heard about Sweden’s outstanding parental leave. But did you know you can also get leave for studying? In the public sector you can even get leave for trying out a new job….check out the details about this and other types of leave here.

7. Beware long notice periods

On that note, if you do end up looking for a new job or receive another offer, double-check your contract to see how much notice (uppsägningstid) you have to give.

Americans might be used to giving something like two weeks’ notice, and may be shocked to discover their contract in Sweden might require three months. Anything from one to three months falls in the ”normal” range – so check that out before you tell a new job when you can start!

8. Do your taxes (on your phone)

Finally, with all these perks and all those taxes comes one final duty: to file your Swedish taxes, of course.

Luckily, in Sweden it’s easy! Many Swedes just send a text and voila, they’re done. You can also do it online or via the tax authority’s app. Read more about how to do your taxes here.

There’s a long list of things to do when you first get a job in Sweden, but signing up for an A-kassa is a good start. Click here to find out more about Akademikernas a-kassa.

For members


How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years.