For members


READER QUESTION: How can I move to Sweden as a self-employed person?

Are you self-employed and thinking about moving to Sweden? Not sure what to do, or what rules apply to you? Here's our guide.

A man working from home as a self-employed person in Sweden
Considering moving to Sweden to work as a self-employed person? Here's what you should know. Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT

The process for moving to Sweden as a self-employed person varies depending on where you come from. Your citizenship will determine whether you apply to the Tax Agency or the Migration Agency, as well as whether you need to apply for a permit (uppehållstillstånd) or whether you have the right of residence under EU law.

Here’s a rundown of the rules for each different group.

Nordic citizens (Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland)

As a Nordic citizen, you don’t need a residence permit (uppehållstillstånd) or right of residence (uppehållsrätt) to live in Sweden. All you need to do is go to the Tax Agency upon arrival in Sweden and register yourself and any family members as resident in Sweden.

You may need to prove that you are planning on living in Sweden for at least a year in order to be registered in the population register and given a personnummer.

EU/EEA citizens

As an EU/EEA citizen, you have the right to work, study or live in Sweden without a residence permit (uppehållstillstånd), and that this includes starting and running your own company.

You do, however, still need to meet certain criteria in order to fulfil the requirements for right of residence under EU rules (uppehållsrätt).

There are different options for fulfilling the right of residence requirement as a self-employed EU/EEA citizen, and both require registering at the Tax Agency rather than the Migration Agency.

The first is as a self-employed person, which means you’ll have to prove that you have a business which either is currently running in Sweden, or is in the planning stages.

You’ll need to provide documents to back this up, which could include things like proof that you have F-tax (the tax status for self-employed people and freelancers), a marketing plan, a registration certificate for your company, and a copy of the lease for any premises you will be using.

You may also need to prove that you have previous experience and skills relevant to your company or the work you’re planning on doing in Sweden, receipts and invoices for any material you’ve purchased, as well as accounting documents showing how much VAT you have paid or are expecting to pay.

You’ll need to take these to the Tax Agency along with your passport and any documents proving your relationship to any family members you’ll be registering at the same time, such as your marriage certificate or registered partnership certificate for your spouse or partner, and a birth certificate for any children.

The second route is as someone “providing or performing services“, which is the route you should use if you’re self-employed abroad but will be providing a service to a recipient in Sweden, such as as a consultant or freelancer, for a limited time.

Under this route, you’ll need to take your passport and any family documents along to the Tax Agency, as well as a certificate describing the service you’ll be providing in Sweden, where you will be working or carrying out the service, and how long for. This needs to be signed by whoever you’ll be carrying out the service for in Sweden.

Note that you can only be registered in the Swedish population register and given a personal number if you can prove that you’ll be in Sweden for more than a year, but you still need to register your stay in Sweden as an EU citizen if you’re planning on being in Sweden for more than three months.

Non-EU or ‘third country’ citizens

If you’re a non-EU/EEA citizen and you want to be self-employed in Sweden you need to apply for a residence permit at the Migration Agency before you come to Sweden, with a few exceptions.

“You can ‘swap’ from studying to work permit and self-employed under certain conditions. And you can swap between work permit to self-employed and self-employed to work permit,” Robert Haecks, press spokesperson at the Migration Agency, told The Local.

So if you’re already in Sweden as an employee or student you don’t need to leave Sweden to apply for a permit to become self-employed.

For students, your permit to be in Sweden as a student must still be valid, and you must have completed at least 30 credits of your studies or a whole term as a research student.

If you’re planning on working in Sweden for less than three months, you do not need a residence permit, but you may need to apply for a visa depending on your citizenship.

Non-EU citizen working in Sweden longer than three months

If you’re planning on working in Sweden for longer than three months, you’ll need to apply for a “residence permit for people who have their own business”, as there is no specific residence permit for self-employed non-EU citizens.

There are quite a few conditions that need to be met in order for the Migration Agency to be satisfied that you can really run a business in Sweden.

First off, you need a valid passport, and it’s a good idea to make sure this has at least a few years of validity left as you can’t get a permit for longer than your passport is valid.

Applicants will need to prove that they have experience in the industry and previous experience of running their own business, as well as relevant knowledge of Swedish or English (if most of their suppliers or customers will be Swedish, the Migration Agency will expect applicants to speak good Swedish).

You’ll need to prove you run the company and have responsibility for it, provide a budget with plausible supporting documentation and show that you have customer contacts or a network which you can use in your business via contracts or similar.

You will also need to provide a slew of financial and legal documents, such as a registration certificate for your company in Sweden, copies of contracts with customers, suppliers and premises, your two most recent financial statements if your company has already been in operation, and a balance sheet for the current financial year up until the month you apply. See a full list of the required documents here.

Finally, you’ll need to prove that you have enough money to provide for yourself and any family members who will be joining you. The Migration Agency states that this corresponds to “the equivalent of SEK 200,000 for you, SEK 100,000 for your accompanying wife/husband and SEK 50,000 for each accompanying child for a permit period of two years”. So, an applicant moving to Sweden with their spouse and two children will need at least 400,000 kronor in savings in order to qualify.

You will also have to pay a fee of 2,000 kronor in most cases.

The Migration Agency will then carry out an analysis of your plans for a business and decide whether it is good enough to grant you a residence permit.

If you get a permit to stay for six months or longer then your spouse and children may also live in Sweden. They can apply for a residence permit at the same time as you, or afterwards.

If you have a permit to be in Sweden as a self-employed person, your family members moving with you also have the right to work (as long as they are aged 16 or older). However you still must show that you can support them.

If you get a residence permit for Sweden as self-employed you will only be allowed to work in your own business.

Talent visa for non-EU citizens

There is another option for highly-qualified applicants who want to move to Sweden to research setting up a new business, which you may also qualify for if you’re interested in moving to Sweden as a self-employed person.

This is the “talent visa”, more specifically referred to as a “resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons to look for work or start a busi­ness”.

This permit allows non-EU citizens with a higher-level degree to apply for a visa of between three to nine months, which they can then use to stay in Sweden while they look for work or research setting up a new business.  

You can read more on how to apply for the talent visa here.

By Loukas Christodoulou and Becky Waterton

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For members


IN DATA: Why have so many of Sweden’s Afghan child refugees got jobs?

A recent report from Statistics Sweden found that eight out of ten young men who came to Sweden as child refugees in 2015 now have jobs, a higher employment rate than people of their age born in Sweden. What's behind this success and has it come at a price?

IN DATA: Why have so many of Sweden's Afghan child refugees got jobs?

Some 35,000 unaccompanied child refugees came to Sweden during the refugee crisis of 2015, the overwhelming majority of whom were teenage boys from Afghanistan’s oppressed Hazara minority. Only 2,847 were girls, and 22,806 of the 32,522 boys were from Afghanistan. 

According to the Statistics Sweden report, around 13,000 of them were then given residency as unaccompanied child refugees, with a further 7,000 given residency under the so-called “Gymnasium Law” or gymnasielagen.

This was an amnesty law which gave those whose asylum claims were rejected temporary residency in Sweden to complete their studies at upper secondary school, after which they had six months to get a job. 

A poor welcome

On arrival in Sweden, the group were often dismissed as skäggbarn, or “bearded children”, with claims that many had lied about their age to take advantage of more lenient asylum rules. The Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine was tasked with carrying out controversial examinations to check their ages. 

The group were blamed for harassing girls at music festivals, and there were also reports of their being drawn into heroin use and crime.   

Most have jobs

Six years on, though, the statistics show a more positive picture. 

Of those born in 1999, the most common age for the group, 82 percent of the young men were described as sysselsatta or “employed” in November 2022, when the snapshot was taken, a number that rises to 85 percent for men who received residency under the Gymnasium Law.  

This compares to about 66 percent for young men born in Sweden in 1999, and about 74 percent for young refugees who came to Sweden with their parents in 2015. 

According to the study, 71 percent of those with residency under the Gymnasium Law and 67 percent of those with residency as unaccompanied child refugees have an income of at least 222,900 kronor year, or about 18,575 kronor a month, which was more than both young men born in Sweden (48 percent) and refugees who came with their parents (46 percent). 

In a sense, the high employment rate among those who gained residency under the Gymnasium Law is not surprising, given that they were given six months to get a job or risk being deported. 

“The explanation is usually that they are dependent on themselves for support, so they more or less have to get a job to be able to take care of themselves,” Karin Lundström, the demographer at Statistics Sweden who led work on the report, told The Local. 

Muhammed Ali, Chair of Sweden’s Association of Unaccompanied Child Refugees, told the broadcaster TV4 that the findings were expected. 

“This report is nothing that surprises us, because both we ourselves and those who support us know how well it’s going for us,” he said. 

But he said that the group’s success had come despite the often harsh treatment they have received in Sweden. 

“We’ve been struggling over these years. We’ve been treated extremely badly and brutally. We have never been a priority for the authorities, but we have also managed to create a network,” he said.   

Most work in elderly and healthcare

The study found that the most common job for the group was health and elderly care or social care, with 38 percent of men who got residency as child refugees employed in these roles and 34 percent who got residency under the Gymnasium Law. This compares to just five percent of men born in Sweden. 

“We can see that a larger share of those with [residency under] the Gymnasium Law are working in healthcare, which is a profession where there’s a lot of need for for people,” Lundström explained. “So we can see that they have chosen a profession and education which matches the jobs in demand. 

The next biggest roles were “business services” or företagstjänster, a broad term which can cover everything from high-level IT services to janitorial work, which employed 14 percent of those those given residency as unaccompanied child refugees and 12 percent of those who got residency under the Gymnasium Law, manufacturing and recycling, retail, hotel and restaurant, and the building industry – which all employed around 10 percent.

Very few are studying, and many didn’t graduate from upper secondary

The downside of the Gymnasium Law was that it forced those given residency under it to go directly into the workforce after completing upper secondary education, as going into higher education did not count as grounds for extended residency. 

Only 3 percent of men who got residency as unaccompanied child refugees were studying in November 2022, compared to 17 percent of those born in Sweden and nearly 11 percent of those who came with their parents. 

For women born in 1999 who came as child refugees, it was 7 percent, while for those born in Sweden or who arrived as refugees with their parents, the share studying was 20 percent.    

Some 55 percent of men who got residency as child refugees have studied to gymnasium level, and fully 75 percent of those who got residency under the Gymnasium Law, but only about 4 percent of male child refugees have studied to a higher level, and only 2 percent of men who received residency under the Gymnasium Law. 

Almost all of those who studied chose a vocational line: 80 percent of child refugees, and fully 94 percent of men who got residency under the Gymnasium Law.  

Only 6 percent of those who got residency under the Gymnasium Law studied a programme at upper secondary school which counts as preparation for further education.

For men who got residency as child refugees, only 15 percent studied a programme expected to lead to further education, while for women the share was 18 percent. 

Of those born in Sweden, fully 44 percent studied courses leading to further education, and for those who came with their parents, 40 percent did.

Lundström said she expected that this might change in future as more decided to improve their skills through study. 

“It’s not been that long since they finished upper secondary school and got their first jobs, so maybe if we were to look at this group in another five or 10 years, it would be a little bit different and a higher share of them would have started and finished higher studies.” 

Many have very low salaries

According to the report, more than 70 percent of men who gained residency under the Gymnasium Law have an income of at least three “income base payments” or inkomstbasbelopp.

As an income base payment was set at 71,000 kronor in 2022, this constitutes an income of 213,000 kronor, or 17,750 kronor a month. 

Around 30 percent of those with residency under the Gymnasium Law earned even less than this, and with those with residency as child refugees the number is more like 35 percent. 

There is no information in the study on how many of those earning “at least 17,750 a month” earned 26 700 kronor, which was the average salary for a care home assistant in 2022.

Lundström warned that the figures could be misleading here as many of those in the study would not have worked a full year by November 2022. 

Even in November 2022, she said, about 50 percent of those studied had an annual income corresponding to about 25,000 kronor per month.