I have gained an important, important piece of information. It very difficult to get all the pieces of documentation you need to participate fully in Swedish society if you come to Sweden on a contract that is less than one year. My hard-learned advice to those of you trying to move to Sweden on a work permit is to make sure you get a contract that is over one year.
I had a very challenging day last week when I took the subway around Stockholm, going from one Tax Board office (Skatteverket) to another (they kept referring me to different offices), trying to get a Swedish ID card. The ID card is used as proof of age and proof of identity, for example when collecting prescription medication from pharmacies, paying by credit card in stores and in banking transactions.
Obtaining a Swedish ID card was to be my next step after getting assigned a Coordination Number (samordningsnummer). You will recall I wanted a Personal Number (personnummer) but instead I could only obtain a Coordination Number.
The Personal Number means a person is in the Swedish Register. In order for me to get a Personal Number, I must have permission from the Migration Board to stay (and work) in Sweden for at least one year. I came to Sweden on a six-month work permit because my job contract was for six months. So, since the work permit is six months, I do not qualify for a Personal Number. Instead I qualify for the Coordination Number.
After receiving the Coordination Number, I went to the Tax Board to get a Swedish ID. First I had to follow a complicated set of instructions which included getting a co-worker to pay 400 Swedish kronor in advance of my visit online (ironically the very thing I can’t do since my bank requires a Swedish ID card in order to have online banking services).
What I did not understand was that that I was not “registered.” I thought I was registered because I had been assigned a Coordination Number. But this does not count as registration. Here’s what the Tax Board says:
The Tax Board would not give me an ID card. To make matters worse, they informed me that I was not covered by the national health insurance (försäkringskassan). I argued with them that this did not make any sense since I am paying over 30% of my paycheck in taxes and, in addition to this, my employer pays another (roughly) 31% for health, disability, and other services for me.
I have since been assured by the insurance office that I am, in fact, covered. The next step is for me to send the insurance office my registration form along with various work documents and then I hope they will send me a piece of paper telling me I am covered. I have received so many different opinions that now I want some hard proof. I have not, since I came to Sweden, needed any health care but, should the need arise, I don’t want there to be confusion for obvious reasons.
Believe me, it was upsetting for the woman at the Tax Board to tell me that. There were tears involved. The problem is that I get a different answer depending on who I talk to and I don’t know which person to believe.
Up until very recently, I resisted the idea that this job process could be so challenging. I thought that there must be lots of people who go through this so there must be a logical process. But it has dawned on me that perhaps there aren’t many people going through this. Most people who come to Sweden to work probably come as employees and so they have no end-date on their application. Therefore they get the Personal Number, therefore they get the ID card, therefore the insurance, and it all falls into place. It would be the same thing for the “relationship visa” in which you come to Sweden to live with someone. The assumption in those cases is that you will be in Sweden forever.
Even though I have moved here permanently (assuming I find lasting work), my situation does not look that way on paper.
That is why I recommend you make sure your contract is more than one year if you plan to come to Sweden for contract work. The best thing would be to come as an employee but this is hard to arrange when you are in another country. Like me, you may have to come as a contractor and then try to parley that into longer-term work. (There is also the possibility that my current contract may be extended.)
To that end, I have recently re-done my CV in a more Swedish-friendly style (more on that in future posts) and you will soon learn about my adventures looking for work in Sweden.